The Value of an Artist Residency

I am over half way through my residency at Bundanon Trust.  I have three paintings and a drawing underway.   I take long, daily walks through the bush, cook soups and roasted vegetables and sleep well.  I have had lots of time to reflect, appreciate the beauty around me and be totally absorbed in solving the visual problems I have set myself.

One of the questions I find myself asking is "What makes an artist residency at Bundanon Trust so precious?"  Here is my best answer at the present time.  When I come to Bundanon Trust, I put my life on hold.  I tell people I am away and I do not schedule anything during this time.  Besides looking at my emails daily and checking the news and weather a bit, I do not spend much time on the internet.  I do this so that I will have no distractions or interuptions and it allows me total freedom during my residency to do whatever feels right.  When I have a whole day free, I follow my own, innate rhythm.  I have a balanced day that includes optimal sleep, exercise, good food and time to paint and/or draw; I am relaxed, fully absorbed and the time whizzes by.  

In addition to having time and freedom, solitude offers many gifts.  The first is quiet.  The silence allows my nervous system to deeply relax and I hear, smell and see what is around me.  My mind starts to listen rather than to babble away endlessly.  My body relaxes.  The second is I get answers to my questions.  They come while I am bush walking, sitting on the top of the ridge or working in my studio.  They come at their own will in their own time when I am least expecting them.  The third is self-connection.  I welcome my feelings, sensations and needs with curiosity.  I see what is important to me and how to make changes in my life that reflect these priorities.  And lastly is joy.  In this spaciousness, I have found pure delight while listening to the silence in the middle of the night, looking at the glistening sunlight reflected on the bark of trees, devouring a bowl of homemade, hot vegetable soup in the morning sunshine or successfully working out a painting composition.

It may seem odd that I have not writing exclusively about making art.  The quiet, freedom and joy are all connected to painting and drawing.  I see clearly in my paintings and drawings,  I make spaces to inhabit, explore and wander through.  I keep coming back to this motif because these spaces I create are precious to me.  They convey my deep feeling of connection to life.

The value of an artist residency at Bundanon Trust is the spaciousness and nurturing it offers; it is an environment in which creativity thrives. 

So my question to you is "what nurtures your creative life?"

 

On retreat at Bundanon Trust

I have the privilege of being an artist in residence at the Bundanon Trust for three weeks!  Gifted by the late artist Arthur Boyd and his wife Yvonne, Bundanon Trust consists of three properties along the Shoalhaven River just north of Nowra.  The trust includes the Boyd homestead, Arthur Boyd's studio, the artist in residence complex, the education centre designed by Glen Murcott, administrative buildings and extensive land with some walking trails.  The homestead and Arthur Boyd's studio is open on Sundays with tours available.  If you have never been here, it is well worth a visit.  There is always something wonderful happening here.  Check it out at https://www.bundanon.com.au

I am settling in to life here which is delightfully quiet with a spacious, light filled studio and comfortable living arrangements.  I have decided to work on painting, drawing and some works on paper at the same time.  The blessing of being here is multifaceted.  Because of its isolation and setting in the bush, I am able to work all day and at night without interruption.  This allows for momentum to grow.  I also walk in the bush looking, listening and allowing my mind to wander aimlessly.  There are up to six artists on site so at times there are opportunities to see what other artists are doing.  Last night the dancers Emily Bowman and Josef Lehrer invited friends and residents to a performance of contact improvisation.  Dancers, writers, musicians and all sorts of artists are in residence so there is an opportunity to see and discuss ideas across disciplines.

I find myself working from life and enjoying the formal concerns of drawing and painting - line, shape, colour and tone.  Last night at the dance performance Emily and Josef commented afterwards that their primary concern while dancing was formal rather than emotional or conceptual.  However,  at the conclusion of the piece the audience saw story lines and had emotional responses. 

As an artist I wonder, if we are present and sensitive to the formal concerns of our craft, will the emotional, conceptual and spiritual aspects of our work be intact despite us rather than because of us?  What do you think?

What lies beneath the surface...

Last week I went to the Art Gallery of New South Wales to see the exhibit "The Lady and the Unicorn."  

I wanted to see this exhibit because when I was ten years old, I loved the unicorn tapestries I saw  at the Cloisters in the Metropolitan Museum of Art.  I particularly remember seeing the tapestry entitled 'The Unicorn in Captivity' on a school day trip. Unicorns and the tapestries' ornate designs and colours captivated me.

The current exhibition at AGNSW (Art Gallery of New South Wales) consists of six large scale tapestries from the Musee de Cluny in Paris.  While I read the descriptions, interpretations and stories of the tapestries, I was more interested in simply looking and seeing what I experienced.  It seems that every exhibition takes great pains to educate the viewer about the content, historical context and meaning of the art work and while this is valuable, the act of looking seems to be left out.  Visual art is meant to be seen and its most powerful impact is through our sense of sight, not through our mental understanding and analysis.  Upon sitting down to look at the work, I was immediately struck by my emotional response to it.  I remembered my awe as a child when I first saw unicorn tapestries.  I also recalled my mother who recognised and encouraged my enthusiasm. Tears welled up in my eyes as I thought about the bond we shared. 

I sat down to look and enjoy the details and let the tapestries work on me.  Initially there was a feeling of peace in the Lady and her relationship with her surroundings.  I found myself smiling as I discovered the different animals scattered throughout the intricate foliage surrounding the Lady, unicorn and lion in the same way I enjoy looking at the pictures in a children's book.  

I started with the first tapestry to the left of the entrance and moved clockwise.  In the second tapestry I noticed one of the monkeys was chained and the second monkey had a harness of some sort around its waist.  These details were jarring and seemingly out of character.  As I moved to the next tapestry, I suddenly felt an underlying violence that surprised me.  It was subtle but undeniable. As I examined the imagery, the order, tightly controlled composition, repeating elements and stationary position of the animals all contributed to the covert tension.  The control of the image which contributed to its finesse, delicacy and apparent tranquility was simultaneously creating a feeling quite the opposite.  The tapestries became complex and  mysterious as I contemplated how excessive control in life often has an edge of violence behind it.

Art that surprises me and makes me see life with new understanding is a treat.  'Lady and the Unicorn' is an exhibition worth seeing.  It runs until 24 June 2018 at the Art Gallery of New South Wales in Sydney.   

Is there something you have seen recently that has surprised you and given you a new insight?

Welcome to my blog, Reframing the Ordinary!

Welcome to my blog, 'Reframing the ordinary.'

This blog is an attempt to start a conversation.  A conversation between myself, my work and you, my audience.  

The Importance of You

Every painting needs a viewer.  No art is complete without being received.  A painting is a view into the artist's way of seeing something.  When the viewer's gaze connects with a painting, a conversation of seeing begins.  The painting works upon the viewer as they see the painter's vision.  The viewer brings to the painting their own experience, knowledge and emotions as they situate themselves in the painting.  Consequently, an intimate exchange of "seeing" takes place.

What to Expect

On a regular basis, I will write on a topic that is  alive for me in regards to painting - the process of making a painting, looking at paintings and/or what feeds and hinders my creative process.  

At the conclusion of each entry, I will pose a question as an invitation to you to join the conversation.  

Who knows where we will travel together ...