Friday, April 30, 2010
Monetize Gouache on paper 30 x 42 cm 2010
I have two core focuses in my painting practice. One is my exploration of the potency of archetypal symbols [particularly the transcultural/religious tree-of-life] looking at how they may 'speak' to us in the 21st Century. My second focus is water and the commodification of something which makes up around 60% of our bodies, falls from the sky, fills rivers, dams, seas and underground aquifers, and ultimately sustains us and our planet. Yet, whilst these two focus areas seem distinctly different, they are not. Water is itself a powerful age-old symbol. Indeed it is one of the four elements Earth, Fire, Wind and Water which have been ascribed sacred and mystical symbolism over centuries. Water is also a symbol of the subconscious through its various symbolism to interpret dreams eg: the state, whether still, turbulent, flowing etc, of a large mass of water represents our emotions.
Stripped of all symbolism, water and the tree, are and have been, universally and literally understood and experienced. Contemporary environmental concerns highlight the fact that we cannot take them for granted. Water sustains us and the planet, and trees provide a plethora a life preserving and giving elements from the oxygen we breath, to shade, to timber for shelters, to homes for a myriad of animals and other plants...and so on. Both, water and trees, are LIFE. No wonder their symbolism propels their potency beyond the literal. If you think about it, we are largely water, and our body is like a tree with our lymph and vascular systems almost mimicking the tree's essence at an internal level.
Regular readers know of my intense interest in exploring the transcultural/religious tree-of-life and its potential to bring people together. The tree-of-life resonates at a core human level, as if it agitates human race memories within our DNA... that large part of DNA we don't yet understand. It is, as if, it reminds us that we are all fundamentally the same...we all have the signs of life ie: a pulse and breath. I am interested in searching for ways to visually interpret the power of the tree-of-life to 'say' something to us and about us in the 21st century that will inspire shared conversations looking at what is similar between us, as well as what is different, across cultures and religions.
With the issue of water I am interested in possibly being a little more of an agitator. Regular readers know that my childhood growing up on a wheat farm on the Darling Downs in Queensland and then living further west for 18 years, have provided me with insights into agricultural water use. The commodification of water into something which is bought, sold, allocated, harvested, irrigated, litigated about and so on is both fascinating and a little scarey. Once something becomes financially valuable the potential for the divide between the 'haves' and 'have nots' widens. The comodification of water has developed at the same time drought and subsequent water shortages have become more prevalent. Once something becomes scarce or seems as if it will not be replenished regularly, authorities need to put in place infrastructures, regulations and laws to ensure the commodity is not overused, wasted and so on.
Regular readers know I have been developing a series of works on paper which are about my thoughts on water. I have previously written various past posts about this water series. Here's a link to a recent post where I have listed other water links. http://kathrynbrimblecombeart.blogspot.com/2010/04/tendering.html
The painting above 'Monetize' is an ambigous 'landscape' made up of small $ signs to signify the commodification of water, plus the value of the products and produce which ensue from water's sustenance. The $ 'value' has seeminlgy penetrated everywhere from the air, to the land and to the underground. Does $ 'value' [ie: economic drivers] ensure, for instance, the equitible supply of food, fare recompense to farmers, full disclosure to investors and so on?? Water can flow. How does the wealth from water's commodification flow?
At a deeper level, does commodification and the resultant $ 'value' of water which we are 60% made of, change how we might approach or embrace its symbolic reverence and relevance. By adding 'value' what other kind of value is in jeopardy? The GFC makes one think about the substance of $ value and the ability for this substance to be, in many cases, like vapour!
PRESENCE- Small EXHIBITION
In Maleny opening Thursday 20 May 6-8 pm. The exhibition PRESENCE will continue until Tuesday June 13. @ the hippest place in town 'The UPFRONT CLUB'. This small exhibition is a collection of my paintings from the last couple of years that 'speak' about presence. Maleny is a great place and it is where my parents retired over 20 years ago...so it is a bit like going 'home'. http://www.upfrontclub.org/
Monday, April 26, 2010
A multitude of ideas are going through my head at the moment. I am reading four books. Each one is providing inspiration. Regular readers of my BLOG know that books do spark off visual images for me. The last book I wrote about was Dr. Norman Doidge's 'The Brain That Changes Itself'. I have read it twice. Here's a link to the post I wrote about the painting above Becoming which was inspired by Norman Doidge's book. http://kathrynbrimblecombeart.blogspot.com/2010/02/becoming.html
* Rees, Martin Our Final Century; Will Civilisation Survivie The Twenty-First Century, Arrow Books, 2003, UK
Wednesday, April 21, 2010
HERE COMES THE BRIDE
In 2003 I held a solo exhibition called 'Here Comes The Bride' at Brisbane's Soapbox Gallery. The exhibition consisted of a number of oil paintings plus over 70 works on paper which were displayed montage style on the gallery walls. The over arching umbrella idea was to 'play' with and explore the image of the bride in the landscape which has been a recurring theme in art history.
Now...this is where it got personal, because I had literally been the young bride in the landscape ie: I married at the age of 21 and went to live in western Queensland with my husband in a small rural community [population around 5,000] called Goondiwindi. After University I had worked as a curatorial assistant at the National Gallery in Canberra...but there were no national galleries or even galleries [except a craft shop] in Goondiwindi! When I had the exhibition 'Here Comes The Bride' in 2003 I had been divorced for a couple of years and had been living in Brisbane, after spending 18 years living in Goondiwindi.
So...the exhibition was a little angsty. I did not see it at the time, but friends did!
The image above The World Turned Upside Down depicts the bride in the bottom left corner looking a little frantic as she tries to decipher why everything is upside down. Her world, which includes her dreams for the future, are all of sudden changed. This bride is situated in a rural or pastorale landscape, yet she seems absorbed by it... as if it is quick sand.
The exploration of the bride in the landscape theme brought a realisation that young women who marry and move to rural environments can be described as not being 'in' the landscape as some kind of observer or object, but rather they are absorbed or consumed by it. The landscape consumes them as they give their spirit, energy and vitality to their communities and families. When [and if] they leave, traces of their spirit are left. Also, the land and landscape never leaves them, because it burrows into their psyche like a umbilical river.
APPROPRIATION OF TITIAN'S SACRED AND PROFANE LOVE
But, I won't go on about this aspect of the exhibition, because there was another that I really enjoyed 'playing' with. ' I was inspired to recontextualise or appropriate Titian's famous painting Sacred and Profane Love. Here's a link to an image and some information http://www.galleriaborghese.it/borghese/en/eamor.htm This painting is imbedded in the art historical theme of the bride in the landscape as it is a painting to celebrate a wedding with the bride, accompanied by Venus and a distracted Cupid, set against a pastorale scene. However, it is an unusual wedding painting for the sixteenth century because the groom is absent. This and the look in the bride's eyes got me thinking!
Is the bride feeling like her world will be turned upside down? Is she thinking of her future or even a lost love? Is earthly love a dream...as perhaps the presence of Venus and Cupid's distraction suggests? Does the idyllic pastorale scene suggest some kind of quarantining of the young woman from worldy activities? These sort of questions are as pertinent now as they would have possibly been 500 years ago. In fact, love was pondered upon voraciously by poets, writers, artists. There is still a voracious appetite for romance today even though it is often hidden behind explicitly sexual song lyrics, graphic films or turned into Vampire love!
I painted a series of images which took components of Sacred and Profane Love and re-contextualised them to 'speak' with a contemporary voice, but one which clearly created a link back to the past. I used the figure of the bride in all, but one, of my paintings. Venus is evident in all, but I have left Cupid out, although he is always actually 'present' in absentia because he exists, albeit in a distracted state, in the earlier painting. I recreated the pastorale scene as either an all-consuming landscape or as a scene with skyscrapers hovering in the distance. The latter represents my dream ie: to live in the city, enjoy a more sophisticated cultural and intellectual life and resurrect my career.
The paintings from the series are all below.
There are deliberately no commas in this painting's title. I wanted to convey that the woman and child are the same person and the dream that existed for the child still exists as a memory for the woman. In the painting the bride's self as a child seems to be transfixed by Venus. Like many little girls I used to dream of my wedding day and this little girl in this painting is me, but also every other woman who still carries the 'little girl' memories of herself inside her. We need to be compassionate towards ourselves! The city in the background replaces the small village in Sacred and Profane Love, yet the strip of rain in the far horizon looms with both hope and fear. Regular readers of my BLOG will recongise the strip of rain as a recurring motif in my work.
The last two paintings play with the idea that love is a puzzle which is, in fact, maybe why we pursue it, even in our dreams! Nothing like a puzzle to engage us. Indeed as the bride's gaze in Sacred and Profane Love suggests, love was a puzzle 500 years ago too.
In my last BLOG post I said I'd write something about appropriation. Well, I have done this by writing about my own work. For me appropriation is a conscious and deliberate activity that in the first instance is stimulated and then driven by intellectual catalysts which inform the artist's choices of materials, subject, positioning and even how the work is exhibited etc. Other issues such as aesthetic or creative ones are mediated by the intellectual activity of repositioning, recontextualising another artist's or creator's work or aspects of the work. It needs to be more than just simply clever or interesting.
Thursday, April 15, 2010
As I wrote in my last post, there has been some frustration getting into a new body of work after my exhibiton FRISSON. I am going to take things slowly and also take some time OFF! The torn up paintings have continued, but to a lesser extent! The water and paint continue to flow copiously. However, there is no point in forcing things and I need time to re-energise, think, sketch, travel....
But, I have also found myself looking at a couple of blank canvases, thinking about what I'll do with my oil paints. I love blank canvases. In my mind's eye each one has a multitude of images ...or it might be more correct to say, senses of images. These image senses flick past my mind's eye flirting with my imagination. I know when the right one should be 'captured' because I experience an 'Ah Ha' where an excitement rivets into my imagination. A blank canvas is never really blank, but its form needs time and space to emerge!
The painting above is a gouache on paper and continues with my interest in water. Regular readers would know of my interest in water and its commodification. Here is a link to a previous post on water and contained within it are other links: http://kathrynbrimblecombeart.blogspot.com/2009/10/water.html
My new painting is called 'Tendering'. I am deliberately playing with a word that has multiple meanings from softness, to making an offer, currency, or payment. 'Water Tenders' are an important part of the management of water infrastructure, whether for urban, industrial or agricultural use. My focus, as a country girl, is the agricultural use of water. However, my overarching interest is the fact that water is a universal issue. Not only are our bodies largely water, but our planet's 'blood' is water. Water can be a vast mass or a vapourous particle. It can seep into places we did not even know space existed. We and our planet need water to survive and the implications of how it is used and dispersed, allocated and valued are immense, because inequality of distribution, cost and allocation can cause...at the extreme...war.
In 'Tendering' I have written the word 'rain' over and over again, to create the impression of ...well rain falling from the sky. I have used small $ signs to create the impression of the water infiltrating the soil. I have used red for the $ signs to suggest a fertile potency of not only ensuring the soil is sustained and fed, but also a pecuniary potency in the financial potential of resulting crops, water storages, subsoil moisture for sustained crop success and so on.
Yet, rain softens the ground too. It turns hard clay soils into malleable ooze. It turns cracking and crusty black soils into glorious, 'oh glorious' mud. I grew up on my parent's farm which is on a black soil plain outside Dalby on the Darling Downs in Queensland. In fact, it has the deepest top soil in the southern hemisphere...so very rich soil! [I use the word 'rich' purposefully!] I remember playing in the black mud when it rained. I remember running and then sliding along the muddy rows between one of my Dad's incredible wheat crops. So...my title 'Tendering' is multifaceted.
When I think about Dalby, I also ponder upon the amazing 'wealth' the coal and coal seam gass industries have brought to the area in the last 10-15 year...maybe even less. Two years ago when I visited Dalby for the first time in over 10 years, I was astounded by the mounds of coal. I was also astounded by the growth of the township of Dalby and apparently in the last two years a new suburb appears almost overnight!!! Here's a link to Dalby http://www.dalby.info/html/profile.asp Here's a link to a page on Arrow Energy's site describing this company's activities in and around Dalby. http://www.arrowenergy.com.au/page/Projects/Australia/
It is also fascinating that in the process of extracting coal seam gas, water has a very important part to play and one which could see underground aquifers compromised. Here's a link to Arrow Energy's page where the process is explained http://www.arrowenergy.com.au/page/Our_Company/Coal_Seam_Gas/
So, my painting 'Tendering' also refers to the underground 'richness' of minerals and all the accomanying activities the mineral and resources industries undertake. But at what cost?
It is interesting how words such as... currency, flow, tendering... can have financial meaning, but are also words which can be used to describe the literal movement or action of water.
Another word which has a financial meaning is 'appropriation'...I think my next post will be about appropriation. And...it is a word which has caused some angst with the current controversy over the Wynne Prize...
Saturday, April 10, 2010
I've been working on some works on paper over the last 10-12 days. A number of them have been torn up in frustration. But I know this will happen, because after every exhibition, when a new body of work is trying to express, I fumble and stress about what I am doing. This is a phase...as my Mother used to say whenever either of my 2 brothers or I were behaving in a certain way, she'd say, 'It's just a phase'. So, whilst I might tear up work in frustration I know the phase will pass and some kind of fluidity of thought and action will appear...and then next phase happens.
Well, I have to say, I am feeling the fluidity...because I am rather pleased with 'Infinitude', which is above. It is the result of a number of torn up works, and about 7-100! different layers of oodles of paint and water. Once I was happy with the background I started the detailed surface work. Well....there were times when I walked away and would only return when I felt the urge to tear subside, because I felt 'in-my-bones' that this one was doing something that made my heart sing! The struggle and suffering are worth it...
That sounds a bit dramatic...struggle and suffering. But, creating a painting is a dance between the struggle and the heart singing! It is what gives a sense of something which is just not seen but felt [I mentioned this in my last post too].
So...what was I thinking about when I painted 'Infinitude'? A multitude of things actually. This is part of the struggle. After an exhibition [like FRISSON which I have just held] there's an urge to develop ideas that continue previous work, but new ideas also emerge. The new ideas are most likely connected with the previous body of work, but diverge. The result is that the imagination is overindulged with ideas! Not a problem really! But, it does take some time to work through. So...back to what was I thinking about when I painted 'Infinitude'? One of the main things I was thinking about was 'freedom'..now that opens up a universe of issues!
I wanted to create an image that oozed boundless space and possibility to give the impression of borderlessness and never endedness...like flying through timelessness. I wanted to create an image that appeared to have no beginning or end, as if perspective had been replaced with a sense of simultaneous closeness and farness. Maybe like a simultaneous beginning and end, and thus the possibility of something new...maybe a new dimension? I wonder what would we and the world do if there was a new 'beginning', but one where we retained the knowledge experienced across millenia in this dimension. Would we be more compassionate towards ourselves and others?
So, now that I am back in the studio I am indulging in ,and struggling with, lots of ideas! As readers can probably tell, perspective and distance will still keep me occupied for some time. I have also got new ideas for my much loved transcultural/religious tree-of-life. AND, maybe some more figures in my paintings too.
Till next time,
Tuesday, April 06, 2010
The painting above is called 'Beyond The Dark Night Of The Soul'. I wrote about some of my thoughts when I was painting it in a previous post where I uploaded sections of the work-in -progress. http://kathrynbrimblecombeart.blogspot.com/2009/11/beyond-dark-night-of-soul.html
In the previous post I wrote that I wanted to focus on the 'beyond' part of the title. I had and still have no desire to paint something which could be called 'The Dark Night Of The Soul', athough when I first heard the phrase it certainly interested me, because it so succinctly described THAT place we go to in our heads and hearts when things seem to be falling apart. Indeed, if readers have ever been to the 'dark night of the soul', you can understand why I would not want to replicate it in a painting, although many other artists have and do [and the mass media supplies us endlessly]! The word 'beyond' in the title clearly gives the message that this painting is not just a warm and fuzzy, feel-good image, because 'the dark night of the soul' as something that has been experienced but overcome, thus it exists in absentia.
Regular readers know that I have previously written about the existence of things in absentia. This concept really fascinates me and I enjoy its possibilities. For me, things can exist in absentia when they have been consciously elided. The conscious action leaves a shadow of sorts, thus rebutting any claims of blind ignorance. One of the most significant possibilities, for me, is how this concept motivates me to paint a sense through the use of symbols rather than trying to depict things realistically. I know it is a fine line...where is the difference between sensing and depiction? For me the latter predominantly relies on the eye...of eye ball and pupil... a recognition that relies on something seen and then an ensuing predominantly intellectual interpretative stage prior to a realisation of an emotional response...if any. Whereas sensing may not be just about visual recognition, but more about feeling and a sense of a presence which may, in fact, cause the intellect some disquiet. I like to think this is as an agitation of the of cellular memory. I'll leave it at that for the moment...I sense more thoughts are to come!
PRESENCE IN MALENY
So, this brings me to my small exhibition PRESENCE which I am having in Maleny opening May 20 continuing until June 15. I love Maleny because it is really very pretty, it is where my parents now live [for 25 yrs after selling the farm!] and the population is an exciting and stimulating eclectic mix of people. Remember...Maleny was where THE people stood up to Woolworths to try to save a precious wildlife area and keep the face of BIG business out of town [to protect local businesses]. My Mum and some of her mates [along with many others] even protested with placards and the whole works! PRESENCE will be at The Upfront Club http://www.upfrontclub.org/ which is a hub for music lovers, art lovers, people watchers, foodies and so on. It is run by a co-operative...yes Maleny is pretty cool!
Thank you to all my visitors to my BLOG. Recently the numbers have increased and I think I see that some are regular visitors. I have written the BLOG since August 2006 and I am very grateful that there are people out there, from all over the world, who drop by to read my ramblings.
Image: Beyond The Dark Night Of The Soul Oil on linen 100 x 100 cm 2009
And, thank you to all who came ot FRISSON. It was a great success in all ways!
Friday, April 02, 2010
Histories, the painting above, was in my exhibition in Abu Dhabi at the Abu Dhabi Cultural Foundation in December 2005. It is a significant painting for me as it marks a pivotal realisation which has propelled my work since then. As regular readers of my BLOG know, one of the most rewarding and exciting things about my exhibition in Abu Dhabi were the conversations, triggered by my paintings, with people from all over the Middle East, Africa and Eastern Europe...with just a few westerners.
I had a conversation about Histories with an Arab woman. We started talking about the concentric circles being representative of time, as per the circles of a cut tree trunk which reveal the age of a tree. I discussed that the small trees in each semi circle were tree-of-life motifs and represented, to me, geneological history over time and that the subtle changes of colour linked each generation, but also 'spoke' of difference. The woman turned to me and said, 'But, Kathryn, this is us, it is all people...we are all connected.' I agreed and the conversation deepened into a discussion about how both of us wished for peace on earth ,and that if we are all connected, and share the planet, peace is not only imperative but surely possible. Neither of us saw peace as just an absence of war, or even some utopian state where disagreement did not exist. At the end of the conversation the woman turned to me and said very seriously, 'If there were more people like you in the world there would be peace.' I assured her that I was absolutely certain there were plenty of people like me!
The conversation triggered by Histories, but ultimately not simply about Histories, revealed things to each of us which an agenda driven conversation would not have necessarily uncovered in a way which connected with deep integrity and compassion. The average, everyday person, no matter where they come from, desires peace on Earth, yet the last comment from my visitor to my exhibition indicated to me that she felt there were not enough people in the world truly desiring peace or doing something about it. If this is a perception held by presumably many other people, how do we send the message in a way which come from our hearts as well as our minds?
Now, this is where I 'see' the catalytic agency of art ie: it is in the type of conversation art may trigger. I do not see this as a 'role' for art, because that impies a process, outcomes and agenda. However, conversations which are agenda-less, are not necessarily directionless. These kind of conversations allow for emergent patterns to be discovered, whereas agenda driven conversations generally have a preconceived pattern.
I have thought a bit about the idea of utopia. Someone made a comment to me at FISSON when I said I was interested in the stories, symbols etc which connect people, races, religions and cultures in order to hopefully find links that mean something in the 21st century which will bring people together to make the world a better place for all. The person I was speaking with made a comment that this was a utopian wish. Since then I have thought about this comment, because I felt a mammoth impediment in the idea of utopia. A utopia is an ideal, a perfect place but there is a snag... it is understood that a utopia is not necessarily something which can be practically achieved. Do I desire a utopian world if it has an inbuilt mechanism to disallow its manifestation. No! However, striving for something more meaningful will take us places, which whilst they may not be utopian, are potentially better for all. This does not mean that disgreement, and the inherent sufferings and joys of life in transformation do not exist. Naivity is not part of my world picture...
Just letting everyone know that I have a small exhibition [opening Thursday May 20] at the Upfront Club in Maleny, which for overseas visitors to my BLOG, is a beautiful town in the hinterland behind Queensland Sunshine Coast. I am calling the exhibition Presence. I have exhibited at the Upfront Club twice before and it's been great fun, because it is THE place to go in Maleny http://www.upfrontclub.org/ I will be writing more about this show over the next few weeks.
I have a doctor friend who is doing a 12 month locum on the very remote Pitcairn Island. He has recently made a precarious treck to a cave where there is some rock carvings which have not been seen by many people at all. He has photographed them and written about his exploits and observations. Check out his BLOG! http://maggie711040.bigblog.com.au/index.do