Wednesday, June 25, 2014

In Conversation: Mic Eales

We had an amazing turn out for the launch of Re-writing the Image, and after all of our lovely visitors had gone home, I went for a walk around the empty gallery. I had my own responses and thoughts about each of the artist’s works, but I wanted to know more. I was hungry for more meaning and who better to ask than the artists themselves. This is the first in a series of interviews with the artists of Re-writing the Image.

3000 (2014), performance piece, dimensions variable, performed 17/06/2014, Copyright courtesy of the artist.

Mic Eales is an installation artist based on a small farm in northern NSW who has just completed his visual arts based PhD titled, Different Voice Different Perspective: An arts-based and evocative research response to original voice narratives of suicide. As an art-based researcher with a history of self-harm and suicide, his aim is to consciously explore some of the difficult questions inherent within the phenomena of suicide by helping to unwrap personal narratives in a sensitive way.

Paradoxical Spiral (2012), mixed media, dimensions variable, Copyright courtesy of the artist.

Tell us about yourself, where are you from?
MIC EALES: The easiest way to describe myself is that on the outside, I am an old guy, but the inner me is someone who still resists growing up - I am a big kid at heart. My personal space is very important to me which is one of the reasons that my lovely wife and I live on a small farm in the Northern Rivers region of NSW. We share our property with an assortment of wildlife, several chooks and grow a few vegy’s. We visit our 2 grandchildren whenever we can - even though they exhaust me make me feel like an old ….

How would you describe your work? What materials do you use?
Essentially I see myself as a storyteller so I use whatever materials I feel best conveys the story that I am endeavoring to portray or express. My work is highly layered and symbolic. I originally trained as a potter/ceramist back in the early 80’s where I began combining clay and natural fibres. After a 12 year break I returned to art making and developed a strong interest in bronze casting and handmade paper-making at Southern Cross University. I am very much a mixed media artist. 

3000 (2014), performance piece, dimensions variable, performed 17/06/2014, Copyright courtesy of the artist.

What’s your favourite word? What does it mean and why do you like it?
Serendipitous - occurring or discovered by chance in a happy or beneficial way - fortuitous. Most, if not all of my artworks have involved a sense of serendipity at some point of their creation. Where else does inspiration come from? Paradoxical spiral came into being through the picking up of a babies booty and a spiraling tattoo - go figure!!

If you could collaborate with any other artist, who would it be and why?
Most of my works are collaborations. Paradoxical spiral is a collaboration with poet Jessica Raschke. Jessica and I are currently collaborating on another project together. Joesph Beuys would be fun to collaborate with but then again I am sure that he may have channeled through me once or twice before.

What inspires you?
Nature, people, babies booties and spiraling tattoo’s - inspiration is all around, we just have to open our eyes to it.

When you’re creating art, do you listen to music or work in silence? If so, what is the soundtrack to your creativity?
My studio overlooks a large dam at the back of our property so I generally listen to the noises of the wildlife, I talk to myself a lot and talk to the various creatures that inevitably visit my open air studio.

What do you think people will take away from seeing your work?
Storytelling in whatever form is a deeply human activity that can lead to shared knowledge and understanding. One of the major objectives of Paradoxical spiral, my performance piece and for that matter most of my artistic work, is to find ways that can invite new meaning making around the issue of suicide (or trauma in general), to develop empathy for the suicidal mind and to engage with diverse audiences to help them better understand their own relationship with the issue of suicide/trauma. That said, people will I hope, create their own meanings though inner dialogue and transform their sense and interaction with the work into their own stories.

Where can people find out more about your work?

What’s next for you, any big projects coming up?
Over the next few months I will be carrying out several more performance pieces (Perth and Brisbane) and using the resulting scrolls to create a series of Artist Books. As most of my work revolves around the issue of suicide from a lived expertise perspective I am now very heavily involved with Suicide Prevention Australia. Apart from my collaboration with Jessica Raschke I am hoping to get back into doing some bronze casting in the near future.

What is one piece of advice you would give to an aspiring artist?
Be passionate and trust your intuition (that’s two).

Monday, June 23, 2014

In Conversation ... Margot Westhorpe

We recently took a work experience student on board here at THG, a lovely young man named Michael from Camberwell Grammar. With the ongoing success of Margot's current exhibition at the Quest Hawthorn Community Project Wall we asked Michael to put some questions to Margot in an effort to gain some further insight into her work. The photographs of her art were taken by Michael as well. Top job young man!

How would you describe your work, what are the major themes present?
I would like to describe my work as engaging the viewer in the complex understanding of the ways in which we construct our identities. Identity is a social construct. Who we are and the ways we understand ourselves, are determined by the society in which we live and the cultural patterns we adopt. While gender and ethnicity shape who we are, so does our religion, language and socio economic status. 

As we are shaped and indeed fashion our own identities, we draw on objects from the world around us to indicate to others who we are. These outward displays of identity extend to the ways in which we “decorate” our homes as well as ourselves. In fostering and projecting the external nature of our identities, icons such as recognisable brands or established markers allow others to know us. Now and then, however, the external traits which have been embraced may hide the true self.

How do you use the materials that you use to express these themes?
The works presented in this exhibition use a variety of materials in order to express my ideas related to identity and the ways in which we display our identities to others. The broken and delicate remains of fine bone china is used in order to depict the ways in which women of the 20th century self identified and subsequently were identified by others. Their socio economic status was recognised in the delicate tea sets and china they possessed. Similarly, the embroideries that they completed reflected their accomplishments in the sphere in which women dominated - the home - and thus "allowed" them to have the identity of "female". In addition, the religious icons placed "on their walls" confirmed who they were to others.

In order to reference the shared language of the times, I have backgrounded many of the works with the deconstructed pages of the celebrated encyclopaedias of my childhood. In attaching labels to the various media, I have endeavoured to link and bring together what may seem disparate images and ideas. These labels also reflect the ways in which we stereotype individuals; labelling them as the “owner” of a particular and immutable identity.

What does combining 2 dimensional and 3 dimensional art work allow you to express that just one of the two may not?
In adopting mixed media I aim to replicate the complexity of our lives and our identities. The sources and origins of an individual's identities are multiple and continually changing. The "sculpting" of a work is an attempt to enhance the metaphor of the multiple.

Who or what are some of your influences or inspirations?
The work of the great conceptual artists of the 20th century has influenced the way I imagine and present my ideas and thoughts.

What is your work practice like, do you work from a studio or from home? 
My work practice is both intense and interrupted. Once an initial idea is conceptualised I begin the more intensive investigation of its possibilities and elaboration through the creative process. It is not uncommon for a “finished” piece to be discarded because it does not meet my expectations of conveying the current overall theme or notion that I am exploring.

I work in a small studio space at home which offers me the freedom of independence and flexibility. 

What achievements are you most proud of to date? 
Having the Town Hall Gallery accept my proposal and exhibit this group of works has been very exciting.

I am particularly proud of completing a PhD thesis on Chinese Identity. It is from this work that my interest in the ways we construct our identities originates.

What do you like best about what you do?
Being able to explore ideas and work towards expressing them in an imaginative and creative way is exhilarating.

Thursday, June 19, 2014

Joy writ large

With neon lights buzzing, cameras flashing and glasses clinking we ushered in the beginning of our fourth exhibition for 2014 - 'Re-writing the Image: Text as Art'. We've been so pleased with responses to the gallery and our events, having only just relaunched the spaces as part of the all new Hawthorn Arts Centre in late November. On the weekend before the launch of 'Re-writing the Image' we received our 5000th visitation and we're humbled and excited to see so many visitors through our new spaces.

All of our opening night photos are by the wonderful JIM LEE PHOTO (C) 2014
Mic Eales, one of our artists for this show, conducted a performance during the day of the opening, in which he wrote out sequential numbering from 1 through to 3000 on pianola scrolls. Mic has just completed his PhD thesis on the relationship of art to suicide. He printed his thesis on the pianola scrolls and the numbers represent the volume of suicides daily. While the work delves into areas of sadness and distress, it does so with a desire to raise awareness and bring a sense of hope and positivity through a process of hard work, discussion and appreciation of beauty. The performance was really well received and we're grateful to Mic for taking the time (many hours on the day) to bring this work to the gallery.

Mic Eales

We welcomed a whole bunch of new gallery visitors, coming along for the first visit, as long as a crowd of regulars who are growing in volume. It was great to see a cohort of Melbourne's wonderful gallery contingent along for the show, directors and managers from some of the great commercial galleries and artist-run-spaces of the city, as well as local artists and art-lovers. We have to thank the lovely Jim Lee of JIM LEE PHOTO for all his wonderful opening night photos seen here.

We have a series of public programs in place that run alongside the exhibition. The details are here on our site, or click here to go straight through. The programming includes a floor talk (June 21); the next installment in our Saturday Cinema Sessions showing 'Sign Painters' (July 12); a night of poetry and spoken word with some of Melbourne's best known poets plus an open mic (July 18); and a collaging workshop with Sayraphim Lothian (July 26). 

The show runs until 10 August so come in out of the chilly Melbourne winter and enjoy the consistency of gallery climate controlled heating while you sample the delights of the ten international, interstate and local artists we have on show. Oh, and don't forget to pick up an exhibition catalogue - which comes complete with a creative writing response produced by our very own in-house poet, Marion Piper.

We look forward to seeing you soon!

Monday, June 16, 2014

A word tells a thousand pictures

Tomorrow is launch day for 'Re-writing the Image: Text as Art' and now that all the paintings are hung, the neon is lit, the vinyl is adhered and the bricks have been laid (yes, that's right, bricks) we are super excited to celebrate the show. Tuesday 17 June is the big day!

Featuring artists from Austria, the US and around Australia, there is humour, thoughtful provocation and delicate beauty throughout the galleries. There is sculpture, artist books, painting, drawing, photography and installations to feast your eyes and your minds on. 

These are the artists we have pulled together: 

Kristin McIver, Martin Smith, David Freney-Mills, Meg Hitchcock (USA), Anatol Knotek (Austria), Kylie Stillman, Janine Polak (USA), Mic Eales, Angela Cavalieri, Benjamin Forster 

For a sneak preview of the show ahead of the launch, check out our video below. We warmly invite you to the opening itself, a catered affair with food and drinks, and an opportunity to mingle with the artists and our art-loving crowd. It all kicks off from 6pm and goes through to 8pm.We're also very pleased to have Mic Eales doing a performance work throughout the day and on into the opening.

See you soon in the galleries!

Saturday, June 14, 2014

Off the wall and off the hook

The opening of the Margot Westhorpe show was a smash hit with our viewing audience. The Quest Hawthorn Community Project Wall is proving to be a wonderful platform for unearthing and exposing the high quality artistic talents of Boroondara. We had a bit of a buying rush on the artworks, which is a great outcome for Margot and a true vindication of her artistic talents.

Margot's artwork is driven by an exploration of identity and touches on aspects of domesticity and gender. Predominantly collage in nature, with paintings in the mix as well, there is a keen sense of a focused and driven pursuit of a refined language. The amount of time required in the creation of some of the works charges them with a certain energy that is drawing viewers in for closer inspections.

'On the Wall' will run until 28th June and is open 7 days a week. Again, we thank our wonderful partners at Quest Hawthorn for their continued support of the artists and this important gallery space. And a big congratulations to Boroondara local artist Margot Westhorpe for a cracking show!

Tuesday, June 3, 2014

On the Wall, at the wall

This month Margot Westhorpe graces the Quest Hawthorn Community Project Wall with her fabulous body of work titled, 'On the Wall'Working with her ongoing interest in identity, Margot delivers a solo show of rich depth and refined execution. In an exploration of ethnicity and gender, and its influence on identity through our possessions, Margot plays with the signifiers we display on our walls.

Drawing from sources associated with the home - flying ducks on the wall, bookshelves of encyclopaedia, porcelain china -  Margot deftly reworks and reimagines the hidden meanings and forms inherent in these familiar objects. The show has only just been open to the public from this morning and responses are already very positive, including the first sale of a work before lunch.

The exhibition launches, thanks to our generous sponsor Quest Hawthorn, this Saturday (7 June) from 2.00 to 4.00pm. You're warmly invited to help celebrate this great show with a glass of wine or beer and a nibble to eat. Warm your soul on a wintery Saturday afternoon and also catch a glimpse of the last weekend showing in the main galleries for 'The Act of Seeing'.