In 2020 I applied for a Creative Industries Small Fellowship with Manningham Council.
I was successful in Phase 1 and currently awaiting the outcome for Phase 2. A future blog will be written when I know the outcome. In the meantime, this link introduces the project: https://www.manningham.vic.gov.au/row-row-row-your-boat
Pleasantly surprising was a call to ask if I was interested in being part of an artist-in-residence program. Manningham Arts, as most organisations, had to rethink programs, utilizing spaces and public engagement due to the pandemic, public restrictions and various lockdowns.
The three Fellowship recipients were invited to prepare public workshops and take up residence at the Manningham Arts Studios.
In 2021 I was the first artist -in-residence, 22 February to 21 March. Day one was orientation discussion with Staci Mariolis, acquiring a pass to the studio, basics of studio access, parking and facilities. I spent time photographing the building architecture, interior designs, shapes and colours. My access time was 2-7pm Monday to Friday, although it soon changed to 6:30 due to regular classes starting up for Term 1. The last week overlapped with Michel Tuomy, when we both used the studio. I was finishing off, packing up and he was just contemplating what the residency would offer him.
I have undertaken many residencies over many years and not one has been similar. Every residency is unique in its own way, we weigh up the pros and cons, find a happy medium and work with what we have. At least it is the principle I work by each time. I have said before that as much as possible I do not have a predetermined plan for a residency. I may have some basic ideas of what the residency might offer and allow the situation to guide the work production.
The images and descriptions show the fantastic architecture of the Manningham Arts building, the studio and several of my artworks in progress.
Manningham arts are currently calling for applications that close on 30 May 2021. Below is an introduction and links for information on applying.
About the Arts Manningham FAIR
In 2020 we launched a new program of small fellowships to support local artists research and develop ideas for new arts programs, installations and performances.
The program provides recipients up to $6,000, over two phases, to develop and implement projects that provide engaging arts experiences for the Manningham community and encourage visitors to the region. Recipients also receive a short residency at Manningham Art Studios during their fellowship. This allows them to facilitate artistic collaboration and run supporting public programs, such as workshops and artist studio talks.
Two months on and a fresh perspective on my world.
Well actually it is three months on. Wow that went fast.
With ups and downs, cans and cant’s, sudden restrictions on again and off again our lives have been in a state of questions.
Do we make plans, buy tickets to a show, arrange dinner with friends, book the restaurant etc. for if we do will it be postponed, cancelled or become a non-event?
Here I am three months since the last blog, festive season come and gone, Walter in treatment for six weeks, come and gone and moved into 2021.
We are living within a freedom of movement that can be restricted at any time.
As always flexibility is the key. Yes, we make the plans, buy the flight tickets to South Australia, organise a night with friends and book a restaurant to celebrate the end of Walter’s radiotherapy treatment.
Somethings we can do, somethings we cannot do. With a sudden five-day lockdown recently, we cancelled five different activities, movie ticket purchase reimbursed, just sneaked in the new studio shelving, new worktable delivery postponed, Church service back to Zoom, Gallery visits cancelled and postponed meet up with friends.
I was due to start an artist-in-residence with Manningham Arts on February 22. Would it happen, would it not happen? Fortunately, restrictions lifted and life continued.
In the past three months I have managed to attend some exhibition openings, covid safe environments are a bit spasmodic and I do set my own criteria.
I have managed to start an exercise class, just skimming either side of a five-day lockdown.
I have entered Art Shows and actually taken artwork to the framers.
I have rearranged my studio, had new shelving installed and had a new worktable delivered.
I do not know what is normal anymore and continue my mantra of flexibility. Activities and events that pre 2020 were part of everyday life take on a different significance.
Strange experience today to walk around the supermarket and choose products, so different to online ordering and having groceries delivered to my car boot.
I went to Bunnings, physically walked into the store and asked where I could find certain products. I enjoyed the time sifting through the storage bin shelves. Just a little exciting.
As we hover at the edge of March and look at a twelve-month anniversary of the first restrictions and cancellation of my exhibition at Art at St Francis, we can thank our own resilience and personal strength that has carried us thus far.
The light at the end of the tunnel seems to be looming closer. It has grown from a pinprick, like a distant star in a vast blackness, constantly out of reach; to something not quite beacon like that illuminates for miles as a guiding symbol.
That light, what ever it is for millions of people, has been a distant hope in a time of turmoil.
It has been bright at times where we have willed it to beam us up and out of dreariness and then has dulled off, like a storm approaching. On the edge and in the eye of the storm we have had to bunker down, keep safe, close the shutters and wait out high winds, lightning and try to keep the floodgates closed.
For eight months plus, my life at times has been a whirlwind of emotions and stress, yet also a hollow vacuum of lethargy and questioning purpose, of laziness, yet undertaking major sorting programs.
What has been the purpose for artmaking? Some small stimulus from exhibition invitations that have been postponed assisted to trigger me back to the studio.
For one hour per day a walk in my 5km neighbourhood instigated looking at my environment, seeing the changes of the seasons, plants sprouting new shoots, flowers, colours. Nature has no restrictions.
Encouraged to create prints, I watched copious videos from, across the globe, on a form of printmaking new to me.
Online shopping opened a new world of scouring Art Supplies websites for paper and paint.
Recycling acetate sheets to create stencils and recycling papers of preloved prints has proved to be a good way to make space for new works.
I blossomed into a creative functional being who looked forward through the tunnel to the small light at the end and I have seen it grow larger as I get closer and the blackness dissipates.
On most daily walks I have and am collecting the beauty of my neighbourhood through plants. Choosing size, shape and patterns of leaves to keep, arrange on the printing plate, layering colours and shapes that intermingle with stencils. I am moving along with a series of artworks reminiscent of the healing power of nature.
The artworks are currently suited to two themes:
Walking Tour 2020 consists of foliage from my neighbourhood, freshly collected on mornings of printing days.
No Restrictions for Nature incorporates feathers with foliage. The feathers represent freedom and the ability to take flight to wherever one wishes to go.
The closer I move towards the light, the brighter the world becomes. Asked about my plans for 2021, my answer is let’s get to the end of the tunnel first.
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.
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
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.
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
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.
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.
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.