Category Archives: Art

Sculptural Story of Shadows and Silence

THE recent installation of a major work of public art at a junction of the New England and Gwydir Highways through Glen Innes has generated plenty of community queries about the title of the sculpture and the inspiration behind it. Arts North West talked with its Walcha-based creator James Rogers to dig deeper.

“This is no signpost or billboard. No voice cheers it on other than the harsh glare of our daily cycle, weeks and months at a time as the light of the sun and seasons’ angle shapes our moments at the crossroads.”

What we found was an artist thinking about the long-term experience of his work in the context of its setting: not just the centrepiece of a roundabout in a major traffic corridor, but one that sits within an upland valley of the NSW Northern Tablelands.

“‘Blue Hills’ is an abstract, painted steel construction composed of 52 hand-cut, long, curved strips of steel and accompanied bridging elements,” James explained. “The strips are cut from 600-millimetre dia tube. This character of element is something I have been working with in the studio for some years.”

Despite its apparent simplicity, according to James ‘Blue Hills’ took on its own life during its creation.

“I composed the work over five months in Walcha, accumulating groups of the steel slivers into loose-leaning bunches that connect at the foot and the top, into a generally circular form,” he said.

“As work proceeded, lyrical elements were added to accommodate structural considerations and activate the ridge of the sculpture, maintaining a dialog from top to base and back to the ridge of the listing, arrhythmic drapes.

METAL MAN: Sculptor James Rogers working on “Blue Hills” in his Walcha studio (photo by: Caroline Downer, Arts North West)

“The density compounds across the space as the structure circulates. Steel is endlessly plastic and further welding and cutting kept the process alive.

“I work alone and with a small forklift as my assistant. I felt very close in answering the sculpture’s physical demands as the work unfolded.”

Patterns and distance 

Quirindi-born James Rogers is a regular Sculpture By The Sea exhibitor who studied the art form at the former Darling Downs Institute of Advanced Education before living, working and regularly exhibiting in Sydney. His public commissions include ‘Song Cycle’ (2001) at Walcha, another sinuous metallic work situated inside a roundabout.

It’s clear that James spent time gauging how ‘Blue Hills’ would appear from road level in a moving vehicle.

“I see the work as a composition of long shadows,” he said. “The tonality of distance is blue and the silence of the Tablelands, so blue; but on closer experience the blue is itself a composition of forms, an interplay across a space of light and shadow, of form and void”.

“Further familiarity may reveal counterpoints of rhythm that invoke pattern, but it all moves on, the blue still unfolding as a memory of looking forward, around a roundabout and indicating some choices made.

“The sculpture is a distillation of nature’s space with a detached countenance that asks us to look into the silence in the shadows.”

No signpost

According to James, who relocated to live, work and exhibit at Walcha in 2009, his work must speak for itself over time.

“Now that ‘Blue Hills’ is installed, and all the barracking and raspberries blended over, the sculpture gets on with its job, mute and silent,” he said.

“No plaque will speak for it adequately if the eye is not enticed. This is no signpost or billboard. No voice cheers it on other than the harsh glare of our daily cycle, weeks and months at a time as the light of the sun and seasons’ angle shapes our moments at the crossroads.

“Whether north, south, east or west, it is a drivers’ and passengers’ exchange. It is all first-timers and learners, fresh-faced and old hands that negotiate an evaluation of delight at their transport through the intersection. No two arrivals will be the same from foggy dawn to day’s end.

“A successful work of art, I think, induces silence, while in our core we suspend disbelief, and the eye’s curiosity moves ahead of what might be daily and commonplace utterance.”

This article was first published by Arts North West. Main image by Carol Sparks.

Handmade for the holidays

“People should never be shy of signing up for a workshop and having a go.”

LEARNING A NEW creative skill can be a big step for busy people, so there’s no better time than the holidays to make a plan to attend a workshop; and Glen Innes at the heart of the NSW New England region is the destination for handmade.

STONE SETTING Precision work on a pendant.

Resident silversmith at The Makers Shed, Richard Moon has been teaching metalworking and jewellery-making techniques for four years, and runs regular full or half-day courses for beginners and those with a few skills at the Glen Innes venue.

“I thoroughly enjoy helping people realise their visions in jewellery form,” he says. “It’s always a reminder of how I started out. Attending a two-day ring-making workshop in 2007 really set me on my course to becoming a full-time silversmith”.

“It really is possible to design and make a piece of jewellery in just one day,” he says. “We have all the equipment here at The Makers Shed, and if you want to bring a friend or two along, we have six silversmithing benches ready for your workshop. I’m here to ensure everyone goes home with a unique handmade experience under their belt, and a special piece to wear or give as a gift. You’ll sleep well that night, because even though the process doesn’t take up much space, it’s extremely challenging on the mind!”

CUTTING EDGE Printmaker Nadia Kliendanze finds inspiration in the everyday.

Also giving an upcoming workshop at The Makers Shed is Inverell’s award-winning printmaker Nadia Kliendanze, whose exhibition ‘Printed Matter Only’ is showing throughout the summer.

“I love to teach printmaking and linoprinting in particular, which is my favourite print medium,” Nadia says. “Beginners usually catch on fairly quickly. Those that already have an artistic practice of some sort create their own original linoprints, however, I have a selection of images that complete beginners can use. After all, it’s about learning the process, not learning to draw”.

“I undertook a Diploma of Fine Arts at my local TAFE and discovered printmaking,” she says. “I was initially attracted to the media because of its graphic nature and also the fact that it was an easy way to share my artworks with lots of people at a reasonable cost”.

PRINTED MATTER ONLY St Stephen’s Green, linoprint by Nadia Kliendanze.

“Later on when I undertook a visual arts degree and a masters in printmaking at Monash University I continued to work more intensely in that medium.”

Nadia’s exhibition encompasses botanical motifs, iconic destinations in Australia and Europe and often references well-known prints from the past, such as Hokusai’s ‘Great Wave’, but she also turns her attentions to the everyday.

“Sometimes I create a print out of something I have seen on my morning walk,” she says.

HANDMADE HEAVEN Ceramicist Anita Stewart is a member of Glen Innes Pottery Club.

Glen Innes-based ceramicist and potter Anita Stewart regularly has work on show at The Makers Shed, and is gearing up to share her skills over the summer at the Glen Innes Pottery Club, situated like the Shed on Grey Street, the town’s main drag.

“Discovering clay for me was like a fish taking to water,” she says. “I studied Fine Arts in Western Australia for three years. Like many artists, I had been practicing before I actually decided to do formal training. At Fremantle Tech I did units in painting design and drawing, then in 1995 I travelled to the New England region and discovered the wonderful ceramics courses run by Max Powell at the Glen Innes TAFE”.

“The inspiration to create a new body of work usually comes when working on new forms at the wheel. For instance, the last federal election inspired my ‘message in a bottle’ series. Using the surface of the pot as a canvas I add multiple layers to create an image that speaks. The New England Landscape has also given me great inspiration for my work.”

MESSAGE IN A BOTTLE Ceramic vases by Anita Stewart.

According to Anita, the Glen Innes Pottery Club was established about 30 years ago, and has remained a vibrant part of the community. “Lots of well-known potters have been a part of the club,” she says.

Winner of multiple awards for her ceramics, Anita laughs when asked to define what it takes to be a practicing artist, adding that “stamina, determination and absolute passion” are essentials for anyone wanting to make a long-term career of creativity; although she believes people should never be shy of signing up for a workshop and having a go.

“It’s really nice teaching people how to work with clay because it’s a very tactile medium and they usually seem really pleased when they’ve created a functional and colourful work of art,” she says. “The wheel can be a bit more of a challenge, but they are overjoyed when they manage to throw a pot on the wheel.”

A complete range of handmade work by artisans from across the New England region is always available at The Makers Shed, and a regular schedule of creative workshops.

www.themakersshed.org

A painter’s perseverance

“I think I always was an artist, it just took a long time for ‘it’ to flourish.”

AFTER MORE THAN twenty years living and working in the New England region, Danish-born artist Marianne la Cour shared her sense of place in an exhibition of new work at Glen Innes throughout Spring.

“I finally feel a strong connection to this area,” she says. “As with most migrants, it takes a while to feel a part of a new place, to get a sense of belonging. It wasn’t really until I moved to the countryside that I found that connection”.

“I would find it hard to live anywhere else. I love this region, its seasons, its nature and its people. They have all been a part of changing me to whom I am today. I feel so lucky to have found this place.”

Having grown up with an appreciation of abstract art, design processes and handmade principles, Marianne says she is “deeply influenced” by her cultural heritage and many northern European painters.

“I am a great fan of Danish painters Per Kirkeby, Maja Lisa Engelhardt and Mogens Andersen, to name a few,” Marianne says. She also cites Australian painters Elizabeth Cummings, Ann Thompson, Sally Gabori, Angus Nivison and Ross Laurie as sources of inspiration.

MAKER’S MARK Marianne la Cour utilises acrylic paint and pastel.

Describing her creative journey as “long and winding”, Marianne was encouraged by her mother and grandmothers. “In my younger years I wanted to be a ceramicist and an author. Later, I wanted to be an architect, but none of that happened. In Denmark, as education was paid by the government, they would only let in a certain amount of students every year to the art school and the academy of architecture”.

“I tried several times, but never got in. Instead, I ended up in a bank, which was testing for my creative mind; but later in life it proved a very beneficial education to have when running a small business. When I moved to Australia in my thirties, I decided now was the time and I immersed myself in TAFE courses and workshops, and I have never looked back.”

According to Marianne, being a practising artist in the 21st century takes hard work, time and perseverance.

“It’s a lot easier now with the internet and social media, but when I started many years ago it was almost impossible for a country artist to get a foot in the door. Rocking up with your portfolio to art galleries was tough. Sometimes you got lucky but mostly it was just a disappointment.

“Today you cannot run an art business or a creative business without a presence on social media and websites. You are essentially doing all the work the gallery owners used to do for you. More than fifty percent of my time is dedicated to having a presence on the internet, and you still have to get out there and put your work in competitions and organise exhibitions. You also have to learn to write, take good photos and constantly keep up with the technology.”

When asked about what made her stick to her dream despite the obstacles, Marianne says: “I think I always was an artist, it just took a long time for ‘it’ to flourish. When I moved to Australia, becoming an artist was my ultimate goal, and I never lost sight of that. I did a lot of other things as well to keep bread on the table, but every opportunity I had to create, I took”.

“That’s what I mean about perseverance. I keep my hands busy and my mind open. I started out small and stayed small. That just fitted best into my lifestyle, which is very important to me.”

Marianne’s 2019 exhibition ‘Landliv’ (literally ‘rural life’ in Danish) ran at The Makers Shed, Glen Innes until the end of November.

“This body of work is executed with acrylic paint,” she says. “I have also used ink, charcoal and pastel and in some of the paintings I have used fabric and paper. I have always been drawn to mixed media and collage, and quite often it finds it way into my paintings.”

Through her online business Colours on Grey, Marianne promotes regular creative workshops at her inspiring rural-set studio just outside Glen Innes.

“I love to share my skills, my way of painting and I suppose my way of looking at art,” she says. “I want it to be easy and simple for participants. When I teach, I really try to simplify things and make sure they have something to be happy about by the end of the workshop. If they leave frustrated they are never going to give it a go at home, and I am a firm believer that we all need a little bit of creativity in our lives.”

This article first appeared in New England Living magazine.