Filming at Windgrove

April 20, 2015

A couple of months ago a swarm of media people descended upon Windgrove to film a short video of “what-the-hell-is-happening-here!” for Tourism Tasmania.

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It’s always flattering to be noticed, but what really excited me about this nine hour long process that included up to ten people, was the professional expertise of each individual person working together as a whole — seamlessly.

I don’t normally get involved with artistic “collaborations”, so it was a beautiful reminder of the creative power of “the group”.

A longer version is being made, but in the meantime, here is a little peek into how 5 hours of film footage is distilled into one minute of video.

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I’ve given up.

Too many times my chisels have fallen to the dirt floor beneath my carving bench and shattered when hitting the soft dirt.

Too many times I’ve felt confined in my studio working behind “windowless walls” wanting desperately to take my art out into the great outdoors.

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Therefore, I’ve — literally and figuratively — buried my carving tools. Never again will my bare feet be in danger.

Three dimensional sculpture is so last century.

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Instead, I shall become an “en plein air” artist working — not under the protection of some wimpy studio roof — but directly with the elements; with whatever the great earth goddess and sky god decide to throw at me.

And I shall be using paints just like the great artists do. Artists who are not mere sculptors.

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_DSC7250To this end, the above photo demonstrates the seriousness of my investigations into how human manufactured colours blend, interact with, dissolve into and supplement the “natural” colours of their surrounds.

The play between the various actors on this stage is subtle, yet so enriching to the engaged mind willing to look at art in a non-judgemental, mature way where chaos is brought into sublime harmony with the forces of light and dark, the moon and sun, or, even with eagles flying overhead whose shadows dance fleetingly across the land.

With time, nocturnal animals, such as the possum or feral cat, will leave imprints on the still wet paint and re-define the notion of “Who is the real artist”, or, “Can art be whatever sells?”

Future intentions are to get a solo exhibition of this cutting edge canned art at a national gallery in order to bring to city folk a deeper appreciation of how nature willingly accepts whatever we humans spill out onto it.

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The star like mini-sculpture that I’m holding in my hand might look like an intentional artistic endeavour, but it’s nothing more than an off-cut.

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To date there are 126 of these off-cuts.

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They come from the ends of 63 hardwood signage posts varying in length from three feet to four and a half feet (or 900mm to 1400mm).

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To date 15 of these posts — giving the evolutionary periods in millions of years — have been sand blasted.

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And placed along the Gaia Evolution Walk.

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Stay tuned. The Gaia drawings are presently being printed on 1200mm x 1600mm panels.

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John Smith

March 1, 2015

This is a tribute for my friend and colleague John Smith who passed away last week.

John Smith

It was late autumn (northern hemisphere) 1984 and I was in Hawaii with my partner Linda for a week’s vacation before heading back to North Carolina where I worked as a designer-maker of sculptural furniture. On a whim, I called my home phone to see what business messages might have been left. After listening to this strangely accented voice asking whether or not I would like to come to Tasmania and lecture at the School of Art on a two year contract, I hung up, turned to Linda and said: “Where is Tasmania?”

Two weeks ago I celebrated the 30th anniversary of having arrived in Tasmania in February 1985.

The person with the “strangely accented” voice was British born John Smith. Considering the history (think 1776) between America and England, I am culturally inclined to not speak favourably of anything English; especially, the monarchy.

But without the slightest hesitancy or phoney smile, I can unreservedly say that John Smith, and John Smith alone, gave me the golden ring that would spell out the deeper meaning and purpose of my adult life.

Yes, I, myself, had to grab that gold ring when proffered, but the hand that extended it has to be acknowledged. The hand that shook my hand at the airport upon my arrival thirty years ago has to be acknowledged and that acknowledgement has to be both heartfelt and full of gratitude. Which it is.

Without a doubt, the shaping of my adult life, the deep ecological perspective of my art work, the eco-feminist nature of my home Windgrove, and, the fulsomeness of my creative life could only have happened by John placing that original phone call. For this I will be forever in debt to John’s physical existence on this earth.

And herein lies the strength and legacy of John Smith. Without his determined vision to create a world class design-in-wood department at the School of Art, there would hardly be a ripple of designer-makers in Tasmania making their living out of their craft. Just like Claudio Alcorso had the vision to create a vibrant wine industry in Tasmania — against the “perceived wisdom” of the day — John Smith stuck to his belief that Tasmania could educate and foster the talents of many people.

Like all artists and people of vision, John had his critics. And, at times, this would include me. But underlining every engagement with John, whether in agreement or disagreement, the look in his eyes spoke of a steely determination to achieve his dream. This, surely, must be admired.

Today, just as there are over 250 vineyards springing up across all of Tasmania, designer-makers are also springing up across this small state. In both cases, my guess is that most people will not know who laid the foundation stones for their respective careers to survive and flourish. They should, though, know this history.

I’m not suggesting that we build a statue of John in front of the School of Art. However, a simple plaque carved in huon pine and then cast in white fibreglass polished to the highest shine — this, now, would be symbolic and appropriate.

….The above photo of John was from the 1980’s when I arrived in Tasmania.

Are we ever alone?

February 2, 2015

Old boards are being covered with new ones.

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Portions of the deck in front of the atrium are seriously decaying and, therefore, the whole deck is being topped up with new hardwood before someone falls through and breaks an ankle.

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However to fit the first row snugly into the atrium wall, it was necessary to remove a board from each of the vertical sections between the door and the windows to either side of it.

And what an interesting surprise when, after taking off one of the boards, a tiny nest of fresh eucalypt leaves were found. Who lives here?

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A pigmy possum, that’s who.

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And think of this. The oil of the eucalypt leaves acts as a natural deterrent for mites and ticks. How smart is this?

I sleep easier at night now, knowing there is a guardian out the front door.

PS. Steve and I made sure the entrance to the pig possum’s home was kept clear.

Too old? Never

January 26, 2015

Gosh. Just when you think life is in the final stages of ripening, nature tells you something different.

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I was in the garden this morning feeling a bit tired from staying up past 9:30PM in order to watch a soccer match the previous night. I awoke quickly, though, when I noticed the “new” budding flowers of the gravenstein apple tree whose yellow/green early ripening tangy apples are now ready to be picked and made into either an apple sauce for pancakes or a pie to be eaten along side some vanilla ice cream.

The ripe apples are delicious looking, for sure, but what was more amazing was to see these fresh blossoms pushing forth well past their normal spring time period of flowering.

As if to say: “Come on tree, make room for us on your branches”, seven whitish pink flowers spoke in unison.

The lesson was clear: One is never too old. For anything.

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But if you look carefully at the photos, you will notice a green string that I have attached to the roof of the garden that helps support the branch that carries the weight of all those apples.

As the string demonstrates, it is important to have the support of a community or partner or friend or family if one wants to blossom at any time in life; whether young, middle aged, or old.

We all need help.

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