Wednesday, 20 August 2014

To remain humble

Earlier this month I had the pleasure of attending a performance of 'The Ghan', a collaborative multi-disciplinary project featuring Sydney's wonderful Ensemble Offspring, Jon Rose and Melbourne's Speak Percussion.

A friend and I particularly enjoyed Jon Rose's impromptu welcoming speech prior to the concert's start. In summary, Jon thanked the audience for attending. He then publicly recalled one of his first concerts which saw a grand total of two people in the audience, his then wife and her best friend. Needless to say, things have obviously improved for Jon and neue musik in Sydney. 

In short, the concert was incredible. The composition's arrangement, coupled with the projected multi media pictorial and audio narrative, enabled audience members to totally immerse themselves in multiple tiers that mapped The Ghan histories. The piece's duration and cyclic crescendo conveyed the expansive Pitjantjatjara country north of Adelaide. The timely immersion of an electric cement mixer (visual) and stone/concrete pit (audio) into the composition was inspired. Good research uncovered remarkable histories, including an audio track that documented a Pitjantjatjara man's first responses to seeing The Ghan. At first, he and his friends/ family thought the train was a giant caterpillar. Additional pictorial footage from the outback featured Afghan camel drivers and Lutheran missionaries. The inclusion of archival material helped map an understanding of how The Ghan impacted upon the cultural life of this remote region. 

When my Mother was an undergraduate in the mid 1990s, then aged in her early 60s, she undertook Pitjantjatjara language study, as part of her Aboriginal studies. Although she didn't master the language, it was something that she had always wanted to try to do. [My Mother then went on to successfully complete her Research Masters that investigated the effects of WW2 and trauma on children living in camps.] My Mother has instilled me with her fascination with The Ghan and the desert. I hope someone in Adelaide invites Jon Rose, Speak Percussion and Ensemble Offspring to perform 'The Ghan' during the next Adelaide Festival or similar.

Performance highlight: I especially enjoyed the riotous and fast paced musical conversation mid-concert between Eugene Ughetti, Clayton Thomas and Claire Edwardes. Its was absolutely nuts! I thought their respective biceps/ muscles/ forearms/ hands/ wrists/ elbows/ shoulders would 'burn out', like a car tyre does when someone has done too many 'donuts'. Could they have been more dynamic? Short answer: No. [I'd like to see them respond musically to the iconic Australian 1970s Torana car. To have- or- to not have fluffy 3d dice hanging of the rear view mirror would be negotiable.]

Jon Rose's speech made me think about my own studio practice and that of various friends, including emerging, mid and senior career visual artist. For me, the conceptual rational and the making of the work  is the substance, 'the everything' of my practice. Sometimes more people will come to your show and at other times there will be less people. What matters- what is non negotiable- is that I keep making serious work that does not compromise itself in any shape or form. My resolve gives me strength.

News and notes:
1. Rose McGreevy, Factory 49 anniversary group show: Rose presented a schmick suite of three framed digital prints (approximately A4 sized, portrait orientated). Each print depicted one unique non-fabricateable 3D form. 

To allow oneself to fall into the 'interior' spaces within Rose's conceptual and spatial practice feels a bit like loosing all sense of time and normalised exterior public space. In that, when I allow myself to become immersed in one of Rose's works, I am never quite sure when my feet are going to hit the ground, or when I am going to 'return' to a space outside of her work. 

Rose McGreevy's work reminds me of Richard Wilson's '20/50' which I saw at the National Gallery in Canberra back in the late 90s. [The RW piece was so 'strong' that I distinctly remember telling a lecturer that I had to immediately exit the building, in order to regain my sense of balance and for my giddiness to dissipate. Helpful background reading for those not familiar with the work:

Unlike Richard Wilson's '20/50', Rose's work is liberated from the theatricity of scale that the Wilson's '20/50' piece relies upon. Rose's studio practice is an excellent model of an artist maintaining a sustainable practice that does not require her to haemorrage money to deliver projects. To appreciate Rose's work requires the viewer to stop. To be still. To feel the slight warmth of your own breath. To acknowledge the tempurature difference between the temperature of your breath and the air that meets it as you release that breath. Rose's work talks quietly to those who listen.

2. Susan Buret: Beautiful small work in the Factory 49 annual birthday show. 

3. Factory 49 annual show celebrated 9 years of consistent output by non-objective gals, Pam Aitken, Kate McKay and Marlene Sarroff. For a full list of participants, see the Factory 49 blog. 

I was very happy with the risks that I took to create a new coloured pencil installation/ drawing, 'The parrot' (2014).


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