A visit to Vienna includes visiting exhibitions, wondering through the old streets, eating at various plant based venues and searching for a strong enough coffee to continue the next day. The film festival is during my visit, I watch Nils Frahm whilst I work my way through the craft beer on offer.
A welcome break from the heat of the Catalan mountains, Vienna is a pleasant 28 degrees with cloud and a little rain, perfect conditions to walk non-stop for 4 days. The whole city has a cultured air, which is only intensified when reaching the MQ (Museum Quarter). The architecture (Mumok especially) and socially engaging seating within the courtyard creates such a wonderfully relaxed environment where I could spend hours contemplating.
A few minutes from my accommodation is the Belvedere 21 gallery which houses the touring show by Rachel Whiteread. A retrospective spanning 30 years presents moments both of seriousness and playfulness; of large scale, stark monochrome contrast and of smaller scale, colourful palette compositions. Works with a soul, with a story yet no obvious narrative, curated successfully in a single space. A strong connection lies between artist and place, with Whiteread’s previously designed Holocaust Monument in the Jewish Quarter of the City.
The process cycle/circle has been an experiment within the Block_Chain the Power of Two project; firstly drawing cracks using charcoal on paper, then burning these drawings, the ashes saved and used to create paint. The ash paint like beauty cream or mask, I applied it to my face, the lower half as if silencing me, controlling my voice. read more »
Horizontal connections with Block_II Karen and Ash:
Hi Karen and Ash, your words back and forth are resonating with me, the very idea that as an artist, one is ‘dissenting by being’. That is what I am exploring, being… ‘outside the system’, ‘off the grid’ (no mains electricity – rainwater collection – compost toilets – burning olive wood for heating), ‘outside the norm’ ‘perverse’ – in the margins, that is my dissent. My making of work is part of the exploration but the ‘being dissents’. I’ve really enjoyed following your journey. With dissent, foggy mountains of Catalunya.’
I leave an image from a previous installation ‘Con-nec-ted’ 2014, comprising volcanic rocks on the island of Jeju, South Korea. Signed by the artist in red.
After forecast heavy rain for next couple days (always welcome as is so rare) spent morning preparing. Choosing wood to split, seeking out pieces with best cracks, lend themselves to splitting. Olive wood been seasoning years, since pruning trees heavily to re-cultivate farm. Now have few days wood for heating. Smell always gets me… freshly split olive and pine emit intense odour, comforting.
1 oz Ash
1 oz Distilled Water
1 drop White Vinegar
Filter the Ashes to remove all debris left from the fire (including any matchsticks)
Mix Ash with Distilled Water
Add Vinegar and mix well
Keep in sealed glass jar until required…
I took the drawings out on to the land today and set fire to them… ruining them, destroying the work I have produced so far on the Block Chain project. I have saved the ashes in a jar and want to use them somehow to progress this further. I documented the process and the resulting imagery offers beauty and perfection out of my control. As the flames engulf the drawings, the mundane A4 paper becomes a silky, sensuous material. Liberated by the non-existent artwork, there’s no need to continue the quest for the perfect drawing on the golden section line. The ashes are beyond weightless.
After a Sunday morning of pointing old stone walls (filling in the cracks) here on the studio renovation, I spent the rest of the afternoon drawing from the photos of the ‘found’ cracks from the previous day.
These drawings are on A4 paper, folded to find the golden section line on each sheet, then creased along this line.
Continuing the BlockChain The Power of Two project:
In response to Denise’s idea of revisiting the wall that ‘blemished’ her face, I went wandering this morning to the local village and on my way took photos of all the sites of imperfection I encountered. Whilst Denise is intending to conceal/hide the blemish on the wall, I wanted to reveal the imperfections I found. I am enjoying the play with the fruitless attempts to perfect and the finding of beauty within the imperfect, reducing the quest to an obsolete, as Denise says.
Block Chain The Power of Two – Dissent Art Collaboration January 2018
This week saw the start of Block_III of the Block-Chain The Power of Two project with Chapel Arts Studios. I am currently researching in more detail the idea of unattainable perfection and the act of ruining works under the hashtag #blockchaindissentart
This has begun by recording details of decay, aging and imperfections around me, within the natural and built environment. So far, this has included washing soil to remove cracks, polishing freshly plastered walls and boarding out studio spaces.
‘Nature is us all in the end’… Olive trees, Fig trees, Skulls & Bones, Plants, Skin, Death, Decay, Growth… This quest for an unattainable perfection… cleaning, scrubbing, improving, making, remaking, attempting, controlling, ruining, reflecting… ‘we make things – in turn they remake us’… Working in this environment: sculpting, constructing, plastering – recording the imperfections, cracks and decay.
The photos above are taken in and around my studio – glass bottles, plaster, clay soil, dirt and dust, plants surviving with very little water, growing through cracks in the old, stone terraced walls, in contrast to the sharp, measured lines of drawing boards within a box like structure.
The clay soil is dry and cracking after a long dry winter and unusually warm temperatures, I started to wash the cracks and try to reattach the soil.
Fragility and the transient – immersing myself in the nature of this place, the fragility of plants yet their dogged determination and ability to continue to grow. Being this close to nature constantly reminds me of my transience. These trees have and will continue to out live me. I will do what I can while I am here to nourish, nurture and appreciate their fruit.
It is with some urgency that I write this blog.
Work and life in the valley here in the beautiful mountains of Catalunya is peaceful, inspirational and collaborative. I have had the privilege of welcoming volunteers within the workaway project from all over Europe and the rest of the world to help here on the farm with various creative projects, working collaboratively, sharing time, culture, opinions, experiences and skills.
The peace and tranquility of the valley offers space for the creative process. read more »
Pruning olive trees to keep warm this Christmas in a very foggy valley environment. read more »
What a week it’s been here in the valley. We’ve had the absolute pleasure of hosting volunteers from around the world to help harvest the olives here at Riba Rocks HQ.
They came from Italy, Ireland, Texas, Australia, the UK and Catalunya to help prepare, pick and press the wonderful fruit creating some of the best organic olive oil. read more »
This month I co-organised the 3rd annual Riba Rocks music and arts festival here on the finca with the rest of the team plus a fantastic group of volunteers. Both from the workaway scheme and students from London South Bank University, all volunteers worked collaboratively to make this event very special filled with live performances, art workshops and creative installations. read more »
The value of art ‘Con-nec-ted’, Jeju.
From your point of view please could you outline what the project involved.
The project involved a series of skill based workshops including body casting, charcoal making, plaster drawing and clay impression casting as well as live performances. It also involved a series of lectures around the concept of globalism, local versus global culture and environment and a focussed presentation on my practice and exhibition and commission history. read more »
What media do you consider to be your “main” media? Or are you very flexible in the usage of various media?
SM: I like to remain flexible and respond to the working environment with regards to media use. For example a previous residency in Cyprus, surrounded by cacti plants, led to pluck spikes from the plant to thread through my canvases. I try to respond to what exists in my natural environment and that will depend greatly on where I am in the world. read more »
Speech made in Arts Week, June, 2014, NLCS, Jeju.
“Many thanks to the musicians for that wonderful performance. As a practising artist, born in Southampton and now living and working in Spain, I have travelled to Korea for the first time to work here, with outstanding students. read more »
Interview by Hannah Johnson, BA Fine Art at De Montfort University
1) What do you want to express in your artwork? What do you want people to experience, learn or know from your work?
I want to try to communicate what it is to be in and of a body, a female body. I say ‘female’ and that suggests a gendered body. read more »
What are your interests and hobbies – what do you like discussing and doing?
When you say interests and hobbies it perhaps separates life into what you do for a living (money) and what you actually enjoy doing. I am in the very fortunate position of waking up every morning and doing what I am interested in and what could be considered my hobby/passion. read more »
What made you study feminist art?
It wasn’t a conscious decision to ‘study’ a specific area of my practice. It has been more a case of ‘I am who I am’ and my work reflects my experiences, emotions and dreams. I am a female artist who responds in a visual way, to things that provoke a strong reaction. read more »
Katie Weston, currently studying at Portsmouth University on a 3D degree course, contacted the artist stating, “I am so excited to hear of a feminist artist from somewhere so close to me as Southampton! read more »
It all seems to be making a lot more sense to me. The urgent need to create being fulfilled at present with the freedom, time and space to make work as and when I want/need to. I no longer have to time the making of work around other things read more »
My body is caught up in the symmetrical battle on these canvases. Please take away that mirror, reflection line, that Golden Section, perfection, I will never be. We are not perfect, nor beautiful, we are here, that’s enough. read more »
Reflecting on my year in Cyprus; the environment, plant life, animal life, development, consumption, landscape, my aim for the final show was to create a space that reflected my response to all of these physical attributes of the island. read more »
This all consuming, all devouring nature of human kind. In our attempt to live the perfect life, have the perfect body, the perfect house, possessions – we ruin this perfect world. So is this struggle between the skeletal and the sensual related to this? read more »
It’s as if everything that has been until now has disappeared and I have truly lost my ‘self’. ‘Affirmation’ was a complete purge of the system, how I felt about the world, where I lived, other people and myself – an honest and very public portrayal of my frustration and struggle read more »