Tuesday, June 1, 2010

in recent weeks...in the studio and meeting visitors at the Gardens

On June 18th I will be showing work with 9 artists at Percolater Gallery, Paddington, in Brisbane. So recent weeks have been spent working with ideas that came from the work for the recent show in April/May.To see the full post titled "today" I wrote on that click here. More on the Percolator show VERY soon!

...work in progress and the Homage to the Seed journal I'm keeping above and below - the Cooper rainforest book I mentioned is also open above. I was very keen to get on with painting but felt the need to go back through the Cooper book, freshly documenting, with very quick sketches and brief notes, some interesting forms in the the capsules and seeds of various species. I'm loving this way of becoming more familiar with the biodiversity of the rainforests and similarly rich habitats... recognising the enormous numbers of species and seeing the variations that can occur just through this simple research is so fascinating to consider. Tonight, noticing an indigenous version of nutmeg and reading that it has little scent led to wondering about the extraordinary discoveries that people made through Millennia, the risks when identifying if something was edible, what properties it had and so on.

I'm finding ethnobotany more and more fascinating and realising that its piecing together some of my own various passions for knowledge that to date didn't seem to link that well.

For this group show I have chosen the distinctive oval shape canvases which mimic the pod and seed forms somewhat. I find them compelling shapes that sit well with this subject matter. Although working with them on and off for a few years they seem to have grown on me - that lovely but strange, organic thing that happens when concept, subject and form merge a little. 
Producing small works for a group show I felt the cohesiveness of the ovals would hold the  viewer's focus. Perhaps they remind me a little of looking under the microscope in the Seed lab where the image is circular and the surrounding darkness means you can only see what is contained within the circle of light. The subject matter is intimate and contained in this shape. Egg - seed...the biological connection is so strong! 
oval |ˈōvəl|
adjective:  having a rounded and slightly elongated outline or shape, like that of an egg her smooth oval face the game with the oval ball.noun:       a body, object, or design with such a shape or outline cut out two small ovals from the felt. DERIVATIVESovality |ōˈvalitē| |oʊˈvølədi| |-ˈvalɪti| nounovalness |ˈoʊvəlnəs| nounORIGIN mid 16th cent.: from French, or modern Latin ovalis, from Latin ovum ‘egg.’

Both these works feature the cross-sections of rainforest fruits from Queensland - however the one below is probably not going in the show. Its was a curious experimental work that came from the starting point of the cross-sections but with a life force all its own. It was as if it was bursting open... the seed capsule cross-sections sprouting to life and when I first did 2 works like this I was rather unsettled and decided I didn't like what was happening in them. Now I find it less odd and will see what comes through over the year - if more work like this seems to want to burst through with a mind all of its own.

This is the flyer for the upcoming group show - 10 artists - 10 days exposing the Brisbane Artists Development Co-operative. To read much more about this and the venue visit the studio blog.


10 days ago, give or take, I had a wonderful visit at the Botanic Gardens from some wonderful members of the Darling Downs Textile Artists - Pat Sloss, Marion Curry, Jen Luck, Jenny Burgess, Margie Creek, Joan Ellard, Stephenie Broadbent and Nicki Laws. They were in town to see the exhibition of Inga Hunter's work then came out to the gardens at Mt Coot-tha to see work in progress with the residency. A viewing of paintings and visual diaries, recent and older, allowed them to see the progression from past research into ancient symbols and other influences, water and fluidity from years living on the Newcastle coastline, to working with seed motifs particularly after moving to Brisbane, research through the lab, gardens and library to finished artwork as part of the Homage to the Seed  year.
They wrote later of how they discussed the overlap in approaches despite their using different materials to myself (textiles vs paint or ink) and how they also related to the approach of layering, colour and repeated motifs.This group practice varied textile techniques, but a common theme seemes to be the environment and human impact on it. They have always recycled and reused extensively and many use natural dye sources on fabrics and thread. The members live in or near Toowoomba and most have some strong connection to farming, past or present. 

I talked of the need to understand the source of our foods, the threats that come from global business monopolies, especially in the area of seeds, and the issue of biodiversity. These women live with these things daily in front of their eyes - so all these themes are discussed at meetings frequently. A frightening reality they spoke of was the large portion of Queensland’s good farming land being currently at risk of coal mining or coal seam gas extraction. This problem they said is literally now ‘in their backyard’ with the potential massive loss of flora and fauna, damage to water reserves, as well as community fragmentation.
DDTA -Darling DownsTextile Association has been together for about 10 years and runs the biennial ‘Progressions’ juried contemporary textile exhibition. The beautiful Darling Downs starts an hour and a half west of Brisbane - and is currently where the mining expansion is taking place. Bunya Mountains are not far off...a place I have been curious to get to. I have posted on this extraordinary idigenous Bunya Pine tree and source of food before.

Fighting to keep Acland alive - click on the 7.30 report 

Questions were raised about the town of Acland, now Stage 3 expansion is being considered, which may take a year or more to go ahead. One of the group wrote to me to say

         "New Hope Coal plans to level the town, divert Lagoon Creek for 5 km etc In preparation they have bought and removed 95% of properties in town. There is some excellent plantings in town - mostly indigenous but also introduced. Lots of majestic bottle trees. Also nearby Bottle Tree Hill with dry vine scrub. Is seedbanking an option when an area is to be wiped off the map? If you want any more info I can point you in the direction of the Stage 3 EIS and list of flora species"

Proposed open-cut mine site 24th March 2010

NB: I later asked questions raised here about seed banking before a place is levelled and found that in certain cases certain Laws demands that a company take full responsibility for seed banking and replanting (after the area has been mined) to restore. I have not as yet found out if that will be the case here. Jason Halford at the Seed Lab said it was indeed the kind of situation where it is of primary importance to seed-bank.

The group at the discussion

Two of the wonderful members of the group. I was treated to viewing the works of several textile artists. Below is work from Nicki Laws - (seen above right - Joan Ellard on the left). I was delighted to see what results had come from the use of various seeds and leaves and the fabric choices and various processes employed. A trip to visit the group at some stage and really see them in action is a must I think. I had temporarily lost my camera that day so missed getting shots of work some had brought along to show. More please ladies. I am putting in an official request to have a blog post on your seed related work!

This was such a rich exchange. For someone to have such a fine audience and then receive such an excellent show of ideas and stories in return is a wonderful experience! It made me only too aware, all over again, of the brains trust of so many living on the land who are in tune with their environment.  These are the people who are seeing the ecological shifts in daily life... they recognise the losses occuring... they have had family farms or still do and work with the land, sensitised to its needs, in whatever ways they can. What a privilege to have their visit!


Altoon Sultan said...

Sophie, it was very moving to read about the Darling Downs Textile Artists and the horror that they face in their community regarding the expansion of mining. Our fossil fuel use leads to these nightmares, such as the ongoing massive oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico which is going to endanger fish and birds and the way of life of many in Louisiana, perhaps for a generation.

Also, congratulations on your upcoming group show. I think the oval is a perfect shape for the content of your works.

sophie munns said...

Im glad you have left a comment on this Altoon. I think the group will be pleased to read your response - I had such a strong feeling the day we talked around the table that whilst they are up there seeing all this happening we can buzz around our freeways in our cars and quite forget the real price we pay for our lives to run as they do - the things we take for granted.
The oil spill, as you say, can devastate a way of life for years... a relatively short spill and yet such vast effects!

Thanks for the message about the show Altoon. The Oval Im finding at the moment is incredibly calming. This month is hugely busy - thinking about / organising a series a projects but every time I go to work on an oval I feel calm again. Thats been interesting!

Donna Heart said...

Hi Sophie! oh my, I was so saddened to read about the proposed razing of a town and it's surrounds... Hats off to you all for the efforts you are making to collect seeds from there too - you are working on behalf of us all who would love to do the same but can't - thankyou! You did pick correctly, I'm in Geraldton! I have moved around a bit though and spent a year living in Indooroopilly back in the mid 90's and two years ago I was in Longreach for a year - I think I'm a QLDER from another life - lol! But I am so enamoured by your study on seeds and seedpods. I've alwys been fascinated by them - and recently this year I've also started painting using the seedpod as inspiration. I have a few based on the Kapoc, Mahogony and Boab seeds - especially because I've spent many years living in the Kimberley and Territory. So it was like finding a kindred spirit when I found your blog here on the net. I'll definitely be following your journey now towards the exhibition and beyond! So nice to meet you - and have a great weekend,
x donna

sophie munns said...


it is so wonderful to have you visit and share your story. I shall look forward to further exchange. I must fill you in.... the conversation I had with these women about seed banking was tentative... so far I have had only the barest of information on what is possible in such situations so cant claim any imput of value there... if it changes then I will be pleased to report it.

BUT ...I will say that whatever ways that people generate dialogue and interest to increase broader and deeper understanding have a most useful place...which is why this particular blog hopes to draw important seed related stories of all kinds from around the community, region and further afield.
Interesting to hear from you about boab seeds which I would particular like to know more about... and other ones you come across over there where you live...Western Australia is most fascinating for botanical studies I hear all the time!
Thank you Donna and lets be in touch!
Lovely to find another artist who loves painting pods and seeds too!

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