Sunday, September 23, 2007

Heading to the Big Mango

This weekend I am crawling out of my cocoon in quiet Mae Rim, outside Chiang Mai and heading off to Bangkok to check out some exhibitions with a group of 12 students that I teach.

Bangkok is the 22nd most populous city in the world. I remember the first time I visited Bangkok in 1992, it was just after the Black May coup d'etat and between the heavy military presence outside my hotel near the Democracy Monument, the humidity of June and the dense traffic, I wondered how people managed to survive and stay sane. My short trip to Asia, turned into an extended working holiday in Bangkok and some 3 years later I finally left Bangkok - I had survived but was decidedly less sane. I moved back to Bangkok in 2000 for 2 years and now love to visit, but think my days of gridlock traffic jams are over!

Anyway, I am looking forward to a weekend with lots of art, great food, some new inspiration and a bit of shopping. I am not sure whether the thought of going away with a group of 17 year old art students for a weekend makes me feel younger than I am or a lot older. In any case, its bound to be an interesting weekend.

Saturday, September 22, 2007

Art and Chiang Mai

I spend most of my year in Chiang Mai and feel fortunate to be able to take advantage of the thriving art scene in this little part of the world.

This weekend I decided to stay in town and used the opportunity to visit a few of my favourite art galleries. I checked out the lastest offerings at Chiang Mai University Art Museum and then headed up Nimmenhamen Road to a great little art gallery called Ji-Qoo which is run by Thai artist Chatchawan Nilsakul and his lovely Japanese wife Satoru.

The image below is of some of Chatchawan's work - bands of oil paints with raw convas underneath onto which watercolour bleeds - delicious stuff! If you are ever in Chiang Mai, it's worth checking out Ji-Qoo - some awesome work (mainly staff and students from CMU); its in a beautiful building and a happening part of town.

Friday, September 21, 2007

John Dahlsen

My recent work with beach debris has been inspired by the work of John Dahlsen . This is one of his works titled Catch 3.

A few years ago on Clean Up Australia Day I heard him talk about his work at the beautiful Tweed Regional Art Gallery. He spoke about the process of collecting materials and the way the sea transforms and shapes debris into beautiful forms.

Recently I've been working with rusted fishing tackle, discarded ropes and snagged fishing line found on the beach and interweaving these materials with natural fibres also found along the coast. As with Dahlsen I am interested in the wearing down of materials by natural forces and the process of collecting materials. I enjoy the colours and textures of rusted tackle and old ropes and enjoy the physical contact with materials.

Thursday, September 20, 2007

Flying Arts Regional Art Award

This is a work that I've recently completed for the Flying Arts Regional Art Awards . I worked on this piece in July while staying on the north coast of NSW. Having just come from the sticky monsoon of Northern Thailand, we were absolutely freezing and while Noo spent most of his days fishing on the Tweed River and Fingal beach, I fossicked around for materials and found an exciting array of both natural fibres and discarded fishing materials. Fresh out of waxed linen, I used fishing line to stitch this coiled work. It's called Tum Ma Ha Gin (Thai translated as 'work for food') and is a response to the challenges that coastal fishing communities face. Noo comes from a small fishing community in Krabi in Southern Thailand that over the past 15 years, I've watched be literally swallowed whole by tourism under the TAT's 'Amazing Thailand' campaign. 12 million per year! Hmmm amazing alright....

Friday, September 14, 2007

Dragon Trees

Dracaeno Draco (or Dragon Tree) is a beautiful subtropical tree which drops leaves with the most amazingly colourful and exquisite stalks. I began experimenting with the stalks a few years ago. This piece was made from a variety of fibres woven into a frame made of wisteria vine.

The Dracaena draco is native to the Canary Islands and the trees have a great umbrella-shaped canopy. There is a beautiful tree in Brisbane City Botanical Gardens up on the hill near the cafe which was planted in 1862 (some specimen are beleived to be over 600 years old).

I collected the leaves for my work from underneath a Dragon Tree in the carpark of Humble Pies at Billinudgel (north coasters will know exactly where I mean). The trick is to collect the leaves not too long after they have fallen and faded from the sun.

Apparently, the common name Dragon Tree comes from ancient Roman and mediaeval magic and alchemy. The reddish resin that the tree secretes when cut is known as dragon's blood, and is believed by some to be the dried blood of dragons. The coloured resin has been used as a varnish and dye, as well for a variety of medicinal and sharmanistic purposes.

The use of dragon's blood is documented across a wide range of cultures and its long list of uses has included violin varnish, toothpaste, incense, ink, as an antiviral and a coagulant, for chest pains, menstrual irregularities, eczema and ulcers, to stop post-partum bleeding, for diarrhea, for increasing the potency of spells in witchcraft and even as a great material for making baskets!

Sunday, September 2, 2007

Swell Sculpture

Its about time for the annual Swell Sculpture Festival to open on the beautiful Currumbin beachfront in Australia. This time last year I was working frantically to complete this piece for Swell.

It is called 'Currumbin Chedi' and I began the original sketches for this work when I returned to Australia after a trip to Thailand in December 2004 when the tsunamis hit the Andaman coast. We were near the beach at Ao Nang, Krabi getting ready to take the boys out for a day snorkeling when the waves hit.
I spent the next totally surreal 10 days translating at Krabi hopsital and at a the makeshift morgue which had been set up in Krabi town. In Krabi 740 people died. I still need to pinch myself that it even happened.
This piece was dedicated to all the Burmese migrant workers who were working on hotel construction in the area and whose bodies were not able to be collected by their loved ones. See Asian Human Rights Commission.

This work is made from a variety of fibres and standing at almost 2 meters, was challenging in terms of structure and scale. It is the result of a few months of very late nights and aching hands.

Anyway, if you are in the Currumbin area, drop into Swell and look out for Lindy Davidson's work because it is always awesome.