I recently returned from a few weeks in London and Venice. Was it fun? It was okay. Did you see lots of stuff? Yes. Was the art good? Yeah. Did you buy me anything? No. Did you take many pictures? HEAPS.
My intention for getting away was split evenly between some research I’ve been meaning to do for a while, and to secondly take a long overdue break.
Of course, being in London during Frieze and Venice for the Biennale meant that art significantly shaped my time away. As you’d expect with a trip filled with lots of looking, since getting back I’ve been using the photos on my phone as a reminder of what I saw and what my holiday self wanted to remember.
There was a lot of art, and like I said a lot of it was good, but nestled within these cultural spectacles were some other unintentional gems. My three favourites are below:
1. Walking around a crowded art fair like Frieze and observing gallery staff who were in clear need of a break, including a smartly dressed gallerist who, when I walked past his booth was watching a video on the Huffington Post called Koko the gorilla falls in love with a box of kittens.
2. People at the fair who coincidentally are dressed to match the artworks around them, my favourite being this visitor standing next to a Sam Gilliam work at David Kordansky Gallery. A further example was spotted near a Sol Calero pattern painting.
3. Placed ever so casually in Mika Rottenberg’s installation was this small hand-written note, asking visitors not to touch the artwork. Professional signage has never looked so good! I think I spotted five throughout the exhibition. Simply great.
This month I thought I was going to write a really long piece about art on Instagram and artists using Instagram and galleries using Instagram and Instagram #takeovers and how I personally use Instagram. I was also going to make some observations about the strange things that pop up in your ‘Discover’ page and how occasionally people notice if you haven’t liked their posts and then mention it when they see you out at an opening and you say ‘Ohhh, haven’t I? Sorry!”
But then I discovered that there’s a ‘Posts You’ve Liked’ folder that appears under your profile settings and I went looking through it and got distracted for a few hours. So instead, in no particular order, here’s twenty six chosen-at-random images (of hundreds) that I’ve double tapped during the last month.
Important objects: A conversation with Lynda Draper
Tom: By any chance did you see that email I sent you at the horrendous hour of 1:30am?
Lynda: Yeah I saw it at 3am! I had a bit of a think about what you asked [laughs]. It’s quite strange having to speak about what I do, having to put it all into words. I get so uptight about it…
TP: Don’t worry, most of us do.
LD: Yeah but then you even wonder what it is you do and why… You know how sometimes people have a really specific thing they say about their work? You know, commenting on this or that, or I want to make the world a better place because I make this stuff.
TP: Yeah but I think it’s quite normal. How about we start with your process then. I really want to know how you think your process begins.
LD: I was thinking about it in relation to the Genie Bottle works [currently on show at the National Art School Gallery, Sydney]. Being invited to exhibit in TURN, TURN, TURN made me really think about working with clay over the past thirty years.
TP: In what way?
LD: Well, my work really has evolved and changed due to life circumstances and experiences. At one stage when I was undertaking my Masters, it went through a period where it became quite controlled and uptight and laboured. Thinking about that recently, I realised it was about a loss and change and a reflection of how Australia has changed during my lifetime. Lately as things have evolved, I’ve been looking back to some really early processes, to reintroduce colour and a sense of play and really push the tactile qualities of the clay.
TP: So when you talk about control, you’re speaking about the bodies of work using white porcelain [produced between 2007-2012]?
LD: Yes, the white porcelain works, with the found objects.
TP: I suppose you could attribute ideas of ‘control’ to the simplicity of the line and lack of colour in the work? Plus they’re meticulously made!
LD: Yeah, when I was making that work I was thinking about the power of them as simple objects and the way they embody all these memories and anxiety and a sense of loss and nostalgia. And even though those works look quite different to everything since, the ideas have carried through. I’ll always be interested in the relationship between the material and the spiritual world.
TP: What is it about turning an idea or a memory into an object that interests you?
LD: Well, to me, making these works is sort of just reinforcing the importance and power of inanimate objects around you, but questioning that too, questioning their value. But you know, I think as you go through your life you go through weird, changing relationships with objects and the way they track your life. They’re like markers of time and of the people around us. We’re always looking at them and we continue to absorb their qualities.
TP: Do you mind if we go back to what you said about the works reflecting what’s around you?
LD: I suppose the series of Genie Bottles are probably a good example of that, as I made those as a reaction to a friend who had concerns about their future and I wanted to find a way through with the work, even in a light-hearted way.
TP: And there’s so much symbolism of stored energy that can be associated with an object like this. So are the recent figurative works always referencing people you know? Like, if the work is called Jen, is it always based on a Jen around you?
LD: [Laughs] Kind of, because subconsciously it’ll be about who I’m thinking about at the time. But not always. I mean some of them are named after people I’ve known in the past, people who are no longer around.
TP: Finally, what do you think is next for your work?
LD: At the moment there’s quite a bit in the studio, so I want to explore some relationships between multiple works in bigger settings. For a long time I would go about making things as stand alone objects but now I’m thinking about how certain elements can be placed together in different ways, so we’ll see.
Doing it right: Recorded responses to ‘Art as a Verb’
On June 11, 2015 I visited Artspace in Sydney’s Woolloomooloo for the exhibition Art as a Verb. Whilst there I decide to make ‘voice notes’ on my iPhone, perhaps as a live commentary on the experience of seeing. Playing them back, I realise that I’m yet to master this technique, but in addition to a lot of heavy breathing they include:
“Ryan Gander’s The Medium [pause]. Works in prominent and unexpected points in the gallery speak to me of good ways to think about exhibition making and audiences looking.”
“Artworks are stand-ins for people … there’s real humanness on display … These works remind me of myself, people I know. Works sharing something familiar are bound to do that. [There’s] something profound about the repeated process… ”
“There’s a grouping of seminal works by artists such as Marina Abramovic and Vito Acconci … sit[ting] in the back of the gallery, displayed on monitors in a circle … it’s like a central nervous system … like a historical backbone to the show. [This grouping] … makes these works feel stronger, more important, like ‘going home’ to visit your parents. Wait, what does that mean? Note to self, be nicer to Mum and Dad.”
“I should make a list of all the verbs within the show … looking, smiling, eating, learning, clapping, [pause] singing [trails off]”
“Being surrounded by so much ‘doing’ … makes me question what I’m doing, what I SHOULD be doing. [pause] Keep going.”
“This show is like a maze, a guided tour and a labyrinth. I like it.”
“It’s like I am the final work in the show; it’s like I am a verb!” (Embarrassingly, I am not alone in the gallery when I say this out loud.)
At the end of my visit and when I feel like I’m done, I linger in the foyer to enjoy Ceal Floyer’s Til I get it right, a sound work that’s followed me around my whole visit. It’s on repeat both in the gallery and, happily, in my head long after I leave.
So I’ll just keep on/ ‘til I get it right… So I’ll just keep on/ ‘til I get it right… So I’ll just keep on/ ‘til I get it right…
Art as a Verb, Artspace, Sydney, 4 June – 26 July 2015.