A wild fortnight
It's been a hectic as well as a well oiled machine these past two weeks. School holidays, Tinker having the usual 3 months of work in 2 weeks, my own practice and life. I knew going into the April school holidays that it was going to be a lot of gripping my phone tightly waiting for me phone to ring with and SOS in one hand while I sculled tea with the other in an effort to calm my nerves.
The thing is we have a REALLY great team at Tinker. AJ, Emma, Paddy, Kel and Ash just get it. They are adaptable and extremely capable and wickedly talented, they make this part easy. I never actually worry about them. Instead I find I am on high alert with so many things on that I worry if something goes wrong how can I support them through it if I myself am also busy. And yeah things popped up out of the ordinary but we all just did the move, dance and jig (seemlessly I may add) so it always just felt normal.
But these last two weeks we collaborated on a 4 day pop-up with Toowoomba Regional Council, 4 days of creative activiations at Kingaroy Shoppingworld, 5 days at Grand Central Shopping Centre, 4 days at Tinker South, 1 day at Tinker City, 2 Days at Zebedees, 1 kids birthday party, 1 night at Toowoomba City Library and that's just the studio...physically. As I said I knew going into these two weeks that my brain would be full and as we are coming to the last few days I feel a great sense of accomplishment.
But aside from the administrative nightmare the work itself was delicious, glorious, soul enriching. When you are in that shared creative space I cannot describe it better than filling ones cup. You walk away feeling rejuvinated and all round happy. The numbers reflect the community excitement too with over 2000 people through our collective workshops and activations. People love to experience the arts, we all need it. Whether its for professional purposes or just to stop being so serious and just play art truly is for everyone.
An added experience was my face....and how much it appeared through the media and socials and for that I am sorry. I guess it was somewhat inevitatble if you are going to be here, there and everywhere your face is bound to show up from time to time. Or in this case every day on a new platform. it's kinda (very) weird to wake up every day do a check in and then HELLO it's me, but you'll be glad to know it will slow down a bit as I do over the next few weeks. We will all get a break from seeing my face spamming your newsfeed.
So what's next, I've got a creative workshop coming up as part of the creative arts summit, back to the regular Tinker programming and you'll catch me in Brissy over the next few months with some professional development sessions. But over all my big to do list is to get into my garden. The weather is turning and I want to prep it for Winter and nature isn't going to wait for anyone I need to get in there ASAP.
Workshop of SOCA UniSQ
Recently I was asked to share some personal knowledge with year 12 students at the school of creative arts UniSQ. The brief was teach them something from your practice. Love that.
With 1.5 hour up my sleeve, acrylic paint, brushes and paper I knew exactly what I wanted to share.
When we started the session, I offered this. Today we will play with paint, I will show you my personal technique for creating layers or a double exposure technique but ultimately we want to have fun. There is no assessment, no theme, no outcome at the end other than playing with our medium.
I am a firm believer that in order to develop we need to be able to play, explore, challenge concepts, let go and not always be outcome focused. Sometimes we need to sit down and create and not make a design. Just let the art happen.
This idea can be really challenging, for most people. It often depends on how much you have stretched your art muscles. Nothing can be scarier than a blank piece of paper.
But after about 10mins there was a visible and audiable difference in the space. The shoulders relaxed, the sounds moved from nervous groans to delightful and sometimes surprising hmmms.
Students stopped the rush through, waiting for the next instruction and started having conceptual conversations amongst themselves. Offering ideas of brush movements, colour theory and compositions.
I then moved through the space with them, painting alongside them and offering conversations and individual creative input throughout the space.
The students asked some fascinating questions about my practice as an artist, as well as their potential within the industry. Most wanted to know what actually is the creative industry and what careers options were actually available. The shift is slowly happening, there is still the constant humm in the background of 'well I need a job that pays and if I am an artist I will be broke'. But the conversation is happening, the arts is moving towards a space of career options not career doom.
Everyone say it with me - you can have a career as an artist!
Once the pages filled with colour we then switched it up a gear, and this is where the technical side came into place. I demonstrated how I created the layers and suggested other ways to interpret the technique. Students then adapted the technique to their own work and off they went on their own journey.
It was a great day.
A meaningful commission
Earlier this year the team at Darling Downs Health asked me to create a series of works for their annual staff awards.
Honestly I love the idea of giving out artworks instead of tropheys. There is something intimate about sharing art with others, and I felt deeply honoured to even be considered.
The brief was simple, create a series of works that embody the pillars of the organisation, in your own voice. It is a beautiful thing when someone offers you the space as an artist to simply create authentically in your own voice in response to a concept. It's wildly exciting and soul enriching.
I truly hope those who were awarded these pieces find love and joy from them.
This body of work explores the principles of compassion, courage, dignity, innovation, integrity, vision & volunteer through the lens of our region. Connecting with the landscapes of the Darling Downs; Meewah, inner CBD, the tall gums of Highfields, our Sunflower fields and institutions.
Alex captured reference images of each space that she believed embodied the principles of compassion, courage, dignity, innovation, integrity, vision & volunteer.
Colour palettes were pulled from these reference images and each painting was developed using her signature painting style of automatic mark making. Through the use of colour, pattern, painting and screenprinting each artwork tells its own story.
An exhibition opening
For Alex, art is an extension of her selfness. A way to explore the influence of environment, health, lifestyle, memories and community through the act of automatic mark-making practices. The process of automation provides a pathway for Alex to dive into her subconscious and play with the impacts of these everyday factors to unlock an intuitive environment while holding space selfishly and unashamedly.
Collecting Dust refers simply to that, works that have sat piled high, or in pieces with no intention other than the process of creation. The works have been collecting dust. To honor the series Alex believed it was only right to give the pieces the space of an exhibition, to share walls with each other and to share with the community.
Alex’s fascination with automatic mark-making parallels her diagnosis of Postural Orthostatic Tachycardia Syndrome, a form of Dysautonomia. Dysautonomia is a disorder of autonomic nervous system function. The autonomic nervous system is in charge of involuntary functions—things that happen without thinking—like breathing. Dysautonomia usually involves failure of the sympathetic and parasympathetic parts of the autonomic nervous system. Through automatic mark-making Alex seeks to find the peace and therapeutic opportunities of truly finding a space of restful contentment. Her paintings are often without a plan, purely regulated by happenstance and convenience. With unconscious repetition of elements including pattern, representational imagery, colour and movement. Couple with a safety in process and colour palettes often chosen at convenience or by place as she lets her hands tell the story.
Through this process of play and disconnection the outcome of the work will often become apparent in its own time, which may be hours, days or years. A resolved piece is never planned and often determined by a sense of restful completion. Each piece of Collecting Dust marks a moment, and a sense of connection to the artist.
An exhibition in the works
An exhibition, for me at least, is a confusing time. There is a sense of great calm, possibilities and excitement. Mixed thoroughly with regret, dread, fear and nausiatingly crushing imposter syndrome. Ill feel like it's kind of good to know that no matter how many times you've have done one, or how much further you go up the ladder with you career the thought's of...but is it shit...still comes and goes as naturally as the day and night.
Now that I have primed you with some pretty worrying feelings I think it is always important to establish that these feelings do not come from a space of hate or ill meaning esteem crushers. But more a light hearted and honest look at the process for some (dare I say most) in our want to learn, discover and improve. These moments of self doubt are no longer crippling, they do not stop me from moving forward. And I kind of enjoy the fact that I know in my heart that I will always be a student of myself.
But there is something about a solo exhibition, for me, that really gets me into all kinds of knots. I love it, I love the making, the play, the resolution, and the deadline of it all. It grounds my constant need for discovery to stop reflect and mark a chapter in the book that is my practice. There is something titilating about piecing together an exhibition that tells its own unique tale of events. A gathering of pieces that individually are their own but together form a whole story.
The pieces for this show are 100% on the eclectic side, a word I often cringe at it's over use. But there really isn't a lot of other words to describe it. A series of works all made with the same mediums, methodology and reference materials but yet form a series of unique moments, colour palettes and interpretations.
So the count down is on for the show, and my biggest thing now is I wonder who will make it to the opening, followed by I wonder what questions they will ask me?
At this point in the process I have one more piece I would like to complete before the exhibition opens and that is a secondary interactive piece. I already have some planned, but this is one that I have been mulling over for a while and now it's just a matter of sourcing the materials and making it happen.
I love an exhibition to evoke a sense of participating of community, the allow opportunities to people to play with the idea of the works and the space that is a gallery actively and not just passively. It's are core part to my interest as an artist and it only feels essential to be included within my practice as part of the show.
Creating with a community is so important to me. It feels natural, second nature, obvious. Providing opportunities for people to collaborate, make marks and move as a single organism mirrors what life is like as community. Some flow together with ease, others chaotic and distruptors, some with hesitation and others entirely observational.
As the artist I find my role in a commuity setting is to present an opportunity and let the people take over it. There is no set outcomes, every space has its own voice, its own history, its on identity. I can take the same set of tools and resources to each space and new conversations, imagery and outcomes will be determined based on the people and place.
This year I was honoured to be asked to attend the Jacaranda Festival in Goombungee Queensland as the lead artist. The limitations were chalk, outdoor, drop in attendance and weather.
My whole body sang with the perfect ingredients for a project I had been working out mentally for many years now. BIRDS. I have always loved the tangibility of objects, they transform the marks and intention behind them. Moving from surface design or the need to 'draw' on a board or flat substrate incomparison to the idea of play and freedom with an object. Collectively we move into the idea of adornment, colour, line and fluid movements as we move away from the sometimes rigid and intimidating ideas surrounding 'drawing' and often coupled with representation.
Objects break down barriers and encourage more participation from community, and once initial marks are made people will flow through an entire space with more confidence to create across all surfaces.
The festival witnessed exactly those sentiments. People across ages and demographics came and participated. With many coming back to see the visual transformation of the space across the day and to add additional marks to their original. Playing a game of blind collaboration with a stranger. The conversations led in all directions. Asking about me as an artist, what that looks like for me as a person, a career, a passion, a form of expression. They asked about The Arts as a whole, the adjoinging gallery space and other ways the can connect with those spaces outside of a festival setting. They remarked on the joy moving through the space they felt and witnessed from others and how it is a different side of their community that they had not really stopped and taken the time to notice before.
The Arts has a way to visually and physically bring a sense of community together. A way to bring the feelings of an environment to the forefront where people can see the intangible thread that binds a community together in a phsical form.
Growing up in my own community it was those events that marked my memories. Each year we would have an all school musical performance where the whole town would get together and celebrate The Arts. It was one of my favourite memories of growing up. An evening where we would sit on picnic blankets watch, play and celebrate. It is those events that I feel obligated as an artist to provide for future generations of communities. Those memories that have sat with me my entire life, that have shaped me as a person and a sense of place.
Community art projects are not only essential but vital. And I am fortunate to be able to share those moments with others.
Playing, playing and more playing
So much of my practice is throwing stuff at the wall to see what sticks.
Art for me is a selfish indulgence, it's a way for me to disconnect from the noise and reconnect with myself.
I find I am often running too fast for my legs but when I make the time for my art I am deeply engrossed, almost annoyingly so.
And although I am covered in paint every other day with work, true, authentic connection to my practice is spred amongst long periods of nothingness.
I think that's the thing, the assumption is that there should be a constant work ethic to ones pratice. I find so much of my creative process is resolution of ideas mentally. Even though my body might not be physically creating, playing and finishing my mind is never not thinking about my practice.
And then when given the opportunity, or more so the whole body urge, it's an unstoppable force, to create I am prolific. Disgustingly so, it pours out of me one after the other. I work till I am exhausted and even then sometimes I don't stop. It's like breathing it has to be done, it's an extension of myself.
And then as quickly as it came, it goes. Sometimes with a whole resolved body of work and others with fragments of a story yet to be finished.
I am somewhere in the middle right now. Art, pause, art, pause. But not enough to build a full body of work, or enough of the puzzle for me to understand the intention.
That lightbulk moment comes once the full body of work is resolved, and although I made the pieces I don't not know when that will happen or what it will look like.
So right now we play.
When I said yes to this show I was excited, fresh, ready to create. Over the coming weeks I saw myself hit hard with a delayed fatigue reaction of the constant flight & fight response of 2020.
It hit me hard with a flare up, then a flu, then a mental health sprial. I would put me in days of all I would do is paint, find my space and you couldn't pull me away from it. When I paint I it unlocks a lot of supressed thoughts and often shakes loose personal epiphanies like a good counselling session. I then find myself needing to talk it out. The process can be exhausting emotionally, and after all that this last year had thrown at us all this process was hard.
My biggest moment of realisation is the fact that I over did it, (obvious to some I know) but for me keeping busy gave me comfort at the time. I was fortunate that we live in a space were the pandemic left most of us untouched health wise but there were other side effects to it all.
I am a planner, I used to have 12 months planned out and I knew where I needed to be, what my family expectations were, what I needed to do for my business. Often finding myself in a project manager role where others would look to me for answers the uncertainity of the year really fell hard on my shoulders. I can't put that on others, that falls to my own afflication of perfectionism.
Moving from a place of certainity and control to once of play it by ear one month at a time has taught me skills and left me often exhausted from constantly needing to adapt within days.
Bringing this show together, finding that deep space of subconscious creating, where I need to be for these works, has left me with a new space of self awareness and exhaustion. I am not ready to tackle the questions the process raised, I have no answers. But I need to continue to make. 2021 maybe a year of journalling...maybe I am not sure.
ORBS will be on display at the Brisbane Library (George Square) from Jan 4th.
Go big...or go...
Orbs is an ongoing series exploring the role of automation within our lives. Dealing with Postural Orthostatic Tachycardia Syndrome a form of dysautonomia Alex is using amoebic Orb like structures through a process of automatic painting which is layered with repetitive linework work patterns and designs as a form of discovery about automation and how much experiences, preferences and bodily movements impact our day to day.
Thank you to Narrated Productions for capturing the journey
This artwork has been supported by @blackbird and finch #ArtsQld
#SWQRegionalArts @ArtsQueensland @swqregionalarts
That's the official blurb but let's discuss a bit of the logistics. Hot damn that was both exciting and exhausting. My body rebelled against the process almost immediately. It was cold and wet, I started the day earlier then normal and 1 hours in holding my arm at an extended upright angle already present problems. I could feel the slow trickle of blood flowing from my upper body towards gravity. It's not a nice feeling but an all too familiar one. The exhaustion is part of the process though, the more the POTS symptoms takes hold the easier I find that I slip into a space of automation with my work. It's hard to think, make informed decisions and so on. I often change positions, snack and hydrate to combat the symptoms in the day to day. But when creating it's about the process of losing that control and seeing what happens. The shapes and patterns feel familiar because they are. Picked out from the obscurity of passing memories and moments, the way that I hold the brush, they way my wrist moves.
It is a fine line of giving into the failure of my body for my art while dancing the line of safety because I am out in public and not in the safety of my bed or couch. We had to take breaks, or other moments push through because we knew when we stopped that was it for the day. I ate more food than normal to keep me going. It is what it is.
I went home and slept for the rest of the day well into the night and then went back again.
It's interesting for me to think about how it all comes together. But it is together and all though, yes, it was hard by golly it was fun and hot damn I would do it again in a heart beat!
I touched on it previously but now, now I can share even more of the thoughts and musings that have transformed into happenings from within my brainspace.
ORBS a series which explores the role of automation, involuntary and the every day was born out of isolation. I won't lie to you, it's just not in me to lie, but the birth of my second child, personal health issues and the general lifeness of life impacted my arts practice. I was creative for sure, but I wasn't creating true and meaningful work for my practice. I dabbled, tried a little bit of this and little bit of that but nothing felt like it was meant to be. Something to be pushed and explored. It felt heavy handed and forced. I very much felt a fraud, how can I call myself an artist if I am not creating?
So I stopped, started and restarted in what felt like an endless cycle of unrestful experimentation.
Until of course a global pandemic decided to pop into our lives and force a dramatic stop to the daily movements. The jarring nature of the whole event shook something loose. Art became a safe space again. My body wasn't exhausted from the daily movements, my postural orthosatic tachycardia syndrome for the first time in a long time didn't feel all consuming. Because it wasn't, it made me truly realise how much we can take automation for granted. Standing up and our body adjusts to the changes of position and gravity. Eating food and simply enjoying it and not trying to guess the right amount of food to balance my nutrition needs verses the ever changing arbitrary line that is too much food for my body to regulate which would ultimately send all my blood to asisst with digestion and leave my other organs starved for the red stuff.
The roll of memory cataloguing and how, unbeknownst to us our brain categorises each moment into those we will remember and those that are filed away.
With my fascination of automation I began to create while doing something else. Watching a movie or having a conversation. As best as I could I would let the colour and pattern flow. I noticed my mood impacted the colour choices, or my daily activities and surroundings informed my pattern making. There is always going to be an element of control for me, it is so ingrained in my nature that even in a deep space of 'whatevers' I never truly let go. And in that I feel represents an element of myself also.
But the good news. I am excited to announce my success as a Flying Arts Alliance Inc Recovery Boost recipient. With this funding support I am able to dedicate the time that I need to actually research, connect, experiement and create meaningful works within my artistic practice.
Through this series I will be working towards an exhibition and digital artist talk/connection that which you will be invited to attend.
I will be sharing the journey, experiements and that inbetween with you through blogs, soical media and any other way that I can.
The Regional Arts Fund (RAF) is an Australian Government program designed to benefit regional and remote arts practitioners, arts workers, audiences and communities. The fund is provided through Regional Arts Australia and is administered in Queensland by Flying Arts Alliance.
Observations as an artist