I knew I'd love this work as soon as I saw the invitation to the opening of Colour Theory at the Manningham Gallery. It's raw, edgy, with an energy that made me think of the street art of Jean Paul Basquiat. The little dolls with the button eyes fascinated me. They form a central motif throughout the work. Peter explains them best,
A few years ago while in South East Asia, I began collecting strange hand-sewn and button eyed dolls. I found them for sale in the street markets that the local people worked in. Tourists buy them and take them to new countries, new environments and give them a new life and name. Like these toys, without a voice or a choice, I’m also dislocated from my heritage through adoption. It is these reworked dolls that appear in my work that reference my modern existence and speak to my ceaseless and restless wandering.
His artist's statement for the exhibition elaborates on his arts practice and his need to express his own sense of dislocation within his work,
One of the most important aspects of Aboriginal life is belonging or the connection to your Country or tribal land. With a history of dislocation through colonisation and the Stolen Generations, many Aboriginal people find themselves never living, or ever having lived on their traditional lands.
My art in "Colour Theory" investigates this dislocation. My works are ‘finds’ in archaeological digs, they speak of different times, places and histories.
My bloggers intuition tells me he's one to watch!
Three other indigenous artists were asked to exhibit alongside Peter at the Manningham Gallery for Colour Theory in late May, to celebrate National Reconciliation Week 2012. They were Anna Liebzeit, Steven Rhall and Robyne Latham.
I caught up with Robyne at the opening and shared a coffee and lunch with her in Smith Street Collingwood a week later, where she told me the story of her arts practice...I was mesmerised. I will attempt to share her story of the Empty Coolamon as she told it to me... as, in its purity, it moved me to tears.
For my Masters in Fine Arts at Monash University, my research was centred around creating sacred spaces. I travelled the world to learn more about how Buddhism, Christianity and Hinduism created the sacred through the use of space. I also visited specific Aboriginal sacred sites. I began to identify things common to all these spaces that engendered a sense of the sacred. Over time I realised that, in a sacred space I wanted to create a ritual lasting from dawn to dusk that I would dedicate to the Stolen Generations. So for my final piece (an installation) I started at dawn with a smoking, then made designated spaces with coloured ochres and earth pigments and lit two candles at the entrance of the space. I work with the elements of earth, water, air, fire and space. For the earth element, I made baby coolamon from clay and decorated them. I chose the empty coolamon because in addition to being vessels for carrying food they would often be used to cradle newborn babies. They became my symbol of the Stolen Generations of Australia. Every time I placed the completed coolamon in the space I would silently acknowledge the Stolen Generations, thinking about the mothers and the fathers, the sisters, brothers, aunties, uncles and grand parents.
I didn't want it to be about shame or blame. I wanted it to be a memoriam to the Stolen Generations.
That body of work led to a bigger installation- 8 meters by 13 meters by 3 meters in height. (Because the proportions of the Fibonacci sequence, are consistent throughout nature, including of cause the skeletal structure of human beings, I surmised an unconscious familiarity of space and proportions would encourage a sense of comfortability in the viewer.) This installation incorporated a sound and lighting design by Anna Liebzeit and Jenifer Hector respectively. On the floor there were bark chips. I hung seven copper wire coolamons, suspended just above a plinthe. Two of them moved ever so slightly. When the lighting was dim it was a bit spooky.
There was no speaking in the space, though others were allowed to enter and were encouraged to write down their experiences of it. People were often very moved.
The coolamon at the Manningham Gallery exhibition is a standalone sculptural work.
As a mother myself, just at the beginnings of feeling the bite of the 'empty nest', the thought of the 'empty coolamon' that resulted from the Stolen Generations is almost more than my heart can bear. In the end I think the heart is the best teacher and I hope this little piece on Isiiad adds to the many voices eager to contribute a healing hand to our Stolen Generations. My thanks to Robyne Latham for so poignantly leading the way through her art.
Later this year, Robyne will have a solo exhibition at Blak Dot Gallery in Lygon Street. Keep an eye on their website for details.
All work in this post is ©Peter Waples-Crowe and ©Robyne Latham.
All photographs in the this post are ©Steven Rhall and are published with the permission of the photographer and the artists.
Michael Peck-Archibald Finalist 2012
Michael Peck Self-portrait in the image of my son, 2012 oil on linen 206 x 237.5cm ©Michael Peck Archibald Finalist 2012
Did I use the word incomparable to describe the artist Michael Peck earlier this week?
I've sat in front of my computer for too long, gazing at his self portrait, wondering how to best share my experience of meeting him a couple of weeks ago. I'm a bit awestruck frankly. His paintings are as rich and multilayered as the conversation we had. So where to start?
While Michael Peck lives nearby in Eltham, his studio is in Richmond in the same building as a printing workshop. Once in the studio we quickly settled into a chat about Michael's passion for painting. A true artist, he's driven to paint every day, and when he's not painting he's thinking about the next painting or sketching ideas that just bubble up in a seemingly inexhaustible supply. His work bench is stacked with small ink drawings and watercolours, all explorations of a variety of themes. Against one wall was another painting from the series of work that resulted in his Archibald shortlisting. It was a jawdropping experience to see it.
The theme of war is front and centre in this body of work. Michael keenly remembers dressing up in soldier's gear as a young boy. He observes his own sons doing the same. He's interested in the naivety at the centre of that. He freely admits "I'm naive about war." The beautiful face of the boy (his son), rendered with such care and perhaps reverence, could be seen as the act of a loving father. He talks so affectionately of his children. He also remembers that his grandfathers didn't talk about their experiences in the second world war. He wonders why that was and what they might have revealed if they had. He wanted me to know that the paintings are not about young boys being enlisted into armies across the world, though I suspect others may have read that into them. He's wanting to capture that fascination so many young boys have for war and the trappings of war, without understanding the gut wrenching brutality of it...which undoubtedly his grandparents knew all too well. This is a very personal body of work.
When you go out to TWMA to view the Archibald and walk into the main gallery, direct your eyes right and you will see his enormous canvas positively glowing off the wall. The beauty of it is that he doesn't paint simply to have that wow factor effect. There's no conscious trickery in his work. The power of it results from an artist prepared to dig deeply into his own soul, listen carefully to what it tells him and bravely offer it up to the world in paint on canvas. His Self portrait in the image of my son therefore works on so many levels.
In the end, in the same way that you have to be directly in front of his self portrait to feel the full knockout force of it, you probably had to be there with me, chatting about life and art with Michael Peck, to appreciate his indescribable talent and his all consuming passion for his arts practice. In researching this piece, I found an interview conducted by Richard Morecroft, with Michael and another 2012 Archibald finalist Jodi Daley. Check it out via this link. You'll get the flavour of what I'm talking about.
I'm going to go out on a limb here. If Michael Peck keeps painting like this, he's a shoo-in to take out the Archibald Prize in the not too distant future!
Yep... I think the word incomparable works perfectly to describe the 2012 Archibald finalist Michael Peck.
Michael is represented by Metro Gallery.
You can see this and the other 2012 Archibald finalist works at TarraWarra Museum of Art until the 8th July.
Archibald Finalist- Kate Tucker
Kate Tucker Melody (you’re the only one who saves me) – portrait of Missy Higgins, 2012 acrylic on linen, 155 x 125cm © Kate Tucker Archibald Finalist 2012
To get in the mood for this one, I suggest you click on this link to Kate Tucker and Missy Higgins interview with the inimitable Annabel Crabb, talking about Kate's 2012 Archibald Prize shortlisted portrait of Missy Higgins. While Annabel's questions concentrate on the process of creation and the structure of this oh so gorgeous portrait...fascinating stuff without a doubt...the thing that struck me most during the interview was the moment that Kate said "It felt like an expression of our friendship."
With this portrait, she's certainly succeeded in expressing friendship. There is such gentle warmth about this work, a bit like the experience of friendship really. Kate knows Missy well. From the moment she painted the fence at Missy's home in Melbourne, the two have formed the sort of friendship that is marked by mutual respect, thoughtful interactions and just the odd bit of fun. It's all there on this canvas.
Kate qualifies as a local, given that she visits her weekender in the hills above Healesville as often as she can. It was here that she observed Missy in the pose for the portrait. The pose was then recreated for the sittings in Kate's studio in Melbourne. Even though Missy's face is in profile, she is immediately recognizable. Kate has placed her in an abstracted background using colour and the placement of colour to demonstrate Missy's dark and turbulent years as well as her more recent expansive phase. It's no accident that Missy is looking calmly and resolutely into a bright 'future', given the recent recording of her new album and a strengthened sense of her own musical destiny.
Kate and Missy's original meeting has spawned not only Kate's Archibald shortlisting but also a collaboration with Missy to do the artwork for her about-to-be-released cd cover for The Ol' Razzle Dazzle. Her work also inspired a video clip for Missy's new single Unashamed Desire ( You'll see Kate's influence in the use of 'irregular confetti' in the clip.) I have it on the best authority that the same director as worked with Gotye on his sensational clip for Somebody That I Used to Know, Natasha Pincus, worked with Missy on this clip.
I had the great pleasure of meeting Kate at her current exhibition Symphonic Encounters at the Linden Centre for Contemporary Arts in St Kilda a couple of weeks ago. In conversation, I was struck by her admiration for Missy, not simply because she's a mega talent but because she also has an ability for thoughtful reflection and a deeply felt intention to behave with integrity in the world. While I have no doubt that all of that is true of Missy Higgins, I suspect that the same could be said of Kate herself.
Kate's exhibition at Linden Gallery closes on 24th June.
Kate is represented by Helen Gory Galerie. All work in this post is ©Kate Tucker.
The 2012 Archibald Prize is being opened by John Wood on the 9th of June at TarraWarra Museum of Art. It's been a pretty bleak wet Melbourne day today, but writing this blog and looking forward to a trip out to TWMA for the preview and opening of the Archibald later on this week, has lent a lovely little bit of sunshine to my day.
Stay tuned to Isiiad, next up is the incomparable Michael Peck.