Wednesday, 11 April 2007

Goulburn Regional Art Gallery

Symmetrical Planting is on at the Goulburn Regional Art Gallery in 'A Decade of the Windmill' 14th April- 12 May 2007

Symmetrical Planting is a work that involves many stages. The original installation was followed by an education component that was presented at the Second International Art and Early Childhood Conference at New England University in February, 2007. This workshop was developed in collaboration with Dr Margaret Brooks (UNE). The aim of the workshop was to engage the artist, students and teachers in the artist’s process, developing a dialogue between the artist and the student. The delegates (other artists and educators) were invited to take part in a collaborative work using the gauze. Lisa Roberts a Sydney based artist has begun an animation using the gauze and links to this can be found on I am now working with the gauze in other specific biological communities and patterns.

My works in “A Decade of the Windmill” documents Symmetrical Planting. Renew, my work for the Windmill Trust exhibition, is constructed of the gauze that was used to wrap around the poplar trees. The gauze has retained the smell and patina from the poplar community, with areas of discolouration from the vegetation subtly marking the white. The work is held together with cable ties reflecting back to the technique used in Symmetrical Planting and stuffed with poplar leaves

The background to Symmetrical Planting follows:

During my time as artist in residence at New England Regional Art Museum I watched over Black Gully. The exotic willows gained their green. (Willows figure so vividly in my childhood memories: picnics by the water; of gathering enough long branches to swing whilst carrying the weight of childhood.) The willows that line the creek have escaped from a planting which echoed the desire for another land - (new) England. Long gone are the talkative casuarinas, the tea tree and bottle brush. Still, a sedge dots the banks and people caring for the creek have planted natives in places up- and down- stream, and the frogs call in the afternoon and evening.

The other popular tree (the poplar) was planted on the flat, long before the NERAM building was planned. One tree-trunk stands in the centre, another five surround it at equal distance. Its symmetry contrasts with the accidental rhythm of the bush. In one of my workshops we talked of a method of planting randomly – that being, to throw a handful of coins in the air … and plant where the coins fell. In some of my other works, I aimed to choose randomly, but have found that I need a method to make a ‘random’ choice, as our lived experience and history makes random choices difficult.

In Symmetrical Planting I linked the 6 poplar trees together using gauze. I have been working with gauze in my other work, using its netting characteristics to join together carp scales and echidna spines. Gauze forms a film, a network, a partly translucent layer that holds objects together. Its warp and weft can be pushed and distorted. The installation was represented in the gallery by a series of still images looping on a television screen, and weekly photographs were placed in the galley, in a vertical timeline, over its 12 weeks existence.

'Working at Peartree'

I began the next installation on Easter Monday at Becky and Jaime's place onBurra Creek. This installation has became known as 'Working at Peartree'.
Becky and Jaime have been working on the land for just over a year, removing serrated tussock and planning the revegetation and healing of the land. Jaime chose to leave some dead trees standing to remind us of what was there in 2007 and of the damage that had been done previously. The majority of the original eucalyptus trees were ring barked, their textured skeletons break the place, 'where the land meets the sky'. The land at Burra Creek is suffering from drought and years of over grazing.

Members of our extended family gathering were invited to participate in 'Working at Peartree'.

I find that the conversations happening when people are involved in the cutting of the gauze need to be recorded. Participants link events, insights and memories from their life to the cutting, rolling and wrapping of the gauze. Some of those comments as remembered:
Colin shared a performance he saw in which the performer became hopelessly wrapped in threads after thrashing around, getting more and more wound up just as we can do with problems in life.
Julia recounted as a child, madly running around her large house with unwinding balls of spun wool and her mother Barbara not being at all pleased.
Adair looked through the eye of a camera until the card became full. Adair was standing photographing the group near a dead tree, which was holding the gauze taunt, Adair heard the sound of the scissors amplified by the tree. This reminded me of the fence at Dangar Falls humming in the wind.

Adair then commented on the way the gauze formed strong links between the participants and when wrapped around the trees made them appear flatter.

Sue mentioned her enjoyment of the mindless repetition of rolling the gauze. Alysia added her story of unwinding knitted jumpers to make gods eyes and wishing she could knit to create a jumper.

A changing group helped cut and roll the gauze. Then I asked them to use the gauze on a tree of their choice. Adair was asked to document the process through photographs.
Adair and I discussed her idea of how wrapping the object you were going to draw would teach you about that object giving you a more complex knowledge and understanding to inform your drawing.
Becky wondered about 'what the neighbors might make of it' and the dialogue that might result from their questioning. Sam and Becky took photos on Tuesday morning of 'Working at Peartree' in the isolating fog which filled the gully.
Photographs by Adair Imrie