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Monthly Archives: August 2020

Whitemark on a Map

Mid December 2006 Walter and I drove the old van to Moorabbin airport to catch our flight to Flinders Island.

I had recently returned home from an amazing adventure in China and my new studio in Beijing and thought that my time on the trip with Walter would be reflecting about my China trip.

Walter was really enthused and with a painting kit all packed and ready to go was eager to discover some great painting spots.

As I was learning the Chinese language, I decided to take my workbooks with me and spend the week studying. I told Walter that as I had had such an exciting time in China, I would not make any artwork on Flinders island.

We had pre booked our accommodation and rental car, so plans were to be straight forward in settling in.

Not a red cross, but Whitemark on the map showed us the main hub of activity on the island. We had a little house on Patrick Street, a short walk to both the Pub and the foreshore.

What is that saying about mouthing off, then having to eat your words? That is exactly what happened to me. After purchasing a few supplies of tea, coffee and breakfast foods we set off to look around.

I was AMAZED. I could not believe that within a few hours on the island my plans were completely and utterly thrown out the window.

Below is an extract from: https://visitflindersisland.com.au/


Flinders Island is one of 52 islands in the Furneaux Group dotted across Bass Strait, north-east of Tasmania.

When the eastern Bass Strait Islands were still a land bridge between mainland Australia and Tasmania, the region was a highway for traveling aboriginal groups. With the flooding of the land bridge the Tasmanian Aboriginal Community was separated from their mainland cousins and they developed their own culture and practices.

The history of Flinders Island begins with the Tasmanian Aboriginal people who were the first residents 35,000 or more years ago. About 9,000 to 4,000 years ago for reasons uncertain the Tasmanian Aboriginals ceased to be full time occupants of the Furneaux group of which Flinders is the largest island. The next human contact was when Tobias Furneaux discovered the islands in 1773. However, he did not land on any of the islands. In 1797 the merchant vessel “Sydney Cove”, en route from Calcutta to the fledgling colony at Port Jackson, was beached off Preservation Island, south of Cape Barren Island. Read more at the website.

The geological formations across the Southern coast of mainland Australia, Bass Strait and Northern Tasmania are a stunning display of Granite mixes formed some 380 million years ago. An orange lichen that grows on the rocks is a combination of algae and fungus providing food for tiny organisms.

It was these rock formations of brilliant colour and shape against a clear blue sky that shifted my plans to create artworks on Flinders Island. The complimentary colours of Orange and Blue forming positive and negative spaces of harmony for the eye captivated me and I was willing to submit to interacting with nature.

At this point with six days ahead of us we were both very keen to get out and about seeking sites to create. Because we were both wanting to interact with nature but in very different ways; Walter to paint and me to use what nature offered for hands-on creations, he would drop me at a site that I liked and drive to a place that suited him.

We did find two sites that suited us both which meant that we could share a cuppa when finished or on a break.

If you have been following my Blogs, you will know that documentation of my works is significantly important. Even with the artworks created in Farrera, it is the documentation that I take with me, as the work is left behind, returned to nature or given to the Residency Centre.

Walter and drove to a site high above the beach, with mountains in the background, we both loved it. I looked across the beach where not one footprint impacted on the smooth surface. I said, “look at that vast canvas just waiting for an image”. I was smitten and while Walter took out his sketch pad and pencils, I wandered down below.

Think of the ocean, eons of time it has taken to form this island, the sea creatures and the vast expanse of sand. My thoughts of the nautilus and the perfect spiral within gave rise to me stepping out and marking Spiral from the Sea.

The outcome of this island journey is great memories and the realization not to have expectations. I am so pleased that the natural environment of Flinders island drew me in.

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A Journey to the end of the Road

Late 2014 I wrote an article based on an Artist-in-Residence (AIR) in Spain, titled a Tribute to Farrera.

Whilst in Spain, at least three times, I drove to the end of the road, usually up a narrow mountain road. Farrera is at the end of the road on the edge of a valley in the Catalan Pyrenees. A small village of houses and barns, built with local stone and slate, grouped around the 17th century church of Sant Roc, it is sited at an altitude of 1365 metres and is one of the highest inhabited villages in Catalonia. (extract from The Centre d’Art I Natura website)

In the following article I mention six weeks of exploring Spain. It was an amazing journey, however by the end of week five Walter did not want to see any more cities so I took him to the costa del sol where we idled for several days traveling to the end of the road at Capileira on a day trip.

Our one-week artist residency in Farrera was unique in our usual style of touring. It was Walter’s first residency and a week of sheer indulgence to create for both of us. We had the opportunity to stay in one place and really get to know that place. Tourist companies continually advertise the concept of seeing seven countries in seven days rushing guests to the must-see spots for them to tick the site on their bucket list before taking a bus or flight to the next spot.

We have an immense amount to gain by stopping the rush. Yes, there were many ‘must see sites’ in Spain that we did not see and may never see, but we will spend the rest of our lives talking about one week in Farrera; the people we met, the walks, the dinners, the changing weather and the joy of art making.

A Tribute to Farrera                                     Denise Keele-bedford December 2014

Late in 2013 my husband and I decided that we would journey to Spain, a first for us both.

From early September to mid October 2014 we would have six weeks of exploring the Peninsula driving a Northern loop from Madrid to coast and down to Barcelona. A train from Barcelona to Seville then driving a second Southern loop to coast and back to Madrid, virtually a ‘figure 8’ form.

After looking at the resartis website to discover that Spain offers 22 different residencies I contacted two in Northern Spain then applied to one to undertake a one-week Artist-in-Residence (AIR).

In its 18th year The Centre d’Art i Natura (CAN) in Farrera offers workspaces and facilities to artists and natural scientists. It is directed by Lluis Llobet, his wife Fransesca is host and son Anau is chef.

Farrera is sited at 1361 meters above sea level in the Catalan High Pyrenees, close to the Andorra border. There are historical references to its existence more than 1,000 years ago.

Farrera is in a remote location at the end of the road. It is a small village set on a hillside, facing South opening to magnificent valley views to the West and with a fluxing population of 20/25. CAN is owned by the local council and administered by a non-profit association “Friends of the Centre d’Art i Natura de Farrera”.

The Centre d’Art i Natura has renovated the old village school l’Estudi, which was our accommodation, Casa Ramon, set beside l’Estudi and an old barn la Bastida into ateliers, kitchen, dining room and living studios. We had access to the Centre’s Library, Computer, Printer, Dry workroom and Wet workroom.

Llavorsi, 12 kms away is the closest center for produce and supplies and as we provided our own breakfast and lunches, we took supplies in the car with us. When we arrived, we were introduced to l’Estudi, the Art Centre and informed about the group evening meals.

Four other female artists in residence were from Denmark and Spain whose disciplines covered, writing, dance and visual arts.

My husband took paints, brushes, and paper with a plan to create a series of paintings based on the location. He produced 11 paintings approximately A4 size in gouache.

I took a small A5 sketch pad, pens and a small travel set of water colours for I did not know what I would produce as I usually prefer the place, environment, atmosphere and physical space to guide me.

On arrival I was most impressed with the slate roof tiles, old style (hand cut) and new (laser cut) that covered every roof, gateway, and stacked spares in case of breakage.

The first day I walked as far as I could past the end of the road turning back when it became a climb. The area sees many hikers and climbers especially in fine weather. Cutaways along the roadside revealed layers of fine slate. Scattered fragments laid along the roadside in a range of colours from dark charcoal, silver grey and raw sienna from light to dark. Lluis informed me that a clay could be made from the slate, showed me samples and I considered experimenting with this.

The second day I walked to a little village nook, that I had driven through, 1.5 kms from Farrera exploring the different architecture, laneways, steps and gardens. In this remote area, with rich soil, sheep and cattle, many vegetable and flower gardens flourish. Three non-denomination churches form the historic context, and in my eyes, slate was the dominant feature.

I collected fragments of slate in a range of colours and tones and spent a warm afternoon washing and setting them in the sun to dry. I spent time in the Library mainly looking at historic cultural sketches and images of local flora and fauna.

By the third day I had decided that the slate fragments would become a diary of my time in Farrera. I had collected many pieces of slate and was able to be very selective in allowing aspects of the slate to direct the images that I painted on them.

I completed 43 pieces depicting the everyday objects and items about me. Several pieces referenced flora and fauna seen in the village and on my walks. A found feather, tadpoles in a nearby water trough, sheep and sheep dogs, insects that crawled in the apartment and art studio all represented my time in Farrera.

A slope to a stream in the valley is a depot for old slate roof tiles and an afternoon was spent collecting these, some quite large, pieces to from a base for my installation.

The last night in Farrera we had a display of our artwork with village people in attendance.

Due to the weight and delicacy of the slate fragments I donated most of the pieces to the Art Centre, gave several as gifts to Chinese friends on route to Melbourne and arrived with three broken and a few as mementos. Retaining the artwork is not important to me for I have the documentation. The experience of taking an Artist-in-Residence is just that, an experience. We grow and become richer as an artist through these experiences.

I highly recommend experiencing an Artist-in-Residence (AIR)

The Centre d’Art I Natura website is: www.farreracan.cat.      

Res Artis: http://www.resartis.org 

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Traveling North Part Two

My immediate environment of my studio and the Dapu Art Centre design influenced A personal Perspective, Lines and Light and He Cha artworks.

In Part Two we go outside, further afield to Daqing city and beyond.

Daqing city was established through the finding of oil. The city is literally built on top of an oil field. It is China’s largest oilfield, discovered in 1959 and today is home to a museum in celebration of Wang Jinxi, deemed to be the responsible person drilling in the area.

The city built up around the oil drills and named Daqing, translated as Big Celebration has become one of the wealthiest cities in China.

As it is a young city with basically no history it has become a famous industrial centre with oil and petrochemical as the primary industry.

In 2011 I was fascinated to see hundreds of portable oil rigs in an amazing array of locations across the city.

Located in parks, schools, apartment blocks, on the roadside and in the road median strips they reminded me of a child’s toy, The Drinking Bird, that has a weighted tail that causes the bird to rock back and forth as though it is drinking. The Daqing Oil Rigs continuously rocked back and forth pulling up the ‘golden liquid’ from beneath the surface.

A report on the 70th anniversary of the Daqing Oilfield on September 26th, 2019 states that it: “had an annual crude production of over 50 million tonnes for 27 consecutive years and over 40 million tonnes for 12 straight years. Its annual crude oil and gas output still remains over 40 million tonnes of oil equivalent, with proven oil reserves at 6.48 billion tonnes. Its annual natural gas output has exceeded 4 billion cubic meters.” (Xinhua/Xie Jianfei) Source: Xinhua 2019-09-30.

North of the city towards Qiqihar are the Zhalong wetlands. The Zhalong nature Reserve covers an area of 2,100square kilometres and is home to the Red-crowned crane that breeds in Siberia and migrates South in Winter.

In Daqing I saw many of the other type of crane, ubiquitous to construction. In an effort to ‘catch up’ to the rest of China construction was at a peak. The Dapu Art centre was still under construction when the group of International artists arrived.

Our residency co-ordinator Zheng Xuewu drove three of us from Beijing, with an overnight stop in Harbin. The residency program varied for each artist. Mine was for two months split by negotiation for July and September. Walter was having a retrospective exhibition in August that I attended.

It was a great gathering of artists several who I had met before. Jin Nanwu from Korea, Emily Orzech (USA), Peter Kocak (SLOVAKIA), Rieneke de Vries (Netherlands), Hayoon-Jay Lee (USA) and myself.

With long daylight hours we had no concern to be back from outings before dark at about 11pm and sunrise at 3am, sleep could be difficult at times.

Several Chinese artists had day studios in the centre, a few teaching rooms for students building up folios for the exams and an IT centre that was good for me.

I created an installation in response to the Wetlands that was suspended in the lightwell over three levels of the five storied building. Three University students assisted me at times as they were on Summer break and could use the extra money.

At the wetlands I took heaps of photos, designed a stylized flying bird that was laser cut in acrylic. The IT guys helped by making a file of selected wetland images into the shape of the acrylic bird. The installation consisted of photographic images on acrylic and coloured cut-outs.

Jin Nanwu instigated an interactive artwork using a stack of bricks in the grounds of the building. Artists were invited to participate in building a tower to heaven. Unfortunately, I did not see this finished as I returned to Australia at the end of July for Walter’s exhibition. In September the bricks had all been used for paving.

Also, unfortunately for me when I returned in September, A crew of workmen started concrete rendering the building outside of my studio window. Although I had not had an attack for many years and actually thought I was no longer an asthmatic, the concrete dust caused a recreation and after 2.5 weeks in residence I had to be flown back to Beijing for medical treatment.

All in all, I was extremely pleased with the work that I produced in Daqing. Part One shows the crate works and apart from Flight I produced a series of works on paper based on the stylized bird. In September I produced one piece in a Chinese concertina watercolour book.

It is based on the Red-crowned Crane, wetlands and Chinese traditional costume.

I thank Zheng Xuewu for the invitation to create artworks and interactions with Chinese artists in the far North of China.

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Traveling North – A long way North Part One

An invitation to specifically create installation artworks at the DaPu International Art Centre saw me travel into Heilongjiang Province 150 plus kilometers North East of the capitol Harbin, to Daqing. Artists in this recently established city had heard of installation art, however, they had not experienced interacting with this discipline of art making. The attached text was written in response to a series of works titled Lines and Light.

In the early 20th century when Marcel Duchamp, the father of contemporary conceptual art, placed a urinal within a gallery space and called it by another name, the use of functional items in art making came into existence.

His thinking and perspective of our world, society, culture and every day life opened opportunities for artists to think beyond materials specific to art making.

Robert Rauschenberg expanded on Duchamp’s ideas in mid 20th Century, by using objects he found when walking the streets of New York.  He used discarded residue of the everyday in his artwork production, hence he formed the basis for recycling in art making.

Conceptual art, ideas of thinking, looking, collecting and rearranging includes the incorporation of anything and everything the artist decides to use.

When arriving at Dapu International Art Centre I found a series of timber crates.  They are the residual of packaging used to send delicate ceramics across China.

In my eyes these crates reflect the interior architecture of the Dapu Art Centre.  They contrast in material to the metal balustrade, yet the organized geometric structures mimic lines of design in the open space inside the building.  The crates, in comparison to the smooth, tactile, evenly painted balustrade and skylight, are not at all tactile.  They are rough saw cut and require caution to touch.

The crates when placed within the open space on the first floor of the Art Centre come to life as the sun moves slowly from East to West in the late morning.

At that time there becomes a lively interaction between elements natural, constructed and found.  Shadows, light and reflections interplay for approximately 30-45 minutes.  Like a flower that opens to light and closes at dusk so too Lines and Light opens and closes.

Using the same crates, varied in form, A Personal Perspective was installed for individuals to create their own dialogue with the artwork.  How they move through and around the installation is a personal decision.  Designed on Yin/Yang (bagua) concepts, individuals can move through the spaces viewing changing tones, lines, light and reflections.

The artwork ‘He cha 喝茶’ was created during this residency. Read more about it in the blog: Tales of Tea.

Written while travelling on the T5004 train from Daqing to Haerbin.

2011 August 1

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