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Monthly Archives: July 2020

A River Journey

My second journey in this series takes us along the Hudson River USA.

A dear friend, Zheng Xuewu, who is the director of the Hudson Centre for Contemporary Art invited me to undertake a residency in Poughkeepsie on the Hudson River in New York State, about two hours by train North from Manhattan Island.

I finally found the physical and mental space to take up his generous offer. I suggested that perhaps two other artists may like to join us and have a reunion. The four of us had met at the Beijing International Art Camp in Beijing in 2005.  Two Chinese, one Korean and one Australian.   Jin Nanwu from Korea, was ill at the time and unable to travel, leaving two of us to find our way to Poughkeepsie for the month of October 2016.

I decided that if I was going all that way then I wanted to also go somewhere new.   My travel agent suggested that Cathay Pacific were offering exceptional deals flying into New York via Vancouver. That was it for me; being an avid train buff I wanted to experience the rail journey across Canada from Vancouver to Toronto. After a stopover at Niagara, I then took the Amtrak Train South following alongside the Hudson River all the way to Poughkeepsie, arriving on 30th September.

Next morning Xuewu left me to wander Poughkeepsie while he went to pick up artists from New York Airport.  Poughkeepsie is an amazing multi-cultural city, the range of ethnic stores and products available from many countries is mouth-watering. I was looking forward to trying some fabulous foods. In a short distance around the apartment are some great murals and from the apartment balcony, on the fifth floor I had a sweeping view of the city and autumn colours.

For the first two weeks, four artists were in residence. My friend, Sun Baijun had flown in from Shandong China with a female, Wang Yun, from Harbin and one Chinese male who had been in New York for a period of time in September.

Initially it felt like being in China again, however I soon meet many of the locals. The four of us lived in the two-bedroom apartment, one for males and one for females, but with a shared bathroom. We created a ’Kitty’ for purchasing supplies and the plan was to share the cooking and cleaning up. The lesson for me is that it doesn’t matter what country you are from there are always those who shirk having to share the load. Sun Baijun is a good cook and the other two avoided it like the plague. That left us two with the cooking and the expectation that the others would clean up. The dynamics did not work so well, and I was happy to spend my time at the studio and eat out as much as possible. After all I was there to enjoy the experience not get tangled up in domestics.

We had a terrific studio on the Main Street at Art Centro. Art Centro contains a ceramic studio, gallery, painting studio and worktables. Xuewu had an office and study where we spent time drinking tea and conversing with all and sundry who came to the centre.

Xuewu is an exceptional host, always concerned that everyone is considered for what they want. He had an itinerary of sites to visit, artists to meet and events to go to meaning the whole residency was based on the arts of New York State and Manhattan Island. WOW!!!   As I had backpacked through Canada, I had no art supplies and as usual with my residencies no plan of what I would do except to let the experience guide me. My second day, when Xuewu took us for supplies I found some interesting water-soluble graphite sticks and purchased some lightweight paper to create rubbings. The general art materials were not for me and I was not ready to work yet.

In the first week we started on the itinerary going to Vassar College, an art show opening, several exhibitions and DIA at Beacon. I did some research on the History of the Hudson River, created a few rubbings from surfaces at Art Centro and met the artists going into the ceramic studio.  Our time was split between outings with Xuewu driving or traveling by train to Manhattan and Studio time.

For me it was an opportunistic period to work along the Hudson River environment where I created an ephemeral work using river water.   My artwork titled ‘FLOW: A Journey of time, place and preservation’ engaged with water and leaves that I used as symbols for the passing of time, creation and preservation of history. A Power Point presentation forms the documentation of the artwork.

The artwork ‘One Mile; One Boat’ engaged geographically with the length and history of trade on the Hudson River. 315 Origami paper boats symbolise both trade and mileage of the river. More reading is on the Blog – Sale Away: The Boat Project

 A photographic montage of letter images from Poughkeepsie village formed the basis of the ‘Poughkeepsie’ banner.

Within the Art Centro Studios I created the series of works on paper titled ’Rain on the Hudson’.  More of these works can be seen in the Gallery.

On October 21 my Solo exhibition ‘One Mile; One Boat’ was held at Art Centro in conjunction with the group exhibition ‘We are Here’.

‘Poughkeepsie’ my photographic work was displayed in this exhibition.

My thanks go to Sun Baijun for his expert photography and assistance.

I sincerely thank Zheng Xuewu for the opportunity to experience the Hudson Valley and create artworks reflecting my relationship with the area.   Three years later in October 2019 Sun Baijun was diagnosed with Cancer and given three months to live. Whilst in Beijing January 2020 he was in hospital and unable to have me visit. Due to the virus I left Beijing on 29th January.  On 7th March 2020 my dear friend of fifteen years passed away. I dedicate this Blog to him.

 

 

 

A Journey through the Isles

At this time when we cannot travel, I have decided to reflect on some of my journeys that have given me great insight, learning experiences and immense joy in my art practice.

In September 2008 Walter and I toured Islands of Scotland.

The trip included several Ferry crossings, bridges and a causeway to Holy Island, or known as Lindisfarne; just South of the border on the East Coast of England. We toured in The Orkneys, Outer Hebrides, Mull, Iona, Anglesey and one week in Ireland to visit Walter’s ancestral home.

For me the journey was all about history. I wanted to visit the places where earliest humans had established settlements, I was seeking to find where my culture began.

I found that people have lived in Scotland for over 12,000 years and one of the oldest, surviving settlements is Skara Brae.  Sited on the southern shore of the Bay ‘o Skaill, in the West Mainland Orkney Island it is dated from roughly 3180BC.

Pre Journey research introduced some incredible locations that I was itching to visit.

That journey was not just about me though, Walter also had an agenda. To have balance for both I concluded that perhaps after visiting several sites I would be satisfied.

Fortunately, or unfortunately that did not happen. The more I saw the more I wanted; I could not get enough of the history I was seeking. I wanted to walk the ground, feel the spirit of those who went before. I traversed fields in fog, climbed hillsides, delved deep into

Chambered Cairns and felt the warmth of standing stones.

I had been chided for some time over my love affair with China, being told that I was becoming Chinese and would forget my culture.

It made me question why I loved the Chinese and realized it was because of the long-established history of their culture.

White Australian history is a drop in the ocean of time.  I am very aware of our First People, their connection to the earth and the 1,000’s of years of culture.

I wondered where I fitted in to all of this.

The journey to Scotland was immensely profound for me, I learnt that my people have always been travelers, they have been intrigued with new places. My recent ancestors who came to Australia in 1849 were adventurers, they settled in Melbourne, were successful in business and respected in community.

The main recognition for me is my interest in experience. I now know, through that journey and through my ancestors that I am a person with a curiosity for learning through experience; travel is education.

I was a few years into the Rock, Paper, Water Project that started at Bundanon in 2004, when we traveled to Scotland. I made a fresh series of forty-two bowls that took the journey with me. The goal was to find ideal sites where the paper bowls could be placed into environment to interact with Rock and Water.

The attached images were taken by myself except for one of me, thank you Walter for that.

Sail Away: The Boat Project

In 2016 my Artist residency was in Poughkeepsie on the Hudson River, two hours North of Manhattan in New York State. Poughkeepsie is a multi-cultural community and there I saw correlation with my community and topical aspects of immigration, trade and asylum seekers.

I created my first origami boat installation that represented the 315-mile length of the river, the assortment of vessels of trade and diverse cultures who have engaged with the river. An installation was again created in Warrandyte in January 2017 and featured in the Warrandyte Diary.

The Boat Project has continued since that time, in a diverse range of interpretations including Yellow Boats of Hope.  Yellow stands for happiness, positivity, energy, remembrance, optimism and joy.

Dangerous boat travels, sinking vessels, deaths and authoritarian refusal to enter Australian waters are signs of desperation and the risks taken by asylum seekers for a better life. One can only imagine the plight, hardship and difficulty in being forced to seek asylum from your home in a strange other country, and the consequential risk to you and your loved ones lives on an unknown arrival.

The Hope Boats were first shown in the ‘CONNECTION 8000’ Exhibition at C + Space, Shunyi, Beijing PR China (2017). Curator Jingjing Jia. I also conducted a Children’s Workshop within the exhibition space for Tasun Creative Art.

Also in 2017 I was invited to participate in the 27 Degree Angle East Lake International Ecological Sculpture Biennale at Jiufeng Urban Forestry Reserve in Wuhan, Hubei, China. I created an installation titled ‘Golden boat: Golden Waterway’ in acknowledgement of the trading route along the Yangtze River that flows through Wuhan.

I was fortunate to create three installation of Yellow Boats in 2018. An invitation to participate in the Redgate residency open studio programme enabled me to show my work in the very studio where I had my first China residency in 2003. In September 2018 Curator Jingjing Jia extended an invitation to create a Yellow Boat installation at K-YARC Gallery Gwangju South Korea, as a fringe exhibition in conjunction with the Gwangju Art Biennale.

A series of silkscreen prints and collage titled SIEV: Titles of Positivity were exhibited with the installation A Gold Boat for a Gold Coin in the Adrift exhibition at Red Gallery in 2018; to assist in raising funds for Asylum Seekers.

In 2019 after traveling in Norway with a group of MG car enthusiasts Walter and I spent several weeks in the Lofoten/Vesteralen archipelago. I had taken a series of the Poughkeepsie boats and was thrilled with the installation opportunities by magnificent waterways.

All At Sea, All in Boats

Early in our isolation I had read statements that ‘we are all in this together’ and ‘we are all in the same boat’.   Perhaps we are in the same boat, OR not. In that respect I created an artwork particularly relevant to COVID-19. This restrictive time has had many ups for some and many downs for others. As we ride the waves of our life journey it is encouraging to know that whatever type of vessel or deck that we are placed, our friends and family are supportive along the way. Thanks to the Beatles for the artwork title. And all our friends are aboard. The artwork will participate in the AT SEA exhibition 5 – 18 August at Southern Buoy Studios, Mornington. Denise Keele-bedford

POSTPONED TO NOVEMBER 4 – 17

 

THE ENLIGHTENMENT PROJECT

The Enlightenment Project has been part of my art practice repertoire for over twenty years. The components of perforation, light, circles, reflection and mass have been pushed and pulled, inverted, punctured, suspended and shifted into many interpretations for many years.

I have been sorting through an immense amount of photos during isolation and creating a series of books for my library shelf, simply getting ‘my history’ into order. Until now these series of works basically came under The dot project however, they are not about dots. The work began looking at Gothic Rose Windows, taking out the glory of symbology and colour, then honouring the structure supporting the stained glass. The structure design, I think, has it’s own beauty. I wondered about light, not through the spaces where the stained glass was located, but light drifting through the structure. I made the structure lightweight through perforation and allowed light to create patterns.

I played with holes, with light patterns and looked at the hole itself having its own light. So my play of push and pull, of ephemerality, of solidity, of reflected light and colour continues.