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.
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.
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.
,I've been dancing around the concept of new work for years now. The last time I created a resolved body of work was 2015. I have spent the last 5 years living creatively; creating products in the maker space, facilitating projects that lift up our regional artists and helping others discover the value of creative industries through workshops. But me as an artist...definitely struggling with an internal imposter syndrome dialogue.
How was it that I was able to talk others through their 'writers block' but here I was hiding in the shadows thinking maybe I am not actually an artist. I mean how could I be an artist if I am not making work for my practice.
As much as I hated playing out the stereotype of tortured artist in my mind, and no matter how many of my peers told me it's normal just stop putting pressure on yourself, I couldn't.
So it turns out what I needed was a global crisis. I needed the whole world to stop so that I could stop. It turns out that I had far too many balls in the air. Hindsight, am I right.
I started with watercolour, making shapes and structures followed by my obsession with pattern making. My orbs as I call them capture those inifite memories in our lives that we just cannot remember. Everyone has it, try now recall everything that happened yesterday in vivid rich moments that they were. Can you? You obviously did things but could you recall the whole day minute to minute? How is it that we go through so much of our lives and yet remember so little? Who chooses which moments to compartmentalise and which ones to keep forever?
My autonomic system no longer works properly and so it has really made me reflect on things that previously I have not spared a thought for. So many vital moments, memories functions all just happening automatically and we know they are happening in complex details and moments but yet we have little to no control over the process. Each orb feels like I am drawing a moment from by subconscious and capturing it in a physical space.
Orbs is an ongoing series.
With over 1000 people through the space, almost a year worth of planning, 500 repurposed jars, over 1000m of washi tape and one really weird shopping experience with a UV torch I am reminded of the importance to debrief and write this all down for the legacy of these projects. At the end of the day the documentation is just important as the happening itself, and it is often overlooked. Why? Because usually all the movers and shakers are pretty tired by the end of it. It's usually a small team of people making big things happen.
If there is one thing I truly appreciate and have learnt from our fierce LIT Leader Ben Tupas it is the importance of legacy documentation.
So what was LIT for me, the artist. Sometimes I struggle to take off the project manager hat and jump into the position of the artist.
I really wanted to create an accessible space that still challenged participants. A space that encouraged engagement, interaction and immersion. The artwork wasn't just the sculpture but the way that strangers came together to be part of it. Some observed, others jumped in headfirst, some even came back for a second night because now they knew what it was about.
Adults & kids came together, at night to the CBD to just enjoy a night of lights, art, performace, music and everything that came with it.
My brief was this ; imagine Toowoomba 100 years from now. Because I don't need to unhash my reasoning again here is my artist statement which does that for you.
The concept of time fascinates me. No matter how you dissect it there is always another layer of interest. When presented with the question ‘What will Toowoomba look like in 100 years?’ I instantly drew on my own knowledge, history, desires and dreams.
It led me to think about what people thought of themselves 100 years ago into the past - and the individual role we all play to connect the dots when creating our futures.
The parallels of time - someone’s own history - is their present projecting their future: now my present. The conundrum fascinated and taunted me! It also allowed me to stop and think about how right now in this moment we as a community often reminisce of years gone by, the greater human connection through physical gatherings, play and events.
When compared to the current digital era, we are instantly connected to the world in the palm of our hand. Yet, technology has left us feeling disconnected.
This installation is layered between the existing physical connection, community, through play, through art, through events juxtaposed with digital connection and play.
Bringing together our reminiscent dreams of physical and digital connection.
It is impossible to acknowledge the impact of COVID19 which happened immediately on the back of this event. A definite bittersweet moment of it all. The no gatherings over 500 people mandate was in effect the Monday immediately after the LIT opening weekend.
It was almost surreal, as if for me the event shielded what was happening around me. I was running on a high from buzz community gathering offers, then wacked with an immediate shock and confusion of what comes now.
Just like any other time when it came to listing the essential industries to salvage the creative one was first on the chopping block. Although a huge blow to the industry the quick dismissal was a familiar feeling. It was later brought to my attention by many of my other friends that the defining on what is an essential business really played on their independant value. Again something I had not considered as it has become such a common space. Even though this was in no way common, and the overall impact is still yet to be felt.
Two months later and my cup is no longer filled from my LIT experience and I find myself yearning for community spaces once more. Live music, things to do, things to see, things to experience. It could be a year post restriction lifting for larger events to recover from this. As I said at the beginning the planning took almost a year, and no one I know that works in that space really knows what/when or how to plan, or even if it is resources and time well spent at this point.
There has been a big shift to online experiences, and although they have the potential to reach a far wider audience and they definitely fill that void we are all currently experience. I know for myself they are definitely an added extra something more to do, but not a replacement.
I have no closing thoughts, my head goes round and round when I think about the possibilities of the future, and for the most part I think that is because there is no end date to this whole thing.