Friday, April 27, 2012

Conceptual art

Sometimes I think I'm living in a different world from most of the tutors and at least some of the students. So I've been reading a lot of books and looking at websites trying to find conceptual art that 'speaks to me' and that I 'get'.

 I thought I'd share some of the interesting stuff I have found along the way. Some of it is conceptual art and some is just fun.

Shoes that make everyone the same height by Hans Hemmert

Also by Hans Hemmert , these yellow balloons.

On a more serious note this pile of candy by Felix Gonzalez-Torres is called 'Portrait of Ross'
Find out why by clicking on the link above. When I read about it, it all made sense.

Here's something I saw in a show at the Manawatu art gallery years ago and I can't find a picture of it or find out who made it. An artist had sculpted legs made of brown sugar. It was about amputations of limbs because of diabetes (hence the sugar) and the artist was talking about Pacific Island people and diabetes. It was very clever and I would love to be able to show a picture and put the artists name if anyone knows who it is.

This is really interesting from a design perspective.
Samantha Murray made 5 fruit scented liquid fabric dresses for her final year at Massey University.

I'll add more as I re-find all my favourites of the last few weeks.

P.S Are any of you from Russia? I found out that there are more page views on my blog from Russia than any other country. Either I have a number of fans in Russia who look at this blog occasionally, or one person looks at this blog a great many times a day or a computer is trying to find a way to spam me :-) So if you are from Russia please say hi so I know you are a real person!

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Auckland, solo shows and 'stuff'

Sunset in Auckland (Symonds St)

Here are a couple of photos from Auckland. My eldest son has gone there to study Jazz at Auckland University and I took my younger son up there for the holidays for a visit. Music son was trying to fit in 8 hours of practice a day during the holidays so we didn't see much of him. My husband went to a conference in Marrakesh for pretty much the whole holidays.

Anyway, I managed to get to see the exhibition 'Kermadec' at the Maritime museum which is great. I really recommend this exhibition to anyone who has a chance to see it. The band 'One Direction' was staying at a hotel very close to where we were staying. I had to wear earplugs to get to sleep to cut out the noise of all those screaming teens.

We are only 2 days into the new term and  today is a public holiday for  Anzac Day so I have been working on some of the weird experiments required as part of the course. Today I have made a sponge and feather mockup of a sparrow, tried and failed to smash up an old road reflector and hung a line full of washing over a stream (with the help of various members of my family). The sponge and feathers sparrow hasn't been used yet so I can't tell whether it will be successful or not. The road reflector is a dead-end I think and the washing over the stream was supposed to look like dyed clothes dripping into the stream but the sun went behind a cloud and really all it looked like was a washing line on a camping trip. Never mind - we have to try these things.
I should explain that as part of the course we got 2 mystery 'materials' and a word and we have to use these together for experiments and try to incorporate them into our body of work for our solo exhibition (which is looming fast and I haven't even worked out what I am making).

So my 2 mystery materials were a packet of pigeon feathers and  a road reflector, (probably dug up in the numerous road works on in wellington all the time). My word is 'Impact'.

I've had fun with the pigeon feathers which I dyed blue,  however the road reflector is pretty much indestructable. I have hit it with a sledgehammer, attempted to crush it and hammered nails into it but most of them bent. In the end all I have been able to do is use it to make an impact on something else.

 It is very hard to make any sort of impression on the reflector

So I used it to make an impression on some camping mat foam. I'm short so I have cut the bottom 30cm off my foam camping mat. Then I warmed it up with the heat gun but heating it up with iron works as well, as long as you cover the foam with tin foil first. Then when it has been warmed till it looks like it is changing a bit on surface, push the object you want to get an impression of, into the foam. Then you can ink it up to make a print or paint it and use it for some other purpose.

The gold sprayed foam impressed with the back of the reflector which is studded with gravel, looks a bit like a slice of toast. Unfortunately I have no real use for toast-like bits of camping mat right now.

Here are some other shots from the park where we went to take fake pictures of clothes dripping into the stream.
 This is the Bucket tree. World famous in New Zealand :-)
Here is a quote * Tawa's Bucket Tree, which is registered as a notable tree, is thought to have been first pruned into shape by Frederick Westbury, who worked for landowner William Earp, in the 1880s. It is actually a group of about five macrocarpas. 

Underneath the tree is an amazing tangle of branches.

So this is what I did on Anzac Day 2012...

Sunday, April 8, 2012

Water, Water

I seem to be doing nothing much but reading at the moment, however by the end of the Easter holidays I need to be sure of what I am going to make or it is going to be pretty hard to get together a whole solo show by July (unless I look for a very small venue).

I have a back up plan - a booking for an unfinished upstairs gallery, but I'm looking for somewhere on street level if I can find something suitable.

Anywhere here is a book that has scared me recently
When the Rivers Run Dry - Fred Pearce. This book was a bit of a revelation. He mentions the term 'Virtual water'. This is the economists term for all the water that was used to produce a manufactured item. It was invented by Tony Allan of the school of Oriental and African Studies in London.

New Zealand sells kiwifruit to overseas countries and is therefore exporting water inside the fruit which ends up in another country. Which is Ok for us, at least we have rain (often a bit too much rain). But what if it is a dry country exporting tomatoes which have been irrigated -  the amount of water inside the tomato is added to the water that was used to irrigate the tomatoes. The 'Virtual water' count can be huge.

Fabric grows in a hot climate and needs lots of water for irrigation, then gets dyed, rinsed and rinsed and rinsed then scrubbed and faded (In the case of jeans). The Virtual Water count for cotton is enormous.

If it takes 25 bath tubs full of water to grow enough cotton for a t-shirt then it is probably similar for a metre of quilting cotton. The water for growing cotton is being pumped out of rivers and used to irrigate the cotton which is grown in very dry places, almost deserts, and this is causing the rivers to run low and in some cases dry out. Have a look here for pictures of the Aral Sea. This is before the fabric gets dyed and rinsed and then taken home and washed to remove the starches and finishes and to shrink it.

The Aral sea 
The water was pumped out of the rivers which feed the Aral Sea to irrigate cotton.

Now I love cotton, and I love to dye cotton and I'm no purist but I'm starting to think about the implications of my choices of materials so I'm reading books on sustainability. I haven't found many books by contemporary quilters which consider the environmental issues of the materials they are using. However there are lots of people in the fashion industry who are looking at becoming more eco-friendly or sustainable in their work but there are so many factors to consider.

You can recycle and use up scraps - quilters used to be very good at this and to be fair, some still are.

People are designing clothes which use every scrap of fabric instead of all the trimmings going to the landfill

You can use organic cotton (try googling suppliers of organic cotton in NZ and it isn't easy to find)

You can dye with natural dyes

You can make things out of more sustainable fabrics like Tencel

But it is pretty hard to do all of this at the same time.

So I have an idea for an exhibition but it involves lots of 3 metre long white fabric lengths. I would have had no difficulty in the past in buying a 50 metre bolt of homespun and getting started but now I'm having to consider how I am going to get the fabric by other means.

Recycled fabric?

Upcycled fabric?

Pieced together scraps?

What if I buy the 50 metre bolt of new fabric and promise to use very scrap of fabric? Does that count? Or should I try and find organic cotton (and believe me that doesn't seem to be an easy task). And in my heart of hearts I'd love to use cotton organdy, which is white and crisp and has been treated with starches and chemicals causing goodness knows what environmental problems.

Now time for some more light-hearted stuff. Check this website for weird craft.


 Here is something I found in a op shop in Wellington, New Zealand.

 Its a crocheted doiley with swans. Anyone know what is is for? Is it just decorative or does it hold scones or something?