Some more thoughts and theories on the greyness of my work…..
Sometimes others (and sometimes me, too, just to make life easier) refer to my work as monochromatic. But I don’t think about it that way at all, to me all the colours are there. Just in a very toned down, washed out form. You just need to look closely.
The lack of colour provides visual relief from the multicolours we are bombarded with in everyday life……so many colourful things compete for our attention!
My feeling is that art almost always involves the past, and is an act of preservation. It is the product of an actual event, the remains of an experience or process, somewhat removed from ‘real life.’ By using the colouring that I do I feel I am amplifying the sense in which the viewer is seeing the remnant of a living thing. Probably this idea needs a whole post on its own.
It is both organic and industrial, just as many of my forms suggest body and machine.
It makes things look old, a bit jaded, I like this play on the meaning of my name. (I am only half joking) So it is a signature colour scheme…
Some more thoughts and theories on the greyness of my work…..
I’m making some stuff using the shredded paper I used for packing ‘Desolation Row’ for its journey to
Of course being the paper lover that I am, it was going to be difficult to throw out all that shredded paper. So, instead I am making art with it. Sometimes I wonder if my primary motivation in making things is to avoid throwing things away.
The paper, sourced for me by the lovely John Monteleone (a.k.a Mr Monty) is from the Wollongong City Council, so there might be some top secret documents in there; how could I resist?
I am bundling it up and dying it to look rotten and decayed, the bundles are a bit like coccoons. Some will be used for pieces along the lines of OSCILLIUM ASYLUM, others will just be bundles, I think. My plan is to create a kind of installation with the parts, expanding upon the ideas behind the OSCILLIUM ASYLUM pieces, which will probably be included in the final set up. The shredded council documents work so nicely with the ideas behind the pieces.
I don’t have photos of the work in progress, so instead I have scanned some of the smaller bundles. Maybe soon I’ll have some photos.
This little piece (about 12cm high) was in my show at Wollongong City Gallery last year......and is now in the collection of the very lovely Vivian Vidulich (i can't emphasise enough just how lovely)
Often I’m asked about the limited colour I use in my work. I have many explanations for why it interests me, I am unsure if any are really true, maybe it is just personal taste.
But then I do like many artworks that use strong colour, I just don’t like to use it myself. I tend not to wear it, but I much prefer to wear it than to use it…..
Anyways here are some thoughts and theories;
I often work in a way that is detailed, even elaborate. Lack of colour is a counterpoint to this, it makes things simpler.
It looks like the work has been subjected to the natural processes of aging and decay, yet it is a selected and contrived appearance. I love a bit of paradox.
Lots of stuff I make is vaguely festive in form…….it is much more interesting to have the counterpoint of sombre colouring, otherwise it might be a bit, well, yuck, if you know what I mean….just too nice and pretty and that’s not what I’m interested in.
I enjoy tricking people. It’s true! I like the way that from a distance my artworks can look like some old relic, an outmoded device or aged ephemera, but on closer inspection it is clear that they are products of the present. Often my work uses recycled materials, so something old becomes new…..but is made to look even older. Tricky, huh? Or maybe just baffling…
I see my work as exploring the meaning of the phrases ‘shades of grey,’ and 'grey areas' etc. Ambiguity interests me.
Part 2 coming soon!
Another moleskine doodle, mostly ball point again. Also some pen and ink, and a bit of colour pencil.
In the drawing you can see the kind of sculptural shapes i'm working with. I don't do much planned preliminary drawing for sculptures, but i find the two are often kind of heading off in the same direction, apparently.
Oh yeah, ignore my whinge about my image looking crap on blog ('unfinished' and 'doodle' post ) i put it back to normal size once it moved below all
the side bar text, so now it's all ok.......i know you must be feeling a great sense of relief for me...
This sculpture is finished, but i'm in the process of making a little 'flock' of these, if all goes to plan they'll be in a show at Gallery 4A in Sydney next month, i'll post more details about that soon.
I don't have any photos of the ones i'm making, they're a bit like this, and a bit like the desolation row sculptures, except they dangle from the ceiling. See my post 'oscillium asylum'
This is a continuation of my previous Desolation Row postings, so it’ll probably make more sense if you read those first…then again maybe not. You’ll have to scroll right down to find them.
The Cinderella of ‘Desolation Row’ seems to be Cinderella before her transformation into glamourous ball-going princess. ‘The only sound that’s left after the ambulances go, is Cinderella sweeping up on desolation row.’ The aftermath of some sort of festivity gone wrong?
And so we are back to the carnival. It seems that originally this referred to a period of excess preceeding the austerity of Lent, which of course preceeds Easter. This seems to link nicely with the suggestions of the hanging being some sort of carnival, with Easter being a celebration of crucifixion.
‘And the good samaritan, he’s dressing,
He’s getting ready for the show,
He’s going to the carnival tonight
On Desolation Row’
Another textile reference. I think my sculptures resemble the leftover, faded paraphernalia from some sort of unknown ritual celebration, or a cast of characters in suspended animation, decaying carnival remnants, petrified puppets.
‘They’ve nailed the curtains,
they’re getting ready for the feast,
the phantom of the opera,
a perfect image of a priest
they’re spoonfeeding Casanova
to get him to feel more assured,
then they’ll kill him with self- confidence
after poisoning him with words’
Nailing the curtains? Crucifixion as theatre? It seems to fit with ‘postcards of the hanging’ And then there’s that play between soft and hard again and, of course another reference to textiles.
My sculptures respond to this through their tortured puppet appearance. I find the ‘hanging as theatre’ idea especially interesting (and a little amusing) when we refer to the act of installing artworks in an exhibition as hanging, ie ‘hanging the show’.
Afraid I think there’ll be more to come on Desolation Row.
Well i am rather annoyed at how badly the image in that last posting came up, it looks much better on flickr, so click on it at have a look at it there if you can be bothered.
This is just another dooodle in my moleskine sketchbook, in ball point pen, of course.
This is from a series of works on paper that i'm currently working on. I kind of thought it would be interesting to post an unfinished thing and then post in various stages of development. That's the theory anyway. It's quite possible that it will be put aside for a few years and become something completely different (maybe origami!) and i'll completely forget to post it again.......oh well.
The drawings reference instructional diagrams, which i love. I'm not completely sure why that is, but perhaps it is something to do with my interest in the processes involved in construction, but who can say. Maybe it's just because they're pretty.
This little piece is from a suite of constructions called 'Variations on the Underlay and the Overplay.'
It sort of illustrates my aforementioned interest in making hard things soft. The scissors (in the upper frame bit) are tranformed into a little cushion sort of thing, their destructive/ constructive powers become comforting....or perhaps negated.
The piece that hangs down is also a quilted drawing on fabric....a drawing of a piece of surgical equipment, used for anaesthetizing. So it is something that prevents discomfort.
in the collection of the Wollongong City Gallery.
Got some moleskines at the national gallery of Victoria bookshop a few weeks ago when i was in Melbourne....i had never seen one in real life before.
I am using my first one as a kind of excercise in restraint.....most of my work tends to be very textured and heavily worked, so i am keeping it kind of understated, at least for now....
After the large scale complicatedness (is that a word? i spose it should be complexity but i think that is not complicated enough for the meaning) it is nice to be doing something simple and basic, and, well, small. It is a bit like having a little holiday...i have been doing a lot of doodling.
Also, it is not the proper sketchbook moleskine, it's the notebook type
(they are cheaper, and anyway i like the lighter paper, and you get more pages, too) so the paper is no good for heavily worked stuff.
Mostly i have used ball point pen, pencils and a little bit of watercolour in this first moleskine. I really like biros...the fine ones.
This little piece is called OSCILLIUM ASYLUM (EPISODE 1).
It’s made of papier mache, various fabrics and threads, wood, wire, pages from printed books and mixed media, maximum depth 36cm.
It was one of my pieces in a show at Project Artspace, (in Wollongong) LIMINAL PERSONAE, which is going up to gallery 4a in Sydney next month. The exhibition was/is curated by the lovely Lauren Brown and Moira Kirkwood……Laurens blog, She Sees Red , is really really excellent, (and she is an awfully good artist), so have a look! When the details of the show are completely definite, I’ll post’em.
I was making the piece at the same time as making the Desolation Row sculptures, so it kind of fits with them, in terms of the processes and techniques used, and the ideas that informed its creation.
An 'oscillium' (in latin) was a mask (of Bacchus) hung in a tree in a vinyard to bring luck / a good harvest. It would swing in the wind, and this led to the word 'oscillate', which seemed appropriate, as the piece hangs from the ceiling….if there was a breeze, it would swing!
This also seemed to fit with its puppet-like appearance, as well as having an interesting link to the origins of the word 'personae' which, in its original form, referred to the masks used in ancient Roman theatre. So there is a definite theatrical theme.
I also feel that the work had certain paradoxical qualities….the wheels are immobilized, and so useless. It looks like it might like to fly away, but it is tied up with string, so it can only go round in circles, or swing too and fro. The piece is playful, but slightly ominous.
This is the statement I submitted for the publication accompanying the show;
‘Vacation or evacuation, fight or flight, sanctuary or suffocation, suspended animation, an atrophied acrobat.
It could swing either way. Who is pulling the strings?’
The ‘asylum’ bit seemed appropriate for its rather paradoxical associations. Supposedly meaning sanctuary, the experience of a mental asylum generally being anything but a pleasurable escape (or at least thats what i'm told..haha). And the same is often true in the case of asylum seekers….a detention centre is hardly a sanctuary, or a safe haven.
And so you cannot tell if the sculpture is happily floating, or ‘strung up’, unable to escape.
The piece seemed to fit nicely with Liminality, too. It looks like it could be in some kind of transitional state, neither here nor there. Sort of like it might metamorphose at any moment.
I came across a strange thing the other day whilst googling myself to see if SPECTRESCOPE came up (it didn’t). On the second page I came across a ‘result’…. somebody elses blog…so of course I have a look, and find a picture of an artwork that had won me the Meroogal Womens Art Prize last year, ‘Round the Double Bind.’ (illustrated above) This in itself was not especially strange, the prize is run by the Historic Houses Trust of N.S.W and the piece is now in their collection, so it is easy to find a picture of it on the net.
What was strange was that it was that the blogger was a Christian man from Nashville (his blog is WonderDawg); his blog had nothing to do with art, the post my work was illustrating was titled ‘Double Binds of Men’ and was about mens issues in relation to the Church. I imagine he had googled ‘double bind’ and lo and behold, found a picture to illustrate his blog! It is a little ironic as it won a womens art prize and I am certainly not religious in any way, shape or form! He has acknowledged me as the artist and given it the correct title, so I will not complain ….it was just such a strange thing to find! And coming from what is, to me, such a far-flung kinda place.
I suppose he never expected that I might come across it…I suppose he will never read this, but then again....i came across his post, so you never know.
I have a habit of linking odd things together myself, as any readers of spectrescope would probably realise, so it seems only fitting, I suppose, that this strange linking has occurred with my work, despite me!
Of course there is the hanging, mentioned in the first line...and you can't have a hanging without some rope...or something like rope...at least not that i'm aware of. Then, a couple of lines down, we find '..the circus is in town, here comes the blind commissioner, one hand tied to the tightrope walker, the other is in his pants':- two there! (and that's if you don't count a circus tent) Perhaps the hanging rope and the tight rope are not so different? It seems to me that Dylan is drawing a subtle analogy here...the hanging is like a circus?
Then there's a verse on cinderella. Now in the story of Cinderella that we all know, Cinderellas ball gown, bestowed by her fairy godmother, is a key part of her transformation. But not so important to the story, of course, as those glass slippers. And of course that is a soft thing (slipper) made into something hard (glass). And i reckon this is an interesting parallel to Ophelias 'iron vest,' mentioned in the song.
I am sure by now you will think i am mad, but i considered it my duty not to make my desolation row sculptures illustrations of the song, and i am always finding what are, to me, strange and interesting connections between things...i suspect everyone has there own.
Anyways, this was kind of relevant to the sculptures because of the way i used textiles and paper, layering them with glue to form something quite hard. Often in my work i am making hard things into soft things, like little fabric stuffed scissors, so this seemed a logical step. And there is an interesting play (in the song) between the forces of authority and restriction, and what we could call poetic or creative realities, for want of any better terms.
Anyways, there'll be more to come on Desolation Row...it is a long song, but it is also a whole world, or three.
And there's plenty more textiles and paper to talk about yet!
The spectrescope in action! Opening night of 'Liminal Personae' show at Project Artspace, Wollongong, curated by Lauren Brown and Moira Kirkwood.
The show will be travelling to Gallery 4a next month, i believe.
Thankyou Joanne Handley for the photo! (Jo is in the show, too)
I love drawing....i use paint a lot, mostly on paper; i am not a painter! Often my drawing incorporates collage and stitching, and sometimes i draw i on fabric.
This is a drawing on fabric.
this is some drawing/collage detail from a sketchbook, larger than life.
some more drawing collage detail ...
a drawing with some collage...
I've got more drawings and stuff on flickr, just click on the link!
I have a terrible habit of hoarding too much stuff....i think because i use heaps of recycled stuff in my artworks everything seems useful.....and i do hate waste!
And then i've got lots of books....i love art and craft books, and magazines, too. There are the books for reading and looking at, then there are the books i use as material for art-making, then there are the books i make....as well as all those art diaries.
There is so much paper in my house, and i am always getting more. I have many different kinds....i got a couple of pianola rolls from reverse garbage a while ago, they are lovely! I am using them for collage. Paper plates, cup cake cases, cardboard, hand made papers, joss papers, .....serviettes are excellent for papier mache.
I like little toys and ornaments, i have too many of those! I collect rabbit things, and all sorts of miniature stuff.
The photo shows some of my hoarded oddments, and some of my work.
I am always trying to get rid of stuff, but it never seems to make much difference to the mess.
I make lots of books.....books to look through, book sculptures, book toys. There's a lot of stuff i like about books and about making them. The books i make tend to fit into the category of artists books.....some are books to look through and touch....others are more sculptural. I make 'one of a kind' books, though i have plans to make an editioned book....or two or three...
The meeting of public (or published) knowledge and private intimate experience is something especially interesting about books and paper, i think. To 'make a booking', bookeeping and 'on the books' seem to imply something official.... Yet the diary, sketchbook and journal are books, too, and are all very intimate personal things....and books are generally read alone. And of course books are circular (at least the traditional western codex is), or that is the shape they make when opened, the pages radiating out from the spine. This fits nicely with the book being a medium for circulating information.
I first started stitching paper about 6 years ago...it was by hand then, i only got my sewing machine around 2 years ago. Binding books often involves stitching paper, and that's how i came to add the stitching as part of the drawing, if you know what i mean. The text transformed to textile.
I like how it makes the flat surface textured and 3d, for a long time i have been fascinated by other peoples fascination with the illusion of depth given to a flat surface...i think i like making 3d collages partly for this reason.
Lots of my books are like toys...things to play with, or like puzzles....Sort of reflecting the 'problem-solving' process of making and 'reading' art, or something like that. Textbooks and literature are 'pulled apart' and reconstructed as something playful and tactile.
A piece i made, completed a few months ago, i called SPECTRESCOPE...it is a kaleidoscope on a stand (from which it can be removed) with a wheel that can be spun to change the view when you look through the eye piece.
The name of the piece came about through kind of simultaneously discovering that the word spectre has the same origin as the word spectacle, and that there is such a thing as a spectroscope...more on all that in another post, i think.
It is made of cardboard, paper, machine stitching, fabric, wooden skewers, acetate, ink, acrylic, glue and stuff.
I found making the kaleidoscope both quite easy and difficult at the same time....a kaleidoscope is a simple thing, yet i found making it required a bit of precision and careful handling; not strong points for me. The mirror system is made with clear plastic backed with black cardboard...the mirrors need to be kept very clean, and need to be quite precisely lined up and cut...then to test it is right, everything needs to be temporarily held in place, which can be kind of tricky.
I have plans for more scopes...maybe one on a tall stand like my desolation row sculptures, or perhaps suspended from the ceiling.
The arabic bible(new testament)i mentioned in desolation row part one seemed particularly relevant for a few reasons....of course for the biblical references in the song, (though most are old testament, except for the good samaritan...and there are veiled references to crucifixion, well i think so anyway) but also for the sense of displacement. The arabic seemed interesting to me in light of current world events, and for the sense it which the characters in the song are 'outsiders,' perhaps rejected by the mainstream.
In my mind it kind of fit in with the stuff like 'praise be to Neros Neptune, the Titanic sails at dawn......which side are you on?' partly because of the history of the book itself (see part one)and even the line 'painting the passports brown'....connecting to the issue of asylum seekers,(where identity and official papers are all-important) and even stuff like David Hicks in Guantanamo bay (and becoming a British citizen)........so of course we are back to the boats, at least if you can follow my train of thought!
The references to the carnival within the song DESOLATION ROW were particularly interesting to me....there is the suggestion that the hanging ('postcards of the hanging')is a kind of carnival. This worked nicely with the appearance of theatrical decay that is often visible in my work.
There is a whole cast of characters that Dylan has 'collaged' together...Romeo, Noah, Cinderella, Casanova, the Hunchback of Notredame, Ophelia, the Good Samaritan and more...most of them literary, or from books anyhow (the biblical references were especially interesting in this way...coming from what is known as the book).
As Dylan says, he 'had to rearrange their faces and give them all another name'. This made my habit of ripping up old books (often they are falling apart)especially appropriate for this work, i thought. There are pages from any books used in my 'desolation row,' the words and pages are layered to form my 'cast of characters.'
Pages from a 'A Century of Ghost Stories'and 'Teach yourself Dutch' seemed particularly appropriate...the ghost stories because the Phantom of the Opera is another character in Desolation Row, and because of the sense in which Desolation Row is itself a kind of ghostworld, partly in this world and partly in the other. And the origin of the word spectre (same origin as spectacle) fits nicely with the carnival thing (more on spectre later!)
'Teach yourself Dutch' was good for the Dutch association with things naval...there are a few references to that kind of thing in the song, and i made parts of the sculptures quite boat-like (a bit more on that later).
Another thing was that phrase 'double dutch'...certain parts of the song refer to a sense of confusion (ie 'right now i can't read too good' and 'you're in the wrong place my friend') and there are also a few references to language itself ('off sniffing drainpipes and reciting the alphabet').
Also, I read somewhere that the Dutch are known as Dutch (by English speakers) because (a long time ago) english speaking people mistook them for German! (ie Deutsch) So this fitted with 'Painting the passports brown,' and of course with the name of the show, ITS PAINTING SO IT MUST BE GERMAN, haha!
Another book i used is a little book in arabic that i picked up a few years ago, when it was thrown out because it was damaged by 'the great flood of wollongong' (you'll see why i like call it that when i tell you about the book, i think!)
Although the book is in Arabic, i managed to find out a suprising ammount about it....it was published by Cambridge university press, originally purchased in Marseilles, France, and that it is a copy of the NEW testament (people seem to find it suprising that it is a new testament...but it's not really, if you think about it). And then somehow it made its way to wollongong uni alumni bookshop...quite a journey.
Well that was a bit of a test post...it's quite a learning process this blogging business.
The artists in the show are Simon Yates, Michelle Hanlin, Simon Scheuerle, Stephen Freiberg and of course me, Jade Pegler.
I was very impressed with everyones work, so thankyou all, and it was great to meet the other artists.
Peter Fay curated/ co-ordinated the whole thing...so thank you Peter! Peter has been so lovely...he took us out for dinner after opening night, and is sitting the gallery, and lots more, too.
My work has mainly been shown in Wollongong, so it is has been quite exciting to have it go to the big city! And without any problems...organizing the freight (thank you Wollongong City Gallery!) and getting myself there (thankyou NAVA grant!)not to mention making the work (larger in scale than my usual, very hard to do in my little flat....thankyou Lauren Brown for your generous space-sharing! And feeding me a lot, too! Otherwise it would have been all instant noodles!)has made for a big project, it is a relief that it all went so well...and i don't have to bring any of the work back, which is very lucky, because i got nowhere to put it!
The sculptures i made for the show are called DESOLATION ROW....Peter gave me the words of the Dylan song to work with. It is not a place that i would have thought to look for text to work with, but i was quite amazed by how perfectly the words fit with my work.
I have just come back from Melbourne. I was there to be in the exhibition IT'S PAINTING SO IT MUST BE GERMAN,at Silvershot, Flinders Lane. My work in the show is about 28 sculptures made of paper, wood, textiles, wire and other bits and pieces.
The work on the walls is by Stephen Freiberg....beautiful found object stuff, gathered from the beach, i believe.