Friday, October 8, 2010

Art on Edge: The Precarious

Images from top: Quipu from the collection of the Museum of World Culture, Gothenburg, Sweden,
Cecilia Vicuña's Poncho of Five Strands 1992 and Quipu 1991.

I've been searching for contemporary Latin American artists working with textiles. Specifically I am interested in artists and makers drawing upon their experience of exile, migration and culturally diverse heritage, who consciously take up inherited craft traditions in their practice as a form of exploring identity and challenging notions of the ‘other’.

I am currently very interested in Cecilia Vicuña's art practice. Vicuña was born in Chile and has been living in exile since the 1970s. She has lived and worked in London, Colombia and is now based out of New York. Interestingly her practice is as much about writing, specifically poetry as it is about making. I am particularly drawn to the works in which she references the Inca use of Quipu. Quipu were used by the Inca as a form of communication to record information and relay messages. Quipu are predominantly made from cotton string including a primary cord and subsidiary cords which have been knotted at particular intervals. To this day, researchers are trying to decipher the Quipu code (see The Quipu Project).

I'm fascinated by the practice of knotting, weaving, looping, coiling and binding with fibre and textiles as a way of embedding or coding narrative.

If you are interested in Cecilia Vicuña, there is a fantastic book on her practice The Precarious: The Art and Poetry of Cecilia Vicuña edited by Catherine de Zegher, there is a preview version on amazon here. Vicuña also has a great website here

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Saying it

Untitled, part of installation at Carriageworks for Brendan Penzer's "Starving Artist", 2009

Maybe its just because its election time, but I'm feeling angrier than usual. I think its all those political ads, the spin, the constant reference to boat people as a threat to the Australian way of life. I'm angry about the continuing lack of respect government has for Indigenous Australians. Why isn't inequality and injustice a priority? Sometimes it feels like the election process is a farce and a choice between the lesser of two evils. But I don't think negativity is the way to deal with the frustration and anger. I think about the positives. I think about the day mum, dad and I got our Australian Citizenship. My beloved Australia makes me feel safe and for me it is always going to be home when I return from travel. After 23 years of citizenship I feel a responsibility to speak up, to talk about the things that some may feel are best ignored (like there is no racism here because everything is just fine and dandy) or topics that are just too hard to think about so they're best left alone. Even though in the words of GZA "I'm not caught up in politics/I'm no black activist on a so-called scholars dick" I'm going to keep trying to find ways to remind myself and others about the things we prefer to forget to think and talk about.

I have a voice and its the voice of a 30 something brown skinned woman living in Sydney's green leafy suburbs who migrated to Australia as a little kid.

Sunday, August 8, 2010

Casa Mujer/Woman House

Casa Mujer/ Woman House (detail, work in progress, started 2008). Series of 6 embroidered antique cotton napkins.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Sydney Design 31 July to 15 August 2010

Image: Sydney Design - Knitty Gritty & Loopy Transformation workshop

I'm looking forward to Sydney Design this year. I must admit I haven't paid it much notice in previous years but this time round I've booked myself in to some workshops and penciled in various talks to attend.

I feel like I've been hibernating in the studio, crocheting, coiling, writing and reading lots of books. Mostly I'm looking forward to getting out and about despite my dislike of the cold weather. So far I'm doing the Weaving Yarns and Knitty Gritty & Loopy Transformation workshops.

You can check out what workshops and talks are on at the Sydney Design website

Saturday, July 17, 2010

Spaces between

Small crocheted vessel using cotton thread and my own hair

Floor cleaning cloths (Trapos de piso) from Montevideo and crocheted and other pieces of found lace

Friday, June 25, 2010

Going back to go forward

Images of the studio above: samples using crochet to make Bilum style string bags. These are then stuffed with a range of materials to make three-dimensional forms which closely resemble gourds. Gourds (Calabasas) are the base material for the maté, a traditional communal drink from Uruguay also popular in other parts of South America.

Its been a busy first six months of the year for me. I came back from an amazing trip to my country of birth, Uruguay. I had my first major individual exhibition at Gallerysmith and I started my Masters by Research degree at the College of Fine Arts. I finally feel like things are starting to settle down and I can get back into making.

Starting my Masters degree has allowed me to really concentrate and think about what is at the core of my art practice. I've been doing lots of reading and writing whilst allowing myself to play and experiment in the studio. I like where the experiments are going but I have no idea where they're leading me.

My heritage has always been a source of inspiration in life and in my work. I've been looking though photos I took in Uruguay and Brazil. I've also been studying the old and tattered tea towels and crochet doilies my Abuela Elsa gave to me. I am thinking a lot about the new generations within our family, those born here in Australia and those in South America. The basis for the new work I am making is 'improving upon' what is already existing or what has come before. Its linked to the idea of inheritance, the collection of things (objects, photos, heirlooms, stories, keepsakes) that are passed down to us.

I am fascinated by the items that have been passed down to me and how they have been part of informing my identity. I wonder how I will add to this 'inheritance' to be passed on to the children I hope to have one day. I feel a sense of responsibility to keep my heritage alive and hold it in trust for the next generation. I think that's what I do through my art. I take colours, textures and ways of doing things from my family history and Afro-Uruguayan heritage, yet the process of making and creating is infused by my love of the Australian landscape and its natural beauty.

Saturday, February 6, 2010

Where Yah From?

Amargada/Bitter (detail) 2009. Acrylic on patch-worked cotton and linen. 180 x 18cm

I've been back in Sydney now for 2 weeks. After the initial relief of being back 'home' I am feeling rather detached. I feel like jumping on another plane, maybe back to South America or somewhere else. I'm feeling conflicted. I am so lucky to have all that I have, to live in Australia, a country full of opportunities and yet something is missing. I feel guilty for not being completely satisfied. I've come back and immersed myself in work, I don't want time to think. I'm glad I have the upcoming solo show to focus on. Its 3 weeks away. I'm sending off the work to Melbourne next week. I'm putting on the finishing touches to the work, last minute tidy ups and thinking about the installation and hanging. The little book I've self-published to coincide with the exhibition has been printed and I finally got to see the finished product yesterday. I don't know how to feel. Hopefully people will connect with my work and what I've tried to achieve. I didn't set out to make political work or make some all important comment on multiculturalism, its just me trying to tell my way. I'm not sure what propels me to make work that can at times be very personal, or at least leaves me feeling embarrassingly exposed. At least when I feel like that, I know I've been honest.