Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Conclusion- Semester 1


I am really excited about the final work from this semester. The final pieces are a good platform to launch me onto further work. The way the vessels work with the other elements including the unfired work opens possibilities to continue with using these formal elements of composition to create work using thrown pots. I intend to bring more of the bush combings into the installations and explore the possibilities for displaying vessels in the natural environment. I also intend on exploring paper-making to create yet another element using bush-combings within an installation. The Japanese concept of placing shrines and stone lanterns in gardens as an accent to the environment is very intriguing to me in the context of the thrown vessels and the Australian bush. Diaries and maps continue to capture my interest as a way of talking about place and time. Next semester I intend to draw out this aspect of the research and continue creating ephemeral works with permanent elements both within a gallery, context and outside in the environment. The photography will also be an area for continued exploration and skill development. I feel that the photos could become a more integral part of the work rather than function as a supplementary resource

In reflection the initial Study Plan was more an overview of the complete body of work I’d like to make during the entire degree than a breakdown of investigation for one semester. I learned to set more specific goals for both the working process and the reading I’d like to accomplish throughout the semester. This was a very challenging semester for me. Working alone in the studio and trying to earn a living through the arts has involved formulating a way of developing new work that is very personal and (now I see!) somewhat secretive. Revealing my working process had been unexpectedly painful and nerve-wracking, a bit like a magician showing the audience where the doves are hidden. I’ve tried to make the final unpacking and actually seeing the work in the flesh as beguiling a process as possible. There is a place in every presentation for something beautiful to appear as if by magic.


Tiny bowl with what is known in birding circles as an LBJ’s (!) Little Brown Jobs. Tiny, almost indistinguishable brown wrens and insectivorous Australian native birds. They dart through the canopy eating insects and are very hard to spot.

bush stack

Initially I thought that my trip to Kyoto would provide an opportunity to really explore the use of the visual journal and refine my ideas about keeping field notes.As is so often the way with art and travel Japan led me to something else entirely.The travel journal became a practical document for jogging my memory, and the travelling bought me an awareness of a different aesthetic. I began to notice the Japanese approach to combining materials.This built on the ideas I was developing from Reijneder’s master class about building up artworks composed of many different elements.The use of natural materials to enhance manmade objects is very refined in Japan and I became aware of the way architecture, gardens, food, and pots were created to exist in dialogue with their surroundings.This resonates with my philosophy that art should be part of the world rather than apart from it.To create a pot designed to enhance the smell of the air coming through an open window or, a table to lead one’s eye to a beautiful mountain on a far horizon seems to be reinforcing the idea that art and life exist in symbiosis.

Brush box and lines

Final work. Collected from Brush box forests and walum areas of Stradbroke Island.



2 bowls embedded with Brush Box flowers and drawn brushbox leaves.

Little brush box fragment with copper oxide and brush box leaf.

Thursday, November 10, 2011


Japanese things, stacks, combinations of materials, Kawaii Kanjiro's house......

Then I added things I bushcombed from the studio. Barnacle and Blueberry ash wilted in the car journey home, thrown into thin bowls with turned feet.Saucers- the presentation of the cup- stacked up on a plinth, pedestal, saucer, paper, stone?

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

grevilla flowers and birdsong

When naturalists write they often observe a place, in solitude for a period of many years. Part of developing a framework for filed notes relates to how I am making art and living life. Field notes and maps are an attempt to reconcile the crowded hours with this fantasy of long, loops of uninterrupted observation. There is a temptation to believe that the latter method is more "pure".
I haven't the opportunity for long days in the wilderness. I have to observe quickly, a couple of hours in my friend's garden, a week in the wallum, a flick of a shadow as I'm driving the girls to ballet class. All these things can come together to make a complete observation. The method of taking notes affects the final, analysis of the data.
These little sketches were done in my friend Sarah's garden, together with some drawings and paintings and my later reflections I am becoming familiar with what I want to explore as my core themes. Weird little impressions and drawings give me a feel for the shapes and sounds and smells of the landscape. Sarah's garden by coincidence, is on the remote, obscure road where I spent the first six years of my childhood. In one way I know this landscape and the vegetation , driving out to Sarah's is overlayed with all the memories I've ever had of living in the sclerophyll forest. The shadows on the road are embedded in me, but now I am 40 and travelling out there again. For me getting to know a place intimately enough to express it in a pot begins with a process of backwards and forwards between the actual place, photographs, thoughts. Drawing something makes me know it. Drawing something leads me further into it. Grevilla flowers and birdsong were with me today. Every journey is layered with previous journeys even if the explorer is traveling to somewhere they have only imagined.

Field notes- an intense and involved manner

Field notes are used extensively by birders, naturalists and ethnographers and provide a subjective record of intense and prolonged involvement with a particular place or experience. In "Field Notebook Primer: How to Take Good Field Notes" by naturalist Robert B. Payne he says "Your field notebook is your entry to memory" and recommends sketching as "Sketches firm up your ideas of field marks, show the postures in behavior, the shape and location of a nest, maps of where you go, and so on."

Ethnographer Robert Emerson believes that the immersive experience of taking field notes and becoming actively engaged in the observed environment allows the ethnographer to reveal the mulitvariate "truths " that make up people's lives. Emerson's methods for taking ethnographic field notes can be used as a template for the field notes taken by artist. Emerson believes that rather than letting the experience wash over one or trying to observe without interaction the ethnographer should use the taking of field notes as an active process of "interpretation and sense-making" p 4. chapter 1.

Emmerson writes that field notes are a way of transforming first hand events into words on paper and this process involves selection, interpretation and sense making. In this way my notes, lines sketched, photographs when bush combing create a layered, intensely subjective composite which is then further refined in to an artwork through formal two and three dimensional conventions ie. line, composition, colour and form. Writing field notes or sketches means that there is a certain linear quality to the written reflection and many anthropologists and naturalists have developed a series of "notations" to record non-verbal things such as gestures, eye gaze, birdsong etc that are happening at the same time as the main observed event. The idea of notations lead me to calligraphy and mark making. Many times over the course of this project I've tried to draw bird calls and hops of wrens throughout the bush and the feeling of driving on a quiet country road, tree shadows flicking that I've driven over many times before. I like the idea of the main "narrative" (in the case of an anthropologist) , the main image in my case, being overlayed to the point where it disappears with notations breaking in with details of the world around me in the bush. In some ways this is how I see the gleanings I've been throwing into pots- the other stories breaking into the form.

The other issue that Emerson brings up is the importance of being fully engaged with the place you are observing. He proposes that the researcher who is constantly jotting notes actually changes and distorts the qualities of the interaction they are observing through the very act of being such an ostentatious recorder. Immersion in a long -term casual but intense way combined with close observation of the subject is the ideal way to collect field notes.

Robert M. Emerson,
"Writing Ethnographic Fieldnotes" (Chicago Guides to Writing, Editing, and Publishing)

Robert Emerson's first chapter can be read online here.

"Robert M. Emerson is professor emeritus in the Department of Sociology at the University of California, Los Angeles. He is the author of Contemporary Field Research: Perspectives and Formulations, now in its second edition." from University of Chicago Press website

Saturday, October 1, 2011


I have been reading this essay............
"The Naturalist" by Barry Lopez

"SITTING BY THE RIVER, following mergansers hurtling past a few inches off its surface or eyeing an otter hauled out on a boulder with (in my binoculars) the scales of a trout glistening on its face, I ask myself not: What do I know?—that Canada geese have begun to occupy the nests of osprey here in recent springs, that harlequin ducks are now expanding their range to include this stretch of the river—but: Can I put this together? Can I imagine the river as a definable entity, evolving in time?"

Published in the Autumn 2001 issue of Orion magazine

Observations of place are overlayed with the memory of the place. What we see with the eyes becomes a sign for other, less tangible emotions. In her essay "Symptoms of Place " Barbara Blackman describes the process of feeling a place when as she is going blind. She says "...things seen so often that they are not seen at all- that resides in the inner eye, images of place that unconscious carriers of sentiment, evoking vaster memory." pp50,

Tredinnick, Mark (2003) "A place on earth : an anthology of nature writing from Australia"

The pots and the materials and images collected and the actions of collecting, making firing, and using are like one of those collapsible 1950's anodized cups, every time you think it's fully extended there is another layer. They record me, at this second, in the studio, throwing, my fingers and thoughts at 10.30 on September the 30th 2011, the gray flat sky and pairs of rainbow lorikeets flying overhead with their tinselly mating songs, the hot weekend with Mum and the girls bushcombing at Tin Can Bay. They record the beautiful Australian bush, the banksias, seeing my first Rainbow Bee Eater.

All the naturalists that I have been reading are aware of the fragility of each passing moment. Recorded observation of nature becomes a record the moment we leave the scene, it will never come again. I am trying to observe and record the beauty and transience of a moment. To truly watch nature brings an awareness of the complex beauty and mundane tragedy of transience. I guess that when you have watched long and carefully enough this wrenching sadness is alleviated by the constant promise of renewal.

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Bribie Island

Fishing line caught in driftwood at Bribie Island.

Weathered log at Bribie Island. (On school camp! My friend and I overheard someone looking at the fishing line and commenting "artists get paid to do stuff like that." If only that was true. The idea that "artists get paid" is a strange misconception about the role artists play in society.)

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

throwing with grasses,ferns and paper daisies

Collected material from the wallum at Tin Can Bay.

Wedging the dried kangaroo grass into the porcelain.

The pots. Throwing with organic material is difficult, Even getting the clay to stick to the wheel was quite hard! The pots tear as they get thinner, but I want them to be even thinner. The paper daisies dyed the clay a beautiful rich orange.

Monday, September 26, 2011

small sculptures

The stock is on the stove. In the studio porcelain sits in huge recycled lumps surrounded by combings from the wallum up at Tin Can Bay. Daphne and Pearl have taken a lump each with the bag of bush bits and are making their sculptures that capture the essence of unco-ordinated concentration, and pure delight in the physical world. Hair, dirty feet, toe prints, gumnuts, paper daisies and porcelain. Later, when they are in bed I'll try mine. When I'm throwing I'll remember the pure, immersion on Pearl's face. Having children both stops and starts the creative flow.

It is hard to let go of the romantic vision of complete, scholarly pursuit, dressed in some kind of fetching but shapeless cassock in an ancient stone tower.I think of the old motto carved in stone at the University of Qld "A Place of Light Liberty and Learning". It could be a quiet library but I have to make this busy, patchwork life such a place. As much light, liberty, and learning comes out of here as anywhere. Uncovering it amidst the chaos is the trick.

Saturday, September 24, 2011

first bowls

The first results out of the kiln from throwing organic matter into clay. I glazed this one entirely and drew a little map on it.

Friday, September 23, 2011

Pied Beauty

Gerard Manley Hopkins (1844-1889)

Pied Beauty

Glory be to God for dappled things—
For skies of couple-colour as a brinded cow;
For rose-moles all in stipple upon trout that swim;
Fresh-firecoal chestnut-falls; finches' wings;
Landscape plotted and pieced—fold, fallow, and plough;
And áll trades, their gear and tackle and trim.

All things counter, original, spáre, strange;
Whatever is fickle, frecklèd (who knows how?)
With swíft, slów; sweet, sóur; adázzle, dím;
He fathers-forth whose beauty is pást change:

Práise hím.

only connect

"Only connect! That was the whole of her sermon. Only connect the prose and the passion, and both will be exalted, and human love will be seen at its height. Live in fragments no longer. Only connect, and the beast and the monk, robbed of the isolation that is life to either, will die."
- E.M. Forster, Howards End, Ch. 22

Strange objects, domestic form creates a "ground" that can be read as a familiar object, shadows and impressions from the bush make marks..... Throwing with foreign objects in the porcelain.

“I know this already”

“I know you know.

But do you believe what you know?”

From season 2,HBO television series ”In Treatment”

Before I even laid eyes on Anton Reijnders I read Arjen Mulder's “The Virtual Object of Interactive Art”. This text provided me with an intellectual articulation of the ideas I've been pondering for the last few years.

I see the use of domestic form as activating a dialogue between the artist and the user. Mulder refers to the conjunction of the symbolic and the physical form of art as a “coming to consciousness”(pp186, “Understanding Media Theory”)

Expanding one's inner self by looking at (or listening to, touching, smelling or tasting) something external and deepening one's view of the world by contemplating one's inner self. The insights thus gained can be expressed in words or translated into gestures, practices, worldviews and emotional processes to be embraced rather than avoided. In short reflections purpose is- do not be shocked- love” (pp186, “Understanding Media Theory”)