Author Archives: polycentrica

About polycentrica

I'm a visual artist and freelance arts writer based in Brisbane, Australia and Brooklyn, NY.

Convolution – A Woven Sculptural Installation – Works by Anaheke Metua and Casselle Mountford at Redland Art Gallery 6 July – 17 August

casselle2

Casselle Mountford, Convolution 2014, detail, pith cane, variable dimensions 

 

enmeshed

Anaheke Metua, Enmeshed 2014Palm inflorescence, approx. 101x800x500cm

 

Redland Art Gallery – 6 July – 17 August

 

Throughout time, weaving has taken form in the humblest of materials as well as the most refined wools and silks, and has helped to create hearth and home, or to conjure up empire, power and desire. When presented in a contemporary gallery context, as in Convolution: A Woven Sculptural Installation, the act of weaving – like all art making and artwork – can be considered as having become politicized by the very nature of making art for an open public forum. In the work of Anaheke Metua and Casselle Mountford, the ‘political’ has to do with creating in terms of community and interconnection with regard to all the choices they have made throughout their creative process.

 

Both Metua and Mountford have long worked with the discipline of weaving as their preferred medium, and have presented this installation in association with Lines in the Sand 2014, the annual ephemeral environmental arts festival held on North Stradbroke Island. They were greatly assisted curatorially by Pat Zuber, who has worked closely with Lines in the Sand as one of its founding organizers.

Convolution _low res_001

Convolution_low res_002

Convolution_low res_004

Convolution, installation images, photos courtesy Redland Gallery

As one of the most ancient of human technologies, weaving’s legacy of winding, twisting and interlacing lines of filament to create objects connects weaving to drawing. The foundations for Metua’s and Mountford’s weaving are the line and the hand. When looking at their work, one is reminded of the rhythm of artists’ hands, working and repeating the movements to build the piece from line, to plane, to volume, and the particular magic inherent in slowly transforming a simple, linear material into three-dimensional sculpture loaded with metaphor and meaning. Much like cross-hatching marks or contour lines in drawing, weaving – in the hands of these artists – is a medium at once honest, evident and direct while also mysterious in its ability to create the most amazingly inventive three-dimensional forms.

Both artists work with natural, plant-based materials like pith cane, palm inflorescence, spinifex, pandanus, wool, cotton and coconut fibre. Metua experiments with dismantled candy-coloured, plastic-coated copper wire in some pieces, but throughout the exhibition, a viewer is struck by the overwhelming sense of the organic in terms of both shape and colour. It’s not often that one enters a gallery and the words ‘soothing’, ‘calming’, ‘elegant’, and ‘beautiful’ come to mind with such speed and overall effect.

1

Casselle Mountford, Hufflepuff 2014Pith cane, 168×77 (diameter) cm

 

casselle

Casselle Mountford, Brown Cloud  2014, pith cane and wire, 45x40x40 cm

 

As Mountford has written, “My sculptures Hufflepuff, Hexapod, Infinity knot and Convolution could belong to the vegetal, plant or animal worlds… and convey a sense of mystery through their presence.” Hufflepuff 2014, airily suspended from the ceiling, through scale and shape evokes the body, yet its transparency and lightness coupled with the ephemerality of pith cane also invites thoughts of the transcendence of the body through formal abstraction. All of Mountford’s works in Convolution are minimal, essential and given to a discussion of symmetry and controlled flow. Another hanging sculpture, Brown Cloud Form 2014, is more solid in its presentation, but, like its title implies, is a further questioning of where solidity ends and the ethereal begins. This, in itself, is at the crux of Mountford’s aesthetic. Her constant balancing act between the solid and the flexible, the ephemeral and the statically stable — the evanescence and rebirth of endless cycles that work toward coalescence — mirrors all timeless natural processes here on Earth and throughout the cosmos.

 

anaheke2

Anaheke Metua, Curlicue 2014Palm inflorescence, nude and turmeric coloured raffia, variable dimensions.

anaheke

Anaheke Metua, Curlicue 2014, detail

 

2014-07-15 12.46.59

Anaheke Metua, Swallow 2013, palm inflorescence, recycled wire frame, raffia and banana bark, 40x55cm

 

 

2014-07-15 12.45.56

 

Anaheke Metua, Serpentine 2014, detail

 

In her artist’s statement Metua writes, “The art of weaving facilitates a deep and sentient stillness within me…” With her sculptures in Convolution, Metua has transformed that interconnected, immersive sentience into an investigation of many sculptural forms and materials, finding release in the restless joy and immediacy of play and experiment. Her exuberant sculpture, Curlicue, hugs the flat plane of the wall, curling back and forth with the bound, compressed energy plants use to grow through obstacles like bitumen and concrete. Her use of the curlicue echoes age-old decorative tropes that over time have been carved into marble, set in plaster and woven into gold. Yet in Metua’s sculpture, her use of plant fibres connects her to Nature, to the land, and to the teachers she says, “have shared their insight, understanding and relationship to the natural world through the rhythm of patterns that form by their hands.”

 

To offer some historical and political contrast, think of a medieval woven work such as The Apocalypse Tapestry from 15th century France. Without a doubt, the Tapestry is a far cry from Convolutions – but that’s my point. Both are produced through weaving and its ancient associations with community are at the core of bringing people together in shared association, either for the fabrication of the work, as in the Tapestry, or in a weaving circle as Metua and Mountford allude to in their sculptures. Yet each use of weaving and its effects are at opposite ends of the spectrum in terms of why the weaving is happening, and the same goes for the emotional and psychic impact of the finished work.

Tapisserie_de_l'apocalypse

 

The Tapestry of the Apocalypse, Angers France

 

Fall_of_Babylon_Angers_Tapestry

 

The Tapestry of the Apocalypse, detail

 

The Tapestry evokes power and fear (power’s constant companion) — as well as awe in the beauty of richly portrayed, overwhelming religious imagery deeply embedded in Western cultural stories that deem material wealth as reward, and suffering and death as punishment. Convolution speaks to other aspects of humanity and other cultures’ stories. Call these deep traditions Indigenous, natural, organic, ecology-minded, intuitive, life-affirming – the words in themselves signify only the beginning of what is so strongly communicated and embedded in Metua and Mountford’s work. And these words are surprisingly political these days.

 

 

 

 

QLDGOVTLOGO              RCC_Logo

 

 

 

 

“Tapisserie de l’apocalypse” by Kimon Berlin, user:Gribeco – Own work. Licensed under Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons – http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Tapisserie_de_l%27apocalypse.jpg#mediaviewer/File:Tapisserie_de_l%27apocalypse.jpg

The North Stradbroke Island Fires January 2014 – Environmental Forum with Dr Jan Aldenhoven

IMG10108

Typical Heathland pre January 2014 fires on North Stradbroke Island  Photo: Glen Caruthers

IMG14709-1

Typical Heathland immediately after January 2014 fires on North Stradbroke Island

Photo Jan Aldenhoven

 

These before and after shots of heathland on Straddie pretty much sum up the dramatic changes brought on by the fires in January 2014.

On the last day of Lines 2014 Dr Jan Aldenhoven, biologist, island resident (who has worked with the natural habitat on Straddie for many years) and internationally renowned wildlife filmmaker spoke before an audience of about thirty or forty people to update everyone on details of what had happened during the fires and how the island and its nonhuman inhabitants were faring.

 

c78d3b2e-8df3-4397-9054-26b579564d7a_640_222

Murray Fredericks, N Stradbroke Island 2014, digital pigment print, edition of 7, 100-284cm, Courtesy ArcOne Gallery, Melbourne

I found this photograph above from the Melbourne Art Fair’s website on Ocula. You can have a better look at http://ocula.com/art-galleries/arc-one-gallery/artworks/murray-fredericks/n-stradbroke-island/

Jan also works with students at Dunwich State School, visiting yearly to bring environmental projects into the school. In 2014 she worked with the kids about the fires. The posters that follow are from that project:

 

SONY DSC SONY DSC SONY DSC

 

What follows below are my notes from Jan’s talk:


Jan reported that once the immediate threat to the townships passed, more attention turned to what could be done for wildlife. Darren Burns, Joint Management Coordinator Quandamooka Yoolooburrabee Aboriginal Corporation, was concerned about how much koala habitat had been burnt, and identified one of the last areas in the south under threat. Dr Romane Cristescu (koala researcher on the island) got together all her koala tracking data locating where the animals were to be found in largest numbers. This helped support the case to save the area in the south of the island.

 

 

There were two helicopters dumping water on the fires, but helicopters can’t put out fires — you still need a ground crew.

Pretty quickly after the fire, teams went out in search for wildlife. There wasn’t much to find. The reality is that most animals and insects were incinerated.

Control Centre was at the Dunwich Resilience Centre. It seemed like a war room.

There were helicopters crisscrossing the island mapping exactly where the fire was heading and sending that intelligence back to the Control Centre. All the agencies involved were all working together. The idea that any one agency would hold sway over the decision-making process was not going to happen because ultimately Incident Control makes the decisions —  everyone is accountable.

The debriefs afterwards were excellent.

Humans first, property second, environment third – this is the hierarchy for what to save.  Sometimes environment and cultural sites are deemed more valuable than certain property.

You can learn something from the land after it’s been burned – the rhythm of the country speaking. Fire is a part of the bush and certainly Aboriginal burning has been a very significant part of Australian diversity for thousands of years. On Straddie, Aboriginal occupation began twenty thousand years ago.

In a scene like this there are two kinds of trunks. Scribbly gums reflect the heat and don’t burn. The other trees have a fibrous bark which chars on the outside only to a few millimetres and the heartwood is safe.

When a fire has gone through, the tree sends hormonal messages through its sap — so the tree can send out buds to regenerate and get energy again. Then the trees can reform a canopy.

Other plants have underground tubers. They don’t have to wait for seeds to germinate: they can get going right away.

Lillipilli are regenerating from underground. In other places, away from the island, they rely more on regeneration from seed. So it seems like plants can develop local adaptations to deal with different situations.

Grass trees get going really quickly. They must be making a very good contribution to holding down the sandy soil.

A lot of eucalypts — the trunks are too thin and they burn but they’ve got underground storage units and they sprout from that. There’s almost more tree underground than above. You only get that mallee form when it’s on a windsheared harsh area – this is where this happens.

Banksia cone – it has very hard capsules – this plant almost encourages fire.  The heat from the fire causes the seeds to open and drop the seeds. We have lots of small banksia sprouting all around the island.

Big tree ferns have not regenerated.

The ferns were totally crisp and they are coming back – Darren knew they would.


At the moment there is a lot of work going on between agencies to develop good protocols for fire management and work with the Aboriginal community to gain knowledge.

 

On Straddie we have a type of Rainforest that is quite rare. It has to occur within 2 kilometres of the sea to meet a particular classification. Ours is one of the last stands of it in South Queensland. I’m itching to get back there and have a look. It’s not somewhere the public can just go to and you have to go on foot. Maybe there are trees that regenerate in some other way like we’ve learned about the lillipilli. Generally rainforests don’t like fire, but its hard to believe this stand hasn’t experienced fire before.

Even though the fires were extremely bad, we’d had two years of good rain leading up to them. So the peat in the swamps didn’t burn. If the peat is dry it can burn for months which is bad for the swamp. Swamps can have peat many metres thick.

 

Fire opens up possibilities for plants and they take advantage of it. Also a succession of birds take advantage of new situations.

Ferns were completely gone and yet they came up almost immediately.

The frogs were taking on darker colours – to meld into fire colours.

Broken-off tree trunks and branches became homes for other animals.

There are really good signs that we have orchids coming up.

After the fires in Amity a couple of years ago we observed some of the best flowering I’ve ever seen.

As for koalas – we still don’t know how many we have on the island. There were many that were burned and the swamps that they lived in. Koalas haven’t come back to all the places they once were.

 

 

Matthew Burns, Quandamooka Traditional Owner, Talks About Culture, History and Quandamooka Way of Life on Minjerribah

DSCF8249

 

Using the objects and artefacts he’d brought with him, Matt Burns, Traditional Owner, spoke to us at length about Quandamooka culture on the island. The Quandamooka presence on Stradbroke Island has been carbon-dated to have begun over twenty thousand years ago.

 

DSCF8241

The mix on Matt’s table is so great – everything from a shield, a coolamon, a nulla nulla, boomerangs, grass skirt, dugong tusks (and a miniature Torres Strait Island drum carved from a dugong tusk with a snakeskin top), dugong oil, fishing gear, and fire making gear.

 

DSCF8273

Every year at Lines, he brings new ideas, information and objects to talk about. Basically, he says, his job is to educate white people about his heritage.

He described the scarification practices of the Quandamooka – with men having nineteen scars across their chest to mark them and 2 ‘wings’ – scarification lines – on their back and 2 lines on their legs, under their knees – if they were fully-initiated warriors. “This was attractive to the women.”

 

DSCF8274

Grass skirts were worn by both women and men. The dugong tusks were used for trade. The miniature Torres Strait Island drum is carved from dugong tusk into the shape of the traditional Torres Strait Island drum, and would function as an amulet or perhaps a toy.

 

DSCF8253

Matt plays the didgeridoo, which hails from Arnhem Land in the Northern Territory, not Queensland. White ants hollow out the eucalypt branch and beeswax is applied to the mouth end to form a seal. For readers outside of Australia, the didgeridoo has been adopted here as a national musical instrument, maybe not unlike the guitar in Spain, or the harp in Ireland. The sound of the didge goes right into you with its airy, deep, throaty vibration.

 

DSCF8260

Matt looks on while two strapping lads try their hand at traditional methods of fire making.

 

DSCF8261

 

DSCF8263

 

Matt steps in.

 

 

DSCF8266 DSCF8264

And the smoke starts to build.

DSCF8265

And build.

DSCF8268

A bit of breath to coax the flame.

DSCF8269

Swinging the coir to ignite with lots of oxygen.

DSCF8270

 

DSCF8271

And there’s the fire.

DSCF8255

 

 

DSCF8275

 

With lots of follow-up questions afterwards. Matt is really generous with his information and time and the crowd eats it up.

Quandamooka – “Welcome to Country”

Lines 2014 WEB-9740

Photo by Jo Ellis

Uncle Bob Anderson OAM, Quandamooka Elder welcomes everyone to Quandamooka country and officially opens the festival. He is accompanied by Craig Ogilvie Councillor for Cleveland and Stradbroke Island and Jo Kaspari, Lines 2014 lead organizer.

Uncle Bob spoke to the crowd and read from the book History Life and Times of Robert Anderson, Gheebelum, Ngugi, Mulgumpin Community and Personal History of a Ngugi Elder of Mulgumpin in Quandamooka, South East Queensland, Australia by Eve Christine Peacock.

Uncle Bob said, “This land will always embrace people of good will and spirit, and went on to read from the Acknowledgements he wrote for the book:

“The vision of my country, the way I view or see my country, the way I talk or sing up my country, the way I talk of the stories of my country and talk about my Elders and Ancestors, this is my cultural heritage. The way I call their names as I walk the sacred places of my country and the way I remember their brave deeds on my land is my cultural heritage. My spiritual connection with the land is my cultural heritage. All these things are a part of my cultural heritage.

To walk my country, to gather the shell fish from the ocean beaches and the bay side beaches, is part of my cultural heritage. To see the changing nature of the flora with the seasons, to gather the wild flowers and to eat the berries and fruits of my country, reminds me of my mother and her connection to this my cultural heritage. To observe the birds, their migratory flight patterns, and nesting habitats, to understand how their presence fertilises, pollinates and regenerates the plant growth; how they herald the arrival of the deep-sea mullet, the whales and other sea inhabitants, for seasonal sustenance. This is the cultural heritage of my country.

To be with my family and community people walking the country together, making that strong spiritual connection with the land is my cultural heritage. To continue to walk the bora ground and practice my cultural rights and responsibilities, as well as acknowledge the importance of this continuation on my country, is my cultural heritage.

If we do not have access to our land, we are denied the right to maintain our practices that protect, preserve and nurture our land and our cultural heritage.”

Councillor Ogilvie – who counts four generations of his family having lived on Straddie – said that, “The Lines in the Sand Festival makes you appreciate even more what is everyday here on the island. The festival takes what is everyday and makes it sublime. Some of the best times I’ve spent on Stradbroke Island have been part of Lines in the Sand.”

 

 

 

Lines 2014 – Artwork Along the Gorge Walk

2014-06-27 16.12.52

 

Lisa Behan Pandanus People

 

DSCF8232

Casselle Mountford Tree Weavings (detail)

 

 

 

DSCF8230

DSCF8228

DSCF8229

Casselle Mountford Tree Weavings (details)

2014-06-29 11.41.04

Casselle Mountford

 

2014-06-27 16.44.40

 

Virginia Jones Untitled

2014-06-27 16.45.09

Virgina Jones Untitled (detail)

 

2014-06-27 15.58.27

 

Jennie Truman Dancers on the Hill 

2014-06-27 15.59.10

Jennie Truman Dancers on the Hill (detail)

 

The walk around the gorges at Point Lookout lasts about half an hour if you take it fast. But if you take your time and look – the path offers the sights of migrating whales, dolphins coursing up and over the surf, and huge mantas and turtles closer to shore.

DSCF8224

View from South Gorge

 

For Lines 2014, five artists contributed ephemeral environmental works that will last long enough to delight viewers during the festival and for a while afterwards, eventually decaying and returning to the soil or sea.

For the artists, working this way presents a set of challenges unlike creating a commodity, or for that matter, for any indoor purpose — be it painting, sculpture, video — you name it. Using found materials from the landscape or bringing ephemeral materials to the site is very different than making an oil painting that will last for centuries, or an installation that is exhibited for a month or two (but that must stand up to the physical stresses that public exhibition implies).

That being said, the opportunity for an artist to create out of doors, with an audience at hand, and permission to work within the public landscape is not usually so generously given. Particularly with the carte blanche offered by Lines and the Straddie community.

Ephemeral environmental art is meant to decay, and meant to be touched and viewed within the landscape. It’s a bit “rough and tumble”. It’s meant to connect nature to culture and vice versa, without necessarily championing one over the other. And it’s challenging to the artist because, well, how can you possibly compete with nature’s beauty, intelligence and design values? Impossible!

For Tricia Dobson, an artist who lives on neighbouring Russell Island, working out of doors for her first experience making art within the landscape seemed daunting at first, “almost as if I had to rediscover my muscles in order to work.” Trish usually paints and weaves, and so it makes sense that her work Untitled Tree Drawings uses both a graphic line and compositional effects to delve into the landscape and up the hill into receding space, creating depth, but still subtly echoing the size and scale of the branches, ground cover and leaves of the hillside.

 

 

DSCF8225

Tricia Dobson at work

DSCF8301

Tricia Dobson Untitled (Tree Drawings) detail

DSCF8309

Tricia Dobson, Untitled Tree Drawings (detail)

 

An artist like Casselle Mountford will work her magic weavings on site, up in the trees, and interact with the gesture and solidity of the trees as she weaves, calling on the viewer to consider formal concepts like transparency, shape, volume, colour, texture and scale, but also more affective topics such as where beings and borders begin and end, elements of organic form that call up presences like starfish, worms, bundled babies, and how the human-made interacts with the environment visually – and what is ‘natural’.

Casselle’s work will be exhibited starting Friday 4 July at the Redland City Art Gallery, as part of the show Convolutions, together with the work of Anaheke Metua, another artist working with Lines in the Sand 2014.

Virginia Jones’ clay works are most often shown outside, in the landscape, and are always meant to return to the soil. Her installation for Lines 2014, Untitled, is made from unfired clay and ilmenite, an ore found on Stradbroke Island that’s mined for a number of uses. Ilmenite is also a substance of spiritual value for the Quandamooka, and Virginia has received the sand from Craig Tapp, a Traditional Owner on the island.

Jones’ sculptures echo Zen Buddhist ideas of transience and simplicity. And there’s a sensual, tactile quality to what she makes that is definitely wabi sabi. She says that she’d like to remake this installation again and enlarge the scale to be big enough for a person to curl up inside the ‘bowls’.

Lisa Behan is a painter and sculptor, and has served as coordinator of the artists in residence for Lines 2014. She has installed groupings of Pandanus People all along the Gorge Walk for this year’s Lines, and her work this year – with its figurative, off-the cuff comic slant – relates more to her paintings than the installations she has previously created on the Gorge Walk. While the pandanus figures are very simple, they’re also elegantly and seamlessly installed, and kind of hilarious. There’s more than a hint of Dada and Surrealism here – similar to her paintings – and beautifully played here as a visual pun on ‘the figure in the landscape’.

Jennie Truman has responded to the flowing gestural rhythm and skirt-like roots of pandanus trees in her Dancers on the Hill to also create figures in the landscape, but on a much different scale, transforming  entire trees into flirty, fabulous, sexy dancers. It would be great to see how she would work the same transformation for male dancers ( ;    Jennie lives on the Island and owns the Drift Gallery at Point Lookout. Her keen eye for detail and the beautiful care with which she has created her figures is both intimate and sensitive to the way things look and are read by the eye – whether she uses banksia pods for ‘jewelry’ or gum leaves for ‘hair’.

DSCF8227

Matt and Nick view the art in style.

 

 

 

 

Lines in the Sand 2014 — Hot Island — Nature’s Deep Intelligence

2014-06-24 15.11.32Leaving the mainland for North Stradbroke Island and Lines in the Sand 2014

 

 

Always a welcome change of energies, boarding the Big Red Cat for the ride across the bay to Straddie.

If I’ve been super caught up in the day-to-day stuff back at home, the transformation from ‘head down and get the job done’ to ‘ahhhh I know I’m going to have an incredible, beautiful, eye-filling immersion in Straddie’s natural awesomeness’ can seem more or less possible — but I’m deep down sure I’ll be reconnecting to nature.

 

2014-06-24 15.36.02

 

Beautiful wintry sky – Island approaches

 

That’s what’s so important about Straddie – and why everyone ‘deep down’ has come to rely on this special place as a source of truth. A bumper sticker I saw coming over proclaimed something like “Stradbroke – Drama Island 2014” and I couldn’t say it better myself: January’s fires lasted over two weeks and ravaged over 16,200 hectares of land; there’s continued political wrangling over mining company Sibelco’s influence in the 2012 election; and Native Title holders’ ongoing efforts to maintain the strength of their hard won legal status (granted in 2011) all combine to make North Stradbroke Island a proving ground for environmental, social and cultural issues in Australia and around the globe.

Make no mistake about it — what happens here has great implications everywhere.

 

2014-06-24 16.00.08

Quick shot from the car window – Signs of fire and regrowth since January

 

 

2014-06-24 16.03.13

Nothing like a gum tree for awakening that sense of Nature’s deep intelligence.

 

I’m here because I wouldn’t miss Lines for the world, and also because of a generous grant from the Redland City Council. They’re very supportive of Lines in the Sand.

And for good reason — Lines offers a meeting of Settler and Indigenous cultures through creativity, conversation, expert information on topics like caring for country – traditional Quandamooka ways, as well as contemporary Scientific ways – and authentic gratitude for the opportunity to share this incredible place with its Traditional Owners.

Artists in residence work in the landscape along the Gorge Walk to form a dialogue with the land and with all who come to see and experience their ephemeral environmental art. Workshops offer families time to be in Nature and share the experience together.

Please click the “Follow” button at the end of the post if you’d like to be kept up to date with all that’s happening here starting today and through the weekend. Lot’s to come!

Check out the Lines in the Sand 2014 festival website for general and program info – http://www.linesinthesand.com.au/

And the festival’s facebook page – https://www.facebook.com/pages/Lines-in-the-Sand-North-Stradbroke-Island-LTD/348402065192385

 

 

 

 

 

 

Screen shot 2014-06-26 at 9.35.21 AM