Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Finding Art & Nature in Sydney

Stepping outside of our familiar space and going somewhere new, or somewhere we haven't been for a while can be a great way to spark new ideas and gain new perspectives. Last week I took an impromptu trip to Sydney looking for art and writing inspiration. Here is what I found...

Sydney Writers Festival

On the backdrop of the old wharves at Walsh Bay I found myself wandering through the crowds, and pausing in cavernous rooms with one meter thick concrete beams running across the ceiling (were they keeping whales upstairs?), engrossed by a panel of speakers talking about what stories we should tell our children. Chris Sarra said that we should simply tell them how great they are and that they can do anything, every child has potential. Stephanie Alexander expressed her steadfast belief in the importance of learning about the world through growing and cooking. Witty Richard Gill discussed the importance of the arts, particularly music as the foundation to learning. The arts provide abstract learning, things are not described but experienced in this approach to engaging with the world.

A gorgeous art installation to get you in the mood for reading,
hung on the frame of a the classic hills hoist.

There was a bit of a garden theme running
through the festival.
The Vegie Patch truck,
complete with boxes of herbs kept
punters tummies full.

An idea that could easily be applied to a
wall in a backyard.

Why Drawing is Terrifying?

Really this was just a catchy heading for a public talk at The College of Fine Arts in Paddington. Of the panel of four speakers, Peter Sharp, Leslie Rice, Emma Robertson and Tim Silver, only Tim admitted to being terrified. As he was the youngest, I can only hope that it is an affliction overcome as we grow older and wiser. I find those white papers that we all begin with the biggest hurdle. Once I make the first mark I usually forget what it was that scared me.

I took a class with Peter in painting during my COFA years. He is one of those lecturers who offers some valuable insights. He told me that I love paint, he could see that, and so to keep on painting. He could also see my need to battle with self confidence in order to pursue being an artist. I am still working on that one.

Nature as author. This is one of the ideas he explored in his talk. An example given was some delicate beautiful works on paper made by simply letting a snow ball melt on the surface, leaving behind marks made by the impurities in the snow. Another work placed a pad of paper in front of a tree, attached a pencil to the end of a tree branch and let the wind move the pencil over the paper. Tree drawing.

In his own work, Peter uses drawing as a way of stepping into and understanding the landscape. Over the past 20 years he has pursued an affection for the arid Fowlers Gap in western NSW. He is only just beginning to work out how to draw this landscape, spending hours at a time wandering with charcoal and paper in hand as his interpretative tools. It is in this state that he looses his sense of self and more or less enters the landscape.

For Emma Robertson drawing is both a problem solving tool and a universal method of communication that overcomes all language barriers. She completed a residency at the Sydney Botanic Gardens in 2008 that explored Australia's Endangered plant species in a series of hauntingly beautiful works.

Stanmore Rooftops


A quick sketch of the sea of buildings in inner west Sydney,
a place where I rented flats installed in old mansions with dodgy wiring during my uni years.


 Going Home...

Bird man in Circular Quay. A passer-by asked 'Why are they so attracted to him?'
A man at home with nature in a bustling city.

Sunset over the Parramatta River from the window of the train.

Dreaming on the way home... the view out of the train window with reflection.
Light drawings.

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