week 1 discussion points – basic concepts underlying Western philosophical thought
general questions (any era)
>> … it would be interesting to hear people’s experience of individual artworks–have you ever seen an artwork that moved you, disgusted you, interested you, disinterested you…? If so, why? What was it about that artwork that was effective / ineffective?
an artwork that moved me:
Ben Quilty’s “After Afghanistan” series of paintings – example, his Captain S After Afghanistan painting. the pose and expression on the face and application of paint in such thick strokes and the mix of colours and expressive marks/brushstrokes & use of light and dark/shadow evokes strong emotions in me — in both the technique of the painting and the subject and meaning behind it.
Ben Quilty. Captain S After Afghanistan. 2012. Oil on linen. Archibald Prize, Art Gallery of NSW. http://www.benquilty.com/news.php.
an artwork that disgusted me:
when I first saw Chris Jordan’s photographs of dead sea birds with stomachs full of plastic. it wasn’t the technical properties of the photo that disgusted me — it was the scenario and the thought of the poor birds eating all the plastic waste of ours. and that this wouldn’t be an isolated case. I was more disgusted at human beings for being so wasteful and causing harm to such beautiful creatures than the actual images, which are disturbing to see.
an artwork that interested me:
Fred Williams’ Trees on Hillside II interests me due to the painting technique. The blobs and dabs of paint on the hardboard up close looks like Williams has just blotted random brush wipes of paint onto the surface, but when you see the painting from a distance you see the landscape and environment emerge. The colours in the blobs of paint blend. It reminds me of a deconstructed pointillism work, with the dots of paint widely spaced instead of close together. It amazes me that just a few dashes of brushstrokes can be so expressive and a modern version of the traditional landscape or rural painting.
an artwork that disinterested me:
the problem with art that disinterests me is that it usually means I don’t know enough about it and I’ve based my reaction on my initial aesthetic response to the work or what I think the work is about. once I find out more about the work, then it becomes more interesting. for example I saw a video of Liu Chengrui (Guazi)’s work, Guazi Moves Earth (2008), during a recent visit to White Rabbit Gallery in Sydney. at first I wasn’t really interested in finding out more, but as I walked around more and then read the artwork label/description, it became more interesting to me due to the artist’s idea behind the work. at first I was thinking, what’s this guy doing lying on his stomach and shuffling along the ground. once I learn more about the concept I appreciated the pose of the artist and the resulting art work.
>> Does it help to know about the historical / conceptual background of the artwork or is it better to experience it without prior knowledge?
I think it depends on the work — some work I can see on its own without an explanation, but for more conceptual / experimental / performance art work I often prefer to find out what the ideas of the artist were so I can understand the context better.
have been discovering and reading about Do Ho Suh’s frottage and fabric rooms – like “memory rooms”. Lois Weinthal’s article in “Textile Technology and Design: From Interior Space to Outer Space” relates them to Anni Albers’ “The Pliable Plane: textiles in Architecture” essay, as “third skins” after Suh described his relation of wallpaper as “clothing the house”. enjoying these explorations this weekend
am starting to appreciate the sculpture side of class too and see it might be more useful/related to textiles work (than painting – could do painting via short courses/weekends if not traveling). this textile technology stuff is pretty cool, would like to delve more into it. most of the research seems to be in UK though. am looking for some in Aus
wow. I went to Grayson Perry’s “My Pretty Little Art Career” exhibition at the MCA today. he’s so prolific! and varied. there were pots/ceramics, paintings, tapestries, a digital room with interactive displays and screens plus his books and many others on ceramics etc., films, interviews, sculptures. I hadn’t seen his pots up close before – only images on occasion. I was thinking how great an example of collage they are – he has text, paintings, photographs, tradition patterning, modern styles mixed with the older styles. so layered! I was getting dizzy just walking around each one to see everything, and I think I missed looking at everything in detail and will need to go back again once I read through the catalog. loved the tapestries – the large ones were there – taking up long walls, and filling the room. such bright colours. I saw the ones from his tv series on social classes. my favourite was marked as a hand-embroidered piece, “Britain is Best”, which is quite substantial. so many French knots! and so neatly stitched. perfect rows. I also loved seeing some of the pages of his sketchbooks which were on display. I wish I could have seen more of these. he really seems to think in pictures, and add text notes, rather than making text notes with added images. it was great to see the preliminary sketches / ideas dump for one of the tapestries (from the tv series). loved his work, he really puts himself into the work, both in effort and as the subject. and I loved that Alan Measles, his teddy bear was featured quite often. as was Princess Diana. and Claire – even one of her dresses, and some photos. so much social and modern commentary and analysis in his work. loved the maps too – very intricate, and I could see some marks similar to Piranesi also. we were allowed to take pics too which was nice. some closeups below for things I wanted to remember in detail as great examples for inspiration.
as part of the work on my “bee” theme, and as part of the closing assignment for “Year of the Fairy Tale” illustration class I’ve been taking this year, to learn more painting techniques, I’m doing an illustration for a Fairy Land zine on magic animals. of course I chose the bee. but as “bee” was already taken, I decided to be more specific and chose the “Australian sugarbag bee” aka Tetragonula Carbonaria bee, which is one of the native bees of Australia. this is a stingless bee, though it can give you a bite instead.
collating info here about the sugarbag bee as part of my research. another Australian bee I like is the blue-banded bee. there are a number of coloured bees native to Australia, which are different to the introduced yellow coloured honey bee that everyone is used to seeing.
for the illustrated page, I need to write a line about why this is a magic sugarbag bee, and draw a matching picture.
Stingless bee rescue (ABC) http://www.abc.net.au/science/articles/2003/05/08/2045526.htm
“Unlike a hive of honey bees, which can produce 75 kilograms of honey a year, a hive of stingless bees produces less than one kilogram. Stingless bee honey also has a distinctive bush taste – a mix of sweet and sour with a hint of lemon. The taste comes from plant resins – which the bees use to build their hives and honey pots – and varies depending on the flowers and trees visited.” (note, European honeybees don’t use resin in their hives, but the Australian native bees do. some call this resin the sugarbag, others call the whole hive – bees, honey, brood and resin the sugarbag)
Stingless bees have been shown to be valuable pollinators of crops such as macadamias, mangos, watermelons and lychees. They may also benefit strawberries, citrus, avocados and many others.
The Meaning of Sugarbag
Sugarbag is honey made by Australian native stingless bees; sugarbag has its own special flavour and is a highly prized food of the Jawoyn people who hunted it from wild nests; it’s real bush tucker! It has formed an important part of the Jawoyn diet and was the sweetest and one of the most favored bush foods. The Jawoyn term for honey is Wam. Ancient artwork centuries old can be found on Jawoyn land depicting the types of animals, fish and food available in the surrounding area including the site “Sugarbag Dreaming”.
‘Sugarbag’ is an indigenous term, incorporating everything related to honey, including stingless bees.
Of the 1,600 species of wild bees native to Australia, about 14 are stingless. All are small (3 – 5 mm) and black in colour, with hairy extended hind legs for carrying nectar and pollen; because of the latter, they are sometimes mistaken for bumblebees.
The Yolngu world is divided into two separate moieties (or broad kinship groups): Dhuwa and Yirritja. Two types of stingless bee that are particularly significant to the Yolngu of Northeast Arnhem Land are the Yirritja birrkuda and the Dhuwa yarrpany.
Both sugarbag complexes have their own set of songs, dances, power names and sacred objects as they are derived from the essences of different ancestral beings.
Lucy Ward http://henryfskerritt.com/tag/sugarbags
“This sense of connectivity can be seen even more clearly in Lucy Ward’s signature image of ngara (the sugarbag). Ngara refers to the honey made by the stingless native bees. There are two types of bees native to the north-west Kimberley, the tree-dwelling bee (Waningga) and those that build their hives in rocks (Namri). Ngara is an important totem for Lucy Ward – not only was she born in Ngarangarri (the land of the Honey Dream), but according to Ward, she was also born under the shade of a sugarbag tree. Along with the image of the Wandjina, the sugarbag has been one of Ward’s defining motifs. However, whilst Ward’s depictions of Wandjina have remained relatively unchanging – undoubtedly due to the sacred nature of the image – the sugarbag has provided her with a motif of incredible flexibility. Over her diverse artistic career, it has been an endlessly malleable aesthetic form, in which she has found a seemingly boundless array of conceptual and aesthetic variations. Ward’s gallery representative, Dr Diane Mossenson, notes with amazement Ward’s “capacity for artistic re-invention. Unlike many Aboriginal artists who paint a limited number of images, Lucy has remained strong to her stories, but she continually recreates the imagery, finding new ways to express her stories.””
“Like the cave paintings of sugarbags, Ward’s earliest depictions show the sugarbag motif as distinct, individual objects. Each honey pod is depicted as an irregular square or circle filled with coloured dots. Sometimes these squares or circles are sub-divided, while in other cases they are not. In late 2005, however, a major development began to occur in Ward’s portrayal of sugarbags. The sugarbag became an increasingly open signifier, whose individual unity slowly disappeared. In her most recent works, such as the monumental diptych Ngara (Sugarbag) Story 2008, exhibited at the Arthur Guy Memorial Art Prize, any sense of this indivisible unity has been shattered in favour of an all-over dotting that covers the canvas in a pulsating invocation of the aerial landscape.”
“Despite these external prompts, however, Ward’s development has shown a clear and uniquely personal epistemic trajectory. In the paintings of Lucy Ward, each mark upon the canvas is like a fingerprint, betraying the trace of its creator’s movement. In painting her ancestral homelands, her marks revel her ownership of the country, like footprints in a landscape that she has traversed by foot, understood instinctively and known intimately. But just like a footprint, they exist as the memory of presence, a nostalgic echo of past travels.”
“In the wake of colonial incursion, elders like Ward cannot live on their traditional lands, but return only occasionally to tend to the country of which they are the sacred custodians. Returning to her sacred sites, Ward sings out to the spirits, warning them of her arrival. Her song echoes through the stony ridges and it is as though she is a young woman again. It is this memory of the landscape that reveals itself in Ward’s paintings. Each mark connects Ward to her landscape, making her one with the Dreams, songs and topography of her land of honey.”
“In this context, the sugarbag is a profound tripartite symbol for the personal (as Ward’s totem), the physical (the bush honey pod) and the spatial (Ngarangarri country: the land of the sugarbag dream). In shattering the individual unity of the sugarbag – literally opening it up – Ward fuses these three categories. Rather than fingerprints, the dots meld into a pointillist landscape that shimmers into being with a cosmological unity.”
“These seemingly abstract shapes thus become a complex metaphor for the inter-relationship of identity, culture and country. They are part of a sacred and personal geography that Marcia Langton has termed ‘placedness.’ For Ward, the past is not, as L.P. Hartley has famously suggested, ‘a foreign country’, but rather a familiar country that situates and unites all moments in time. Ward’s paintings become what Langton has described as “site markers of the remembering process and of identity itself.” They inhabit a temporality that is neither past, present nor future, but part of the sacred link that connects Lucy Ward to the timeless Ngarrangarni.”
Geographic Cosmology: The Art of Lucy Ward http://henryfskerritt.com/tag/sugarbags
(this page is an extended text of the article, “Geographic Cosmology: The Art of Lucy Ward” published in Craft Arts International, no.78, 2010, pp.34-39)
“According to [Lucy] Ward, in the Ngarrangarni, this Wandjina broke with traditional law, and took another man’s promised wife. This angered the man’s family, who pursued him across the country, seeking to punish him for this indiscretion. They finally caught him in Ngarangarri country, where he was beaten, speared and killed. From his prostrate body rose the sugarbag trees, making Ngarangarri country the land of honey. It is a powerful story of the connection of all things. In death there is creation; in punishment there is redemption; in the bitterness of tears, the sweetness of honey.”
DH[david hudson]: In my grandmother’s country, when folks heard the sugar bag, little native bees humming inside a log, they thought it was someone playing the didjeridu. But it was the sugarbag busily working making honey inside the tree. So the sugarbag led people to the didjeridu. http://www.didjeridu.com/wickedsticks/voices/hudson.htm
Kumbaingiri Billy’s Story from Oscar and Lucinda http://www.victorianweb.org/neovictorian/carey/oscar/billy.html
We thought they were dead men. They climbed hills and chopped down trees. They did not cut down the trees for sugar bag. There was no sugar bag in the trees they chopped. They left the trees Iying on the ground. They cut these trees so they could make a map. They were surveying with chains and theodolites, but we did not understand what they were doing. We saw the dead trees. Soon other white men came and ring-barked the trees. At that time we made a song:
Where are the bees which grew on these plains?
The spirits have removed them.
They are angry with us.
They leave us without firewood when they are angry.
They’ll never grow again.
We pine for the top of our woods,
but the dark spirit won’t send them back.
The spirit is angry with us.
There are over 1,500 species of “true blue” Australian native bees.
Commercial honey bees (Apis mellifera) are not native to Australia. They were introduced from Europe in about 1822.
Australian native bees can be black, yellow, red, metallic green or even black with blue polka dots! They can be fat and furry, or sleek and shiny.
Australia’s smallest native bee is Cape York’s minute Quasihesma bee. It is less than 2 mm long.
Australia’s largest native bee is the Great Carpenter Bee of the tropical north and northern NSW. It is up to 24 mm long.
Most Australian bees are solitary bees which raise their young in burrows in the ground or in tiny hollows in timber.
Australia also has 10 species of social native bees (genera Trigona and Austroplebeia) which do not sting!
Stingless bee honey is a delicious bush food and stingless bees can be good crop pollinators. So stingless beekeeping is becoming increasingly popular.
Native bees are also important pollinators of Australia’s unique wildflowers and are a vital part of our Australian bushland.
yesterday, we went to the Piranesi exhibition at the State Library of Victoria. his work was amazing! such fine detail in his etchings and prints. there were around 100 works on display, but i found that I was transfixed by the close-up detail of his mark making in the works. when he was younger, the prints were lighter and later in his life he ran his own printmaking business and developed darker, denser prints of imaginative buildings, street scenes and maps. the exhibition included his visions of Rome etchings. most of the buildings did not actually exist outside his mind and works — they are imaginary buildings and cities. he showed amazing skill with depth of vision, fine detail in the clouds and architectural designs and showing darkness and light in the images. Giovanni Battista Piranesi lived from 1720-1778. a statement reported by one of his early biographers, via his Met Museum article shows his love for imaginary architecture:
“I need to produce great ideas, and I believe that if I were commissioned to design a new universe, I would be mad enough to undertake it.”
I tried drawing some of the marks in my notebook but found the pen i was using didn’t give me enough variation in the lightness and darkness of the lines.
I bought a copy of the book to look more closely at his lines and marks later. I’m afraid i didn’t notice all of the individual pictures from far away – I was too busy concentrating on a few of them close up. his mark making style was similar for most of his earlier and later works, but the large map that was printed onto the foyer outside the exhibition is of a more modern, draftsman drawing style.
the article in the paper about the exhibition mentioned that most of Piranesi’s works are held by libraries, rather than galleries. this is an interesting comment – perhaps due to his printing background, his works are highly regarded by printed works specialists. architects also study his works.
tonight I watched videos on Zandra Rhodes’ tutorial page on her website. the first video about Sketchbooks was great. I liked how she speaks on photographs vs drawing in sketchbooks: “to me, i never get to know something unless I’ve drawn it & suffered it”
there’s also some great videos on screenprinting and making the prints for some of her fabrics. it’s interesting that she uses layout paper for her sketchbooks too – I might have to try that for the pens
Tutorial 1 Zandra Rhodes: Using sketchbooks from UCA Learning Technologists on Vimeo.also I started reading through “Indigo – The Colour that Changed the World” by Catherine Legrand, after finding it at Potts Point bookstore yesterday. I’ve almost bought this book a few times online, but hadn’t quite pressed submit on the order. it’s a visual feast – interesting to learn more about indigo following the shibori class I did a few weeks ago.
today I went to the Art Gallery of NSW and saw “The Sydney Moderns” exhibition. I loved the “colour music” works of Roy de Maistre – I think these would translate well to textiles. like weaving sounds and colour. he did a lot of work based on synaesthesia. I was at the gallery with my sister and 10 month old niece, who was very excited – singing and dancing in the gallery – so we walked quickly through the exhibition so as not to disturb others viewing the works. I hope to go back and see it again and spend some more time looking at the paintings. De Maistre also did some paintings based on the colour wheel.
from Roy de Maistre’s wikipedia page: “He developed an interest in “colour-music”, the relationship of colour harmony to musical harmony. With his ordered, analytical mind, he applied the theory of music to painting. He worked with Adrian Verbrugghen, and then Roland Wakelin to devise a “colour-music” theory. In 1919 he held a joint exhibition with Roland Wakelin titled Colour in Art to expound his theories. In this, at the time controversial. art exhibition the musician-turned-painter had chosen colours to harmonise like the notes in music. This “colour-music” exhibition became part of Australia’s art-folklore as “pictures you could whistle”. Influenced by earlier exponents of “colour-music” theory in Europe and America, this exhibition has since been identified as the earliest experiment in pure abstractionism in Australia. His colour charts, showing musical notes corresponding to different hues, are now owned by the Art Gallery of New South Wales, with “colour music” gaining a permanent place in Australian art history.”
reading ahead, I think some of his works might be useful for inspiration for some of the forthcoming assignments. I could try make a painting inspired by his colour wheel & paintings also, as well as some textiles based on the paintings and studies.
also reading about Anne Dangar and Grace Crowley and their geometric works