Listening to a podcast while mowing the lawn, I heard a TED talk given by Marla Spivak on the disappearance of bees. As I was almost mowing over a few thousand clover that had cropped up on our front lawn Marla began saying that due to the clearing of land for monocultures, such as corn and soy, and the pesticides needed to maintain them - the bees are dying. Bees love wild flowers such as clover and alfalfa. As I looked down at my feet I started to see bees, a couple at first, then more: maybe a dozen of them buzzing from clover to clover.
Marla has allowed her garden to become overgrown with wildflowers. I'm not sure if our neighbours would appreciate it, but it would be nice to have our garden as a haven for the endangered bee.
(There is a link to Marla's TED talk below).
I have a sculpture in the Swell Sculpture Festival, which runs until September 20th at Currumbin Beach on the Gold Coast. There is something for everyone, with a fantastic variety of sculpture; artist talks; kids activities and music. There is also an audio tour of the sculptures at Soundcloud (just download the Soundcloud app and search Swell Sculpture). Hope to see you there!
I always feel a little reluctant to let winter go. It is such a nice time of the year visually. In summer a Frangipani Tree can look pretty, but in winter it becomes a mysterious mottled skeleton casting long ghostly shadows on brick or concrete paths. There is more drama in winter. Whether one is throwing wood on a crackling backyard fire or kicking through piles of leaves with leather boots, being in winter is like having a backstage pass to a production of Macbeth: Being surrounded by dramatic scenes.
Speaking of dramatic things, I came across a book of the Drawings of Irving Penn recently. He is well known for his dramatic fashion and portrait photography but his drawings had eluded me until now. He predominantly uses pen and ink with very simplistic marks and lines. There is a link to the book "Drawings Irving Penn" below.
I recently made this rubbing in order to enlarge a maquette I had made. I loved the quality of the pencil mark and was reminded what an interesting technique it was. Looking further into it, I found Encyclopaedia Brittanica had some interesting information about the origins of this rudimentary printmaking process:
"Rubbings probably originated in East Asia, where they served many utilitarian purposes. Japanese fishermen, for example, continue the centuries-old practice of using rubbings to record the size of the various fish that they catch. The earliest known rubbings are Buddhist texts rubbed from wooden blocks in Japan in the 8th century ad. Evidence suggests, however, that rubbing may have been practiced in China as early as the 2nd century ad. There, rubbing (t’a-pen) was used to disseminate Confucian texts carved on large stones. These inscriptions and the rubbings made from them were valued both for their information and for their calligraphy. Even after prints began to be made from woodcuts and stone engravings, rubbings remained the most common method of reproducing Confucian texts. In the Sung dynasty (960–1279), antiquarian research became fashionable, and rubbings were used to make copies of ancient relief carvings."
In modern times Max Ernst probably brought the process into the lexicon of the artist. The following is a passage from the Tate:
"The technique was developed by Max Ernst in drawings made from 1925. Frottage is the French word for rubbing. Ernst was inspired by an ancient wooden floor where the grain of the planks had been accentuated by many years of scrubbing. The patterns of the graining suggested strange images to him. From 1925 he captured these by laying sheets of paper on the floor and then rubbing over them with a soft pencil. The results suggest mysterious forests peopled with bird-like creatures and Ernst published a collection of these drawings in 1926 titled Histoire Naturelle (natural history)."
I spent ages last week working on this drawing, which is part of a sculpture to be shown at Swell Sculpture Festival later this year. I wanted to make a life size male figure in Marine Ply, to compliment the other elements within the sculpture. I drew this free hand but it is loosely based on a Perugino painting from 1500/05 (see below). The Christ figure is standing in a beautifully casual contrapposto and seems to almost be painted using a female model. I have read that it was common to use a male model to paint the female form, but I hadn't heard of the inverse happening.
I did make a few adjustments to the posture but basically followed Perugino's pose.
Later I drew grid lines to more easily scale it up to the full size version, which I have since managed to cut-out with a jig-saw in 12mm marine ply.
I'm trying a few collages. I've started by using the composition from some family photos I've taken.
There is something nice about collage - I first became interested in it while learning about the constructivist sculpture tradition, and the way constuctivism had grown out of the collages that Picasso and Braque had been working on prior to WWI. It doesn't seem to have lost its relevance today as I noticed a group on Instagram from Brooklyn, called the Brooklyn Collage Collective, who are currently showing at Sugarlift Gallery (this is an online gallery, but they still seem to have pop-up venues). Some really brilliant work there. There are also a local group called the Industrialists, who show work from time to time in Mullumbimby and Byron Bay.
This is only a mini one, about 18 x 18 x 10cm. This is the rear view. You can see the front on the Sculpture-Mixed Media tab on my website. This is part of a series, where I am using colours of the bush painted onto
off-cuts of wood using watercolour paints. This one is called Landscape.
I have recently discovered that you can ride or walk for miles through the bush around here, on beautiful sandy tracks, surrounded only by giant Eucalypts and the occasional sound of wallabies crashing through the undergrowth, and black cockatoos moaning and squawking from the tree tops.
The trails were cut many years ago as Optus and Telstra laid their underground cables along the coast and through the surrounding bush.
After visiting Basheer Graphic Books in Singapore last week, I was reminded how fantastic it is to browse a great bookshop.
Basheer's specialises in design, architecture and art books: which were stacked floor to ceiling in room after room. I managed to restrain myself enough to reluctantly leave clutching only one book and a copy of their little in-house newspaper.
Of course we need to buy e-books online, but for everything else please support real bookstores before they vanish completely. https://www.facebook.com/BasheerGraphic
It is almost a shame to be leaving winter behind again for another year. No more leaves lying thick on soggy paths. No more evening picnics at Wategoes Beach where the sand is quiet due to the water being a little too cold to dip into. No more long nights and short days, no more hearty soups and socks and boots. At the most I'll probably only see a hundred winters in my life. Sorry to see it go, but glad for a spring and a summer. I'll be glad to see the Water Dragon that lives in our backyard wake from its long winter sleep. I'll be glad when the mangoes start to take shape on the tree at our neighbours place: which hangs over our fence. I'll be glad for long distance ocean swims, tan lines and sunglasses. I'll be glad that I probably have a hundred summers.
Photos and text by me www.davehickson.net
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