My belief is in the blood and flesh as being wiser than intellect. The body-unconscious is where life bubbles up in us. It is how we know that we are alive, alive to the depths of our souls and in touch somewhere with the vivid reaches of the cosmos.
I love this quote as it kinda sums up my art practice and the way I approach my work in that I don’t start my work with an intellectual premise or a fixed concept. It begins more with a daydreaming or a starting point of doing something around – say fantasy – which summons particular materials and repetitive gestural patterns… It’s like my mind offers up ideas and my body and gut decide which way to go, but it’s a balance of everything working together rather than any one leading force. I guess my work is process driven and relies on curiosity, experimentation and resonation…
It’s a way to express physiological sensations that are not captured in words or a narrative – that is pre-verbal – perhaps a portal into my body reality, which then in the making informs and reveals a meaningful resonating narrative. There are four interwoven strands that make up this work which is the body, fantasy/disassociation, materiality and wonder… all my work is deeply personal and this new body of work is no exception.
In preparing for this solo or any other show – it’s always this uneasy state of beginning something that is not fully known yet – undefinable, embryonic in concept. I feel like this little nocturnal animal that’s been caught out in the daylight – blinded, furiously searching and snuffling about trying to find my burrow. It’s that feeling of relying on my senses and figuring out my next move – even if it’s going in circles or after months of experimentation going back to the first original idea (that is so me) it’s this forwards, backwards, all over the place dance that is the key to making new work…. its always laden with that niggling doubt “I don’t know what I’m doing or where I’m going – but nevertheless I just have go there and find out” – it’s an epic search. And then somewhere along the line, BANG its on! I’ve found my burrow, my meaning and can dig in deeper and really start working the material and forming my ideas – of course this process is always a series of lost and found, clarity and doubt.
This new work marks a departure from the incredibly heavy work I had been doing previously. As I found that in constantly tackling and heaving about solid glass, metal and tree-trunks – often resulting in installations being over half a ton was really getting to me – I was literally punishing my body and bringing myself down…. but it was also a necessary part of my artistic journey… because now all that heavy stuff is on the outside of me.
Initially for this solo – I was intending to work with drain and heavy steel utility covers – but when I picked one up to begin working with it, I thought I cannot bear to work with heaviness for one more moment and I cannot bear to then be stranded with yet another body of bulky sculpture – as I have run out of room – I cannot accommodate more of this oppressive work… So I kept thinking what can I do – that looks after me. I felt I needed to do something that was light perhaps working with paper – something I have wanted to do for a long time, something that was joyful and gentle to do… and colourful….something that I could take home from my studio and do in my kitchen – if I felt like it, something that could be easily carried, installed and stored, that was of commercial value yet not dictated by it, something that goes on the wall, something without glass but is still me…….
So I returned to this material I had been working with for the 2015 Fellowship Award at Artspace last December…which kind of found me – it was one of those serendipitous moments, where I walked into this dinky little material shop in Marrickville … and I found this little bit of pleated material, I asked the shop-owner if she had more – she said “not of that material, but I have some other pleated material up in my storeroom – but if you want some, you have to have it all for $30– do you have a car?” I was intrigued, so she took me up to her room spilling over with a chaotic explosion of soft colours and textures and showed me this amazing pleated material still on its backing paper – I’d never seen anything like it….
So I paid my $30 bucks and left with a station wagon stuffed full to the roof with this magical material… feeling very lucky indeed.
My favourite thing about working with a new material is finding out its secrets, its ways of being – I feel like I have been invited into its world – it’s an intense relationship between the material and I – this dialogue of intent, gestural actions, of reacting, of pushing it to its limits, of responding to its possibilities, the pull of gravity and the way it falls and of failing and of triumph. For me materiality informs the concept as much as the concept informs the materiality – it’s a symbiotic process and I believe the material I use is always a reflection of my emotional state…
Any material I use needs to capture my wonder, it has to keep surprising me – if I am in complete control – I lose interest real fast, a bit like a cat with its prey. I need it to go in directions that I hadn’t forseen and also let it have its goddamm say – and tell me something that I didn’t know!
At the halfway point in making the work for this show I went into a very dark place with its meanings and started to feel lethargic and lost within it…the process was becoming really difficult and I wasn’t enjoying it and I thought this needs to change tracks now – stuff it – I am returning to wonder and it was like this light switched in me – I really turned a corner. It wasn’t so much the work itself changed but I shifted my perspective.
In returning to this material and the idea of wonder … everything started to come together and I wrote this a couple days later….
“In working with this material. I want to highlight its magical, mushroomy quality and make work that evoked the wonder that I felt in working with it. It reminds me of something you would find in Alice in Wonderland, with its trippy optical pattern and two-way shimmery colouration that pulses in the light….
The 2 dimensional lines, melt into the 3rd dimension,painting meets sculpture, verticality slips into other directions. Gold gives birth to satin blues, blacks and browns.
Perhaps a series of psychedelic portals to elsewhere, somewhere mystical… just as in Alice in Wonderland where Alice falls through a rabbit hole into a fantasy world and leaps through mirrors to somewhere else.
As I dissolve into my work, I become the textural gold surface, the internal black, blue and brown, the spilling out sag, the scorched boundary, the odd and beautiful, the pleated in and out, the weight, the gravity, the movement, the light, the joy, the pain, the tender, the sensual feminine, the ability to change – the impossible possible.
In creating work for this show, I am within it – the materiality expresses my interior while I construct it from the outside and bring forth my vision and body-unconscious, sensation and intention into something tangible.
Whilst I know that the work is made of a material that is not me – there is an alchemy that happens in the process of making where we become one and in turn transform each other.
It also conveys a feeling of exceeding boundaries, of being out of the body, the fissures between internal and external. The sensation of being pulled out of myself, the inside becoming outside. A maturation process in flux. “
The tangible work shows my psychic space. It makes sense and brings meaning to my world. It tells me my story both conscious and unconscious through making, intention, bodily gesture, curiosity, imagination and materiality. I create my own personal magic alternate world where rules don’t apply, everything is possible and there’s a sense of timelessness. It’s where I get to return to the curious kid in me and play. And it’s this magical intersection of when daydreams become reality that reality is transformed ….to a personal landscape full of limitless possibilities.
So I needed to find a title for the show that reflected this idea of wonder and fantasy – and found Mira which is the feminine version of the latin word Mirus – which means amazing, astonishing, marvelous, strange, surprising and curious. Absolutely perfect…which quickly turned into mira mira – a play on the fairytale Snow White. After finding the title I knew I had to use mirror in some way, but in an original way – as mirror has been used so much in art. I went to sleep pondering it and awoke in the middle of the night and it hit me, make my own glass blown mirror – another turning point.
My Blue Fortuna’s come from the roman deity Fortuna, she was the goddess of fortune, luck, destiny, fertility and abundance. She was the overseer of individuals luck as well as the entire empire. Often she is depicted with the cornucopia of plenty in one hand which all good things flowed in abundance and prosperity and a ship’s rudder in the other hand showing she is controlling the fate and lives of others… sometimes she is shown as blindfolded to indicate that good luck does not always come to those who deserve it. The name fortuna comes from the Latin word ferno which means to bring, win, receive or get. It is believed she was the goddess of fertility and was in charge of bringing crops to harvest and offspring to mothers…
So my Blue Fortuna’s are a kind of a regal, omnipotent, matriarchal figures with their multiple breasts and sensual folds, swifting from one world to another, emerging and disappearing – their mirrored funnel heads reflecting, distorting and sucking, perhaps causing the mira miras to blossom and mature, ready or not.
I am still contemplating these sculptures – I have a bit of a mind block towards them and the full meaning is yet to arrive in its entirety.
The books and movies that have informed and inspired this work are, The body keeps score: Mind, Brain and Body, in the transformation of trauma by Bessel van der Kolk, In an Unspoken Voice: How the Body releases Trauma and Restores Goodness by Peter Levine and Trauma and Recovery: The aftermath of violence from domestic abuse to political Terror by Judith Herman – and then the latest versions of the Alice in Wonderland movies and Charlie and the Chocolate Factory directed by Tim Burton and Maleficent, Cinderella and Snow White… The Chef’s Table cooking show was also an inspiration! Just the pure drive and sheer madness of being a top chef creating these visually mind-blowing, gastronomic creations was enthralling to watch – giving people (rich people) these incredible sensory experiences…. I loved how this show gets into the chefs’ minds and their backgrounds – its just another artform but yummy!
In the body keeps score, Van de Kolk, talks about how the body remembers traumatic events even tho’ the mind may have forgotten – and how the body will keep re-enacting the original trauma until it is remembered and integrated. Van de Kolk investigates how these experiences rearrange the brain’s wiring and how under the right circumstances, the areas of the brain dedicated to feelings of meaning, engagement, control and trust can be activated again.
In Levine’s book – In an unspoken voice – He explores tracking bodily sensation called somatic experiencing ‘SE’ and how to befriend uncomfortable feelings and not become them. In his chapter, Body as Storyteller he uses this wonderful quote by Antonio Damasio…
“We use our minds not to discover facts but to hide them. One of the things the screen hides most effectively is the body, our own body, by which I mean, the ins and outs of it, its interiors. Like a veil thrown over the skin to secure its modesty, the screen partially removes from the mind the inner states of the body, those that constitute the flow of life as it wanders in the journey of each day.
That’s where I believe the process of making art comes in and psychotherapy fits very well here too!
I’m not saying that art is therapy – I pay for that… but it has for me, an undeniable cathartic quality to it…. Not while I’m doing it but in the aftermath of concluding a body of work – when I can step back – there seems to be this culmination of everything coming together meaning-wise, an integration and I can then let it all go, it seems to free me up, make space inside of me – room for new experiences.
In Judith Herman’s book Trauma and recovery she looks at how remembering and telling the truth about terrible events are prerequisites both for the restoration of the social order and for the healing of the individual victims.
In her chapter ‘Reconnection – reconciling with one’s self – she says “ the re-creation of an ideal self involves the active exercise of imagination and fantasy, capacities that have now been liberated” from the tyranny of trauma”. Love it – and so true.
And the fantasy/fairytale movies give me the wondrous adventure and wow factor, a visual feast of colour and textures, the sets and costumes, the impossible possible, the danger and the darkness, the perilous journeys and spectacle, the fairytale ending and most importantly the mind escape – one of the best things in becoming a mother is I get to see and do all these fun things with my kids and re-experience all those childlike wonders such as these brilliant movies. Of course there were shows like Dora the Explorer and Thomas the Tank Engine that both my kids loved which just about drove me over the edge in their extreme boringness – if I ever hear those theme songs or voices ever again- I will poke my eye out with my own finger!
Other artists that are always an influence on my work and thinking are Pina Baulsh – a German choreographer. And of course Louise Bourgoise, Eva Hesse and Anish Kapoor and I also love Shoufay Derz and Jonny Neiche’s work – all these artists evoke my wonder and engage me on a visceral level which I want with my work.
Disassociation is something I have experienced a lot throughout my life due to traumatic experiences – in simplistic terms it’s a kind of splitting off from the self and going into a dreamlike state outside of the body and whilst it comes from a dark place, I would like to step back from its negative implications and see it is also an incredible, magical survival resource that we all are equipped with – to brilliantly shield us from harsh realities until we are ready to cope with it…. So I seek to befriend this state of mind and use its daydreaming qualities to my advantage in making art…. A beautiful thing that seems to always happen is that I can be in a really creative daydreaming zone that is trancelike but when I make from those kind of out of body dreamings – I am pulled back into my materiality – the doing grounds me… particularly if it is quite physical.
As Levine says, “Mystical experiences that are not experienced in the body just don’t ‘stick’. They are not grounded.”
Movement has always been central to my ideas – that seemingly fixed states of being can in fact transform, given the right conditions. I explore that through transmutable materials such as glass, wood, metal and sap. Generally my work is not fixed in place or can change its positions or I create a movement within the material and how it’s installed.
When faced with fixing something into position, which I rarely do – It frightens me…. So with the mira mira works whilst the material offered me many different ways in which it could move and change, I still had to sew the material on the canvas, which I didn’t enjoy and put it off right until the end. I kept saying myself ‘oh well – if I don’t like it I can just unpick it and change it’ but I was aware it made me nervous and uncomfortable.
Throughout my journey for this show I kept a diary and I will end this talk with a couple of diary entries that pretty much sums up my creative process.
2 months before bump in…
Today and all of last week I feel frightened about my work – where is it at – where is it going? What is it saying? What is the essence? What am I doing? I feel lost in my journey and now I’m searching again – how many books do I need to read? Are they the right books? Maybe I should read other books? Do I really want to create work about disassociation? Do I really want to make myself vulnerable like that and do people want to hear about that and look at work about that – let alone buy work about that?
Fuck what am I doing? Maybe I could morph the shroomy’s into something more positive – they could be brought to their knees instead of towering above. They could be changed into protectors but I’ve done that. What am I doing? The wall works, where are they going? Are they going to be too beautiful? It might take away their power? Where is the intersection of beauty and horror and what does it mean? Should I take the horror out because its horrible not for me but for others? The other thing that is scaring the hell outer me is finishing them – concluding them – I have no probs with well the middle part cos the intro and conclusion takes so much decision and discernment but the middle part just rolls – I can make, make and make but now I am faced with finalizing them – it petrifies me frozen – I feel unable to make a decisive move, it’s as if the conclusion I make might be wrong then I’m trapped in that when their could have been a better one.
It feels that any conclusion I make is never good enough. Yesterday and today I feel like I’m tripping – the light is weird the time is weird my work is flashing at me and talking with others lets me know that I am outside my body. Fuck it today I am going to finalise some wall works so I can gain some mastery over my sensations and find some comfort in knowing I can do this – I am capable of completing – I am – I really, really am, so here goes – hope it grounds me in doing what I need to do with my work.
I wish I was a book with a beginning, middle and ending – that had a completeness to it – a skerrick of sequence and sense… instead of all these half baked unresolved chapters that aren’t finalized – maybe that’s the point of making art concluding….or maybe I’m on the wrong track dunno.
1 month before bump in….
Feeling alive and energized this morning- I want to write, dance and complete some wall works today. I had a brilliant glass blowing session yesterday- my assistant was sick – so went solo – something I rarely do. It was raining outside – no students or people around – completely at ease and focused on experimenting with different ideas. Sometimes I feel quite conscious glass blowing in front of people as my practice is all about curiosity and experimentation with ideas I have never seen done before, curiously pushing boundaries and really fucking with hot glass techniques – blowing the colour off center, blowing the glass off center creating instability – imperfection is where its at …. Irregular thicknesses, and colour saturation and heating the glass till it collapses in on itself, dumping molten glass onto wood, into pumpkins, over metal sheets, pipes, chicken-wire, sandstone- etc – the more off centre and imperfect the better. I push hot glass to its chucking out point – so I can see and understand what’s its journey is and what has excited me in terms of what I am looking for – so then I know what my formula is and when to stop—- but this can be so embarrassing doing it in front of other glassies cos there is such a technical bravado connected to studio glass. But I figure the Venetians had already done the TB glass for thousands of years so why redo the already done – boring! I want to make something strange, new and unexpected – I want to lead the glass but also let the glass have its say – then make an executive decision – but there always needs to be an unexpected element you know, a little twist or turn that miss gravity grants to keep me captivated and hungry for more.
Anyhow I’ve had 3 big days in the last week glass blowing for this show and it has been so joyful and grounding. And I am good at it – its so me – it my number one wonder material….I understand how it works, the heat the gravity. Yesterday I made white nuclear bomb shapes blown into wood, hermaphrodite testical/ vulva shapes hung over metal sheets, phallic, vaginal, lips and tongues shapes, red fungi forms, amorphous sensual glass –so much fun and a hearty giggle too. Ok ciao for now.
So I hope you have enjoyed my mad ride…
And finally, it is my hope that in viewing this work people will experience a kid-like Wonder …. to be transported to another world without their feet moving…to be filled with curiosity. I don’t want viewers to negotiate my work on an intellectual level nah fuck that – I want my work to hit you in the gut on a visceral level – and tanatalize your eyes and senses with an abundance of limitless possibilities. …because that’s what I want to experience. And these are my rules!