Thursday, November 29, 2012

If you think it is better to try stealing the painting now, turn to page 16.

Temporary installation by Claire² outside The Ward Studios.
590 Newcastle Street, Leederville, WA.

Claire² were asked by Artsource to create temporary artwork to attract attention from the Newcastle/Loftus Street frontage of The Ward Studios for an open day held on the 25th of November. This work is to be on display for as long as it stays in place (depending on the durability of materials, weather and possible theft!)

This work includes large hand coloured grids, alphabetised movable location points, QR and Morse Code and a six metre vinyl digital print.

As in their previous “Txt Msg” project, for this work Claire² continues to explore coded language and utilise the digital aesthetic of pixilation and gridded networks while drawing comparisons to the patterns used in textile production. Hand coloured grid panels blend traditional embroidery sampler text/iconography with text based emoticons and the abbreviated language of internet slang.

The six metre vinyl digital print is layered with a map of the local area sourced from Google maps, a historical hand drawn map (courtesy of the City of Vincent Local History Centre) and a computer generated cross stitch pattern, based on the Leederville Google maps image.

A location pointer alphabet populates the garden, referencing the “pins” on Google maps. These location points are movable and we encourage people to change the arrangement of these points. So next time you are driving by feel free to stop and play with the red alphabet points.

Words by Claire² = Bushby + Canham

Claire² would like to acknowledge the generous support of Fitzgerald Photo Imaging, North Perth.

See more images on FB

Saturday, November 3, 2012

Dirty White Gold

The Cotton Film : Dirty White Gold | Crowdfunding trailer from Leah Borromeo on Vimeo.

Please support this film on Indian cotton farmer suicides and fashion - and find out when you bag a bargain, who pays for it?

Director/Presenter: Leah Borromeo
DoP: Jim Demuth
Additional camera: Leah Borromeo
Graphics: Barnbrook
Animation: John Dretzka
Art: Peter Kennard

A Dartmouth Films / Cotton Film Company production.

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Artsource Open Studios in November

Three studio complexes and over 60 visual artists Artsource are granting you a backstage pass when we host our Open Studios in November. This is the first time we will be unlocking not one, but three of our metro studio complexes, over three Sundays. A vibrant mix of emerging and established artist will invite you inside their creative habitats for you to absorb, peruse, buy works and learn the tools of a working artistic trade.

Sunday November 4 - Fremantle Studios 2-5pm

8 Philimore St, Fremantle

Artists opening up - Kate Campbell-Pope, Richard Coldicutt, Audrey Welch, Matt Scurfield, Kathrin Peters, Sebastian Befumo, Ian De Souza, Don Walters, Maria Hildrick, Jacinda Bayne, Rona Smith, Rebecca Baumann, Lucy Griggs, Elaine Bradley, Stephen Armistead & Lia McKnight, Simone Johnston, Andre Lipscombe, Bello Benischauer & Elisabeth M Eitelberger and Clare Detchon.

Sunday November 11 - Midland Studios 2-5pm

1 Old Great Northern Hwy, Midland

Artists opening up - Janet Pfeiffer, Libby Guj, Denise Brown, Gareme McCullagh, Beverly Illes, Cathy Swioklo, Melanie Diss, Sharon Dawes, Jennie Nayton, Elwyn Marren, Hellie Turner, Robert Dorizzi, Ben Mitchell, Julie Hein, Anna Gath, Jennie Newman, Vanessa Wallace and Maria Finnegan.

Sunday November 25 - 'The Ward' Leederville 2-5pm

590 Newcastle Street, Leederville

Artists opening up - Linus Andersson & Ruth Halbert, Tarsh Bates, Claire Bushby, Jo Darbyshire, Giovanni Di Dio, James Foley, Rina Franz, Tessa McOnie, Elisa Markes-Young, Brad Ladyman, Deborah Oakley, Kimberley Pace, Perdita Phillips, Elizabeth Marruffo, Josephine Pittman, Kristen Biven , Christopher Young, Steve Burge, Shane Piggot & Dean Butler and Daniel Giles.

Mark these dates in your calendar and don't miss this chance to meet artists in their working spaces and find out what inspires them to make art. We look forward to seeing you there!

Claire Bushby's studio at 'The Ward' by Eva Fernandez
Fremantle Studios by Eva Fernandez
FRONT Gallery at Midland Studios by Christophe Canato
Claire Bushby's studio at 'The Ward' by Eva Fernandez

via Artsource

Sunday, September 23, 2012


“When I was growing up, all the women in my house were using needles. I have always had a fascination with the needle, the magic power of the needle. The needle is used to repair damage. It’s a claim to forgiveness. It is never aggressive, it’s not a pin.” - Louise Bourgeois

Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Speaking with Chiara Adams aka Doublethink Design

This month Chiara Adams and I caught up over a cup of tea to chat about her boutique design studio Doublethink Design.

Bearamongbees: Can you tell us how Doublethink Design came about?

Chiara Adams: Well, about 5 or 6 years ago I started designing things for people. I’ve always had an interest in arts but I decided to get into design to actually… um, make some money. I was really into George Orwell at the time so I decided to use a phrase from his book, 1984.

Doublethink means to hold two opposing thoughts that contradict each other at the same time. I just kind of liked the wordplay of it, I like the idea that it could be read a lot of different ways, and you don’t have to know the reference get it. I’ve been working under that name for ages but I didn’t really take paid projects until 2009. I’ve done an array of different design work, mostly for local bands, album covers and gig posters, as well as some corporate and layout work, alongside various illustration projects.

BAB: What’s some of the bands you have worked with?

CA: Well, I’ve done album artwork for The Darlings, The Cannonels, Campbell Ellis and Betty’s Beach, and I’ve also done a lot of work for Michael Strong; he’s had heaps of different projects and I’ve done work for all of them, including Generals and Majors, the Ghost Anyway and his most recent stuff with the Disappointed. It’s a really great working relationship, as he always re-hires me I’ve been able to create an ongoing identity for each of the different projects. I’ve really enjoyed that work.

BAB: So each band has a consistent identity expressed through your design?

CA: Yeah, you can establish this linked style that you almost share with the artist. The conceptualisation process becomes collaborative. It’s an interesting way to approach projects that aren’t really associated with branding… you are still creating an identity - but in a different way.

BAB: Different from a corporate identity?

CA: Yeah, it’s giving them a voice or a mood. One of my biggest inspirations is Stanley Donwood, who has designed all of the Radiohead album artwork since The Bends. It’s been really interesting watching Donwood’s work evolve with them. He was sort of my earliest inspiration; he was the reason why I wanted to be a designer. I always wanted to do that as well, work with bands over their whole career.

BAB: Have you always been creative, in your childhood? Was art or design something that you always wanted to do?

CA: Yeah, when I was really little I wanted to be a cartoonist. That was the first thing I ever wanted to be, I really liked colouring in and I liked drawing a lot when I was a kid. I think I was attracted to cartoons because I saw that you didn’t have to be good at drawing (laughs). I really wanted to do stylised work. I also really liked reading and writing, maybe even more than drawing. I really liked words and language when I was growing up. I also studied music for a year, so I’ve always just done different creative things. It was only about 5 years ago that I started to get really serious about learning to draw well and when I realised I wanted to make it my profession.

BAB: And so you are doing a design course now?

CA: Yeah, I’m in the last year of my degree and will graduate with an Advanced Diploma in Graphic Design - you can choose to major in various fields; I specialise in Advertising and Web Design, and as an extra elective I’m doing Illustration.

BAB: I’ve seen you do a bit of band photography as well.

CA: Well, I’ve done a few photography projects for different people but it’s not my preferred medium. It’s not where I feel the most confident.

BAB: Is it something you do more for source material then?

CA: Yeah, I often do that. I always prefer to have my own source material, it’s easier to manipulate and you know where you stand – you’re not touching someone else’s work. I also think that as a freelancer you have to be able to do a lot of different things, so it’s usually good to diversify, but I don’t know that photography is something I want to take on in the future.

BAB: And, what about balancing your commercial work with personal work. Do they intersect or do you see them as separate practices?

CA: I actually feel like all my work is pretty personal.

BAB: I can see that in your work.

CA: Yeah, I feel like there is a lot of me in there. I guess it’s a bit different when you are responding to a tighter brief, but I still think there is a lot of my personality in my professional work. I’m just not sure how to describe it. Perhaps it comes down to the design process, which always starts with a conceptualisation and brainstorming session that can require a lot of reflection on your own experiences.

BAB: That must be a good feeling because some people I’ve spoken to say they feel like there is a split between what they do when responding to someone else’s brief as opposed to their own individual work.

CA: Recently, I’ve been trying hard to develop a strong style, in a way I felt like I didn’t have one previously. I felt like I could float between things and that I had a good enough eye to mimic this or that. I never really rooted myself down. I think recently I’ve been trying hard to develop my own voice and it has become stronger; it just comes out a bit more in everything I do.

I have a clearer idea of who I am as an artist now and I want my design work to be… I guess a bit on the arty side. I feel that designers can often become too influenced by trends, and their work can start to look generic. We all have our own voice and when we communicate that clearly, I think it gives our work more personality and vibrancy. I would like to see design work become a little more personalised.

BAB: Do you find that some commissioned projects surprise you? I mean, do you sometimes think “this is going to be boring” then it becomes more interesting as you go along?

CA: Yeah, I do get that, recently I was asked to design a brochure and when the job came in I just thought “here’s my pocket money”, just get the job done and get it out of the way. It was a big job, so it was exciting in that sense but I thought it was going to be boring… then I got into it, focussed, and had so much fun doing it. I think sometimes we forget about how fun the process can be until we are in the middle of it.

Often that surprise can come from the relationship you have with the client, sometimes I think a job won’t be very stimulating, but the client just has so much energy and they really know what they want, or they don’t know what they want and are willing to give you creative freedom, or to collaborate with you at a conceptual level. Sometimes that can just make the job a little more fun.

BAB: Have you had any nasties?

CA: Yeah (Laughs a lot). Sometimes a client will tell me I have complete creative freedom – and it’s a labour of love for me because of that freedom – then I show the final design to them and they say “Well, hang on a second…” Then the client will send back a list of exactly what they do want, and it’s completely different to what had been agreed upon in our initial briefing session.

BAB: So they wanted to be cool about it but they aren’t really.

CA: Yeah, and I think that’s the hardest part because you put in a lot of work and essentially you’ve finished a job, then it’s almost like doing a second job for them. It’s good that some of this stuff happened early on. It made me more aware of how clear you have to be with clients. It’s hard when you are starting out because you can’t be as selective and you’re not always sure of the boundaries. These days I’m a lot better with situations like that, at being assertive. You have to be clear, check in along the way, and get clients to sign off on things at every stage of the job so that they always know where they stand with you, and vice versa. You need to take responsibility for making the relationship as functional as possible from your end.

BAB: You are very prolific, there are so many different projects I see coming across on your blog and other places online, you have a web presence on quite a few social media sites and I wanted to ask how you see using the web in communicating to your audience, and how does the daily updating fit with your working process?

CA: Well, I guess it helps motivate me to keep going, having a platform that allows me to share, I guess that’s sort of part of the process. I like to be visible. I think it’s important to consistently put out work to maintain that visibility, and to build a relationship with your audience.

BAB: I suppose I see what you are doing as a public visual diary, is that how you see it?

CA: Yeah, my blog is a bit all over the place because I post stuff at different levels of completion, or sometimes they are complete but it’s just a little sketch and that’s all it will ever be. I’ll still post something even if it’s not polished or professional because I like to show different parts of myself.

BAB: And do you find the comments you get from followers useful? Or is it just the connection that’s important?

CA: Well, I have gone beyond just the feedback and struck up relationships with other artists online. I’ve found that really valuable, you can get a more in depth level of feedback and criticism. You can get a sense of who they are and where it’s coming from. Sometimes I specifically ask for feedback and that’s been good. It’s also nice just to see the instant reactions people have to my work. It gives you a fresh look at what you’re drawing, a chance to look at your piece through some else’s eyes.

BAB: I guess the reason I asked this question is because I find it really hard to post stuff online that’s in process, or even my sketches, I find that quite challenging. I’m almost protective of that part of my creative process (like it might disappear if someone sees it!) so I find it really fascinating that you have such an open process, and it’s something I really enjoy seeing.

CA: So do you think it’s nice when artists show what they are working on?

BAB: I do! And I don’t know why I’m so scared of it for myself

CA: I’ve always liked it, I love seeing peoples process.

BAB: Yeah, it’s interesting.

CA: I’m also bit of a Dadaist; I like art that is naïve and primitive, untrained work. I love seeing people’s doodles they do. Michael has this really strong style, it’s completely untrained and they’re not meant to be anything, but he’s created an entirely new world with this style, and I think everyone has that in them.

BAB: What about influences? You talked about Stanley Donwood earlier but what other influences do you have?

CA: I feel like everything is an influence, I like a lot of Dada and Surrealism. I like a lot of fine art, and I also look at a lot of contemporary illustration and design work. I just like so much of what I see! I’m a very visual person, but I’m also influenced by the books I’ve read and the music I’ve listened to.

BAB: I can relate to that, also I’m often influenced by what I don’t like. It’s all relevant.

CA: I don’t really seek it out too much at the moment. Sometimes it’s nice to take a step back and just create, y’know?

BAB: Yeah, it goes in cycles. Collecting and gathering, then you need to go back into your own space again.

CA: Yeah, I think I’ve been in my own space a lot lately.

BAB: What’s coming up for the rest of 2012?

CA: It’s my graduate year and we have a big grad show coming up. We’ll put together portfolios of our work and invite industry to come and see. We have to fundraise the entire show ourselves, and I’m on the organising committee. We’re working together under the name Area 57. We’ve got the grad show in November (28th and 29th).

We’ve also got a show coming up in September with On William, as a part of Popsicle. We’ll be exhibiting our work in a pop up shop for ten days. I’m really psyched about that. We want to do something really different and make it a space that you can really interact with, like an environment. We’ll be setting it up as a workspace and will actually create work while we are in there. We’ve been talking about creating a collaborative publication during our time there.

Tim Trouchet and I have also been talking about having a show together later this year.

BAB: What kind of work does he do?

CA: A little naïve, and street-art inspired. It’s really interesting. We often end up drawing together on the same piece of paper and creating new worlds together, so we thought it would be fun to sit down and do just that, then exhibit it.

I also won a place on a graphic design study tour of China that my college is offering, so I’ll be there from the 22nd of September until the 5th of October. It will be a fantastic opportunity to familiarise myself with design work from another culture, as well as making connections with other designers and manufacturers overseas.

And I’m just trying to get out of school; working towards my graduation and taking on whatever exciting projects come my way.

You can find out more about Doublethink Design at:

Monday, June 4, 2012

Speaking with Luisa Hansal, Sarah Jane Haywood & Pip Stafford: Hatched 2012

This month’s Speaking with is a little different from previous instalments in the series; rather than interviewing one Western Australian artist I have focused on a WA based annual survey exhibition. The Perth Institute of Contemporary Arts Hatched National Graduate Show.

An important element in the annual Perth arts scene and the only exhibition of its kind nationally, Hatched 2012 marks a particularly significant year since the exhibition is also celebrating its 21st birthday.

In 2004 I was selected to exhibit in Hatched so personally this exhibition has a special place in my heart, and each year marks a time of self-reflection as I inevitably think about my practice back then and how it has developed over the years since. Being a part of Hatched 2004 was a great acknowledgement and important step in viewing myself as a professional artist.

Three of the Hatched 2012 artists spoke with me via email, Luisa Hansal from Western Australia, Sarah Jane Haywood from Victoria and Pip Stafford from Tasmania, about what it means for them to be selected for the 21st Hatched show, about their exhibited works and what the future holds for them.

Hatched 2012 is currently showing at PICA until June 10th, so if you haven’t seen it yet, or want a re-visit get in there quick!

Can you tell us about your work currently showing in the Hatched 2012 exhibition at PICA?

LUISA HANSAL: My approach to making art has always been an exploration and analysis of my life world, dealing with reoccurring themes of love, sex, the fragmented self/other, gender, anger, fear and anxiety. My series of prints currently showing in Hatched is the outcome of a confronting process of analysing personal experiences I have encountered in my past, that I feel have played a highly significant role in shaping my identity and how I understand and view myself as an authentic individual in this world. Through my confessional approach to this project viewers are invited to experience an emotional encounter with my work. I aim to encourage others to look within their ‘lifeworlds’ and gain a deeper understanding and acceptance of their individuality and the human qualities we all share.

PIP STAFFORD: My work, All my world is scaffolding, is essentially a site for producing and observing networks and systems.  It is a chaotic structure, built in response to the space, from diagrammatic materials such as balsa and Perspex, containing plants (wheatgrass, peas), a reticulation system, electronics and studded with copper sulphate crystals.  The balsa forms the main structure, with the crystals acting as both mesh and bling.

SARAH JANE HAYWOOD: For the past 9 months or so I've been doing a project called This Is Your Song in which people give me stories of their own personal experiences and I write songs for them about their experiences. I then take my piano to their bedroom and play them their song. The work in Hatched is a two channel video of these performances accompanied by a book of the original stories.

Most of my work (or the good stuff) tends to come out of some inadequacy that I find in myself. I've always wanted to be a musician, and have written songs since childhood. But I've always thought I wasn't musically skilled enough, and that as a songwriter, my lyrics weren't as eloquent as they should be. In an attempt to prove myself wrong, I created the project This Is Your Song.

But through the process of writing these songs, the project has become much less about me, and really about the people whose stories I'm telling - and some of them get very personal; a young man recalling the time he tried to lose his virginity, a young woman describing the night her father passed away, my own father telling me the regrets of his life.

I have this idealistic belief that most problems can be solved through honesty, so I'm always chasing truth, and hoping I'm right on its heels. I find that when I feel like I'm touching truth, that's where people are at their most vulnerable, and that's where I want to stay. Cause ultimately, I'm really interested in how people come to know each other, and so this project has been a unique experience in getting to try a different way of understanding people and I'm very grateful for the stories I've been given and the lives I've been let into.

Can you talk a little about what it means for you to be selected for a national survey exhibition like this?

LUISA HANSAL: To be a part of such an amazing exhibition like Hatched is such a precious honour! I still can’t believe I was accepted into such an esteemed event. More than anything, it has been a pleasant and honourable reminder as to why I am so determined to practice as a professional artist and that what I am attempting to communicate with my audience is actually resonating with others. Thank you Hatched for reminding me that I have a valid place in the Perth Arts community as an emerging artist, I’m super excited to be a part of it.

PIP STAFFORD: I feel incredibly fortunate. Going into it I don’t think I had a real understanding of what it meant to be selected for the show. When I arrived in Perth and rocked up to PICA, I was quite overwhelmed (and very excited) by the scale and the standard of the other artists involved.  The whole experience has been great and the PICA staff couldn’t be more helpful.  I also had the opportunity to return to Perth, for my artist talk and to see (and skate in!) a dance work that was made in response to my work, by Tara Daniels and Jo Pollitt and it was really great to be able to extend the experience in that way.


It's fucking awesome. It's great to feel like something that you've done has "worked" in some regard. Cause of the nature of my projects it also feels like I've gotten away with something. I'm really just sorting out my own shit and somehow I made some good art!

Working with PICA has been amazing. Sounds cliche but it is a great opportunity for someone who's just graduated like me to show in a gallery like PICA. Everyone is super friendly and a gallery like PICA has so many resources that it's incredible! Also knowing that your work will have more exposure than it ever has before is a great feeling. I'm all about 'reaching people' which means that being included in a show like this is like a dream come true!

The project has also had quite a few advances since I first was selected for Hatched. I've undertaken the challenge of writing a song a week for 2012 (which has not gone exactly to plan) and so there are lots more songs than there originally was. I also decided that I wanted to record an album of the songs, so I spent around 3-4 months recording songs with my beautiful friend Ross Unger and got a run done of 100 for the show (which you can still buy at PICA).

And what has been THE MOST AWESOME part of being in Hatched has been being able to fulfil one of my childhood dreams! I've always wanted to have a band, and so for the opening of Hatched I managed to wrangle up a couple of Perth boys, and flew my friend Ross over from Melbourne to play with me. PICA were lovely enough to set up a stage and I must say that I think that it was one of the BEST EXPERIENCES OF MY LIFE.


Where did you study? And were there significant shifts in your work that occurred during your degree that you can discuss?

LUISA HANSAL: I am currently finishing off my last few units of a Bachelor of Contemporary Arts, majoring in Visual Arts at Edith Cowan University. To be completely honest before I started my undergraduate studies I had no idea what it even meant to be an artist. I had always enjoyed drawing, sewing and painting and thought of myself as a creative type. When I decided to study Visual Arts I had no idea what I was getting myself into and it was then that I took the first step of my journey into discovering the world of art and what it meant to be an artist.

A significant time of study and growth was when I underwent a semester at Monash University in Melbourne. It was at this stage in my studies that I felt most creative, confident and energetic and for the first time I felt genuinely excited to be making work and developing an informed creative praxis. Ultimately, I learnt how to be patient with my work, I fell in love with inks, watercolours and papers and discovered what it was like to be truly inspired by other artists and picked up the overwhelming creative energy Melbourne has to offer.

Luisa Hansal, and just like that I was no longer a child, 2011.
Dry point etching, watercolour paints and ink on coffee and tea stained paper.

PIP STAFFORD: I studied at University of Tasmania, School of Art. I finished my BFA in 2004, very young and straight out of school and I really had no idea what I was doing (in hindsight), so I was very fortunate to be able to go back and do my Honours year in 2011, with a few years of artistic practice under my belt and a good understanding of what I wanted to achieve.

In that year I completely changed my practice – I moved from making participatory, socially-engaged art, to a more physical practice of sculpture, electronics and installation.  I’ve always been interested in communication and networks, but I feel like for the first time ever I am starting to make work that I am really happy with and I feel very confident in the trajectory of my research and material exploration. It’s a super exciting time for me.

SARAH JANE HAYWOOD: Oh my gosh, too many shifts to count! I studied at the Victorian College of the Arts in Melbourne, Victoria. I studied in the Sculpture and Spatial Practice area. When I first started I was making stuff that I look back on now and cringe. Really I was just playing around with lots of different random things. At some point I got interested in circuits and pulling things apart and then joining different bits up. I made this work called Kite Listening, which was a kite with a microphone in it that went down to a pair of headphones for the kite flyer to wear.

Soon after that I was selected for a public art exhibition and ended up making this analogue motion sensor instrument kind of thing which followed on from my interest in circuits and electronics (and my wish to throw lots of money at my interest in circuits and electronics). But this project is down a similar line to the This Is Your Song project. It was called you don't have to call it music if you don't want to, which is a quote from a musician called John Cage, and if I remember correctly what I was interested in was how people were more likely to play instruments that were atypical as there were no preconceptions about how they should play it. I suppose I had to take my own advice from this work in order to undertake the This Is Your Song project.

After some dabbling with motion-sensor works I went over and studied at the University of California - Berkeley. It was an incredibly vibrant place where I got to sit in on astrology lectures, clinical psychology lectures, and courses on everything from Harry Potter to permaculture. In terms of my artwork I think that the experience has definitely influenced me, although I don't think that I made anything specifically good while I was over there. The best class I took there was one called Art 160 Social Practice, which was a class run by an inspirational lecturer, Amanda Eicher, and just focussed on artwork that dealt with people as its medium. In the San Francisco bay area there is a real grass-roots social art community. One that is deeply tied to activism, but is largely unpretentious and really is just focussing on using creativity to invent different social situations. Whilst for some time I have been interested in social artwork, this experience really solidified it as a major focus of my work.

On arrival back from the USA (after backpacking through Central America) I was again selected for the same public art exhibition. This year I was determined to do something community focussed. The area that the exhibition was in is called Docklands, which is largely thought of as a soulless business hub that has horrible weather. Now that I think about it I can't remember exactly what I wanted to find out, but I wanted to find out about what kind of people where in that area. So I created and set up the Docklands Research Centre, a social research centre on the harbour edge and manned by a social researcher (myself) every day for the duration of the exhibition. I got members of the public to do a personality test which involved drawing a picture of a pig, and then I would interpret the results. At the end of exhibition I collated the results and compiled them into a book which I gave back to the developers (who had funded the exhibition). In my book this was necessarily a 'successful' project, but it was definitely a learning curve in terms of how to make art that uses people. Many days I sat at my lonely research centre and zero people wanted to talk to me!

I think it was after this experience that I decided that I wanted to tackle the subjects that I was really interested in but too scared to touch; sex and stories. I'm obsessed with sex and sexuality and all that entails. I saw this documentary called The Perfect Vagina sometime in 2011, which is a british documentary which follows several women who are undergoing or considering undergoing labiaplasty, or plastic surgery on their labia. I became obsessed with the idea of designer genitals. I think at this stage I got a little lost in the depths of the internet, and then came out with this idea to make a archive of different genitals so people could see what 'normal' genitals looked like. Before this however, I ended up pasting up a HUGE image of my own crotch on the outside of the art school (which created a small controversy and made me feel like a 'real' artist). Although the response to a call out for pictures of people's crotches received a less than overwhelming response, I'm very thankful for the people who gave me their images, which can still be seen at The catalogue is ongoing and so anyone can submit an image. I hope that someday it will be inundated with images!

Amidst all this I was still experimenting with people's stories and how I could use them. Amongst this clutter I decided to get people to give me stories they wanted turned into songs, and it worked. I think I also realised how much I love performing, and how much I really love music. How much I LOVE MUSIC, but had always been intimidated by it and thought I could never really do it. And that's what I love about art, it enables you to treat everything like an experiment. Life becomes just one big experiment where failure isn't actually real cause you're not sure what success is either!

What/Who are some of your main influences? 

LUISA HANSAL: Louise Bourgeois, Tracey Emin, Del Kathryn Barton, Kiki Smith, Chloe Piene, Alexander Kori Girard, Frida Kahlo, Devendra Banhart, Jessica Tan, Sylvia Plath, Patti Smith and Fedrico Garcia Lorca.

PIP STAFFORD: The main text that I used in my research for my Honours year was Matthew Fuller’s Media Ecologies: Materialist Energies in Art and Technology. Formally, artists such as Phoebe Washburn and Simon Pericich inspire my work. I’m also really lucky to work with and around some really amazing local artists, such as my mentor Nancy Mauro-Flude and my Taxonomy Publishing collaborator Scot Cotterell. I truly believe having a community to work in is really important for feedback and growth.

Pip Stafford, All my world is scaffolding (Installation view)

Miranda July - I have a great quote from her that goes something like this:
It is this desire to be transformed by understanding that has pretty much propelled me through every single day
I really relate to this. I just recently read her book It Chooses You, which is a novel which follows her meeting people through the Pennysaver (which is kind of like the trading post but for the USA). This book is a really nice way of showcasing a project like the one she undertook. I think she's a fantastic writer, her collection of short stories, No one Belongs Here More Than You, is also amazing.

Harrell Fletcher – who facilitates user based projects. Harrell Fletcher was my first-love in terms of socially focussed artists. He created a website with Miranda July called Learning To Love You More in which the public were asked to complete small projects which encouraged engagement and creativity.

Stuart Ringholt – works with people and uses incredibly personal elements in his work. I specifically relate to how Ringholt uses his own personal failings, problems or experiences as a means to create projects. He often acts as a facilitator for conversations between people and at the Melbourne prize for Urban Sculpture he spoke to members of the public for the entire exhibition. He has written a frankly honest book on his dealing with hashish induced psychosis. He has most recently been running naked tours of art galleries around Australia.

Jon Rubin – also works with people and tries to make what he wants to see in the world. He has created a take-away food store called the Conflict Kitchen in the US which only sells food from countries that the US is in conflict with. He studied with Harrell Fletcher, and has done a number of other very inspiring projects.

Jonathan Mann – a youtube content generator who writes a song a day, and has been doing so for over 1000 days. I'm particularly motivated by his sheer enthusiasm and dedication to his projects. I also am interested in his idea of creativity and how to make work.

Amanda Palmer - Amanda Palmer is a big influence on me. She seems to live and breath some of the elements I'm exploring in my work. Self-acceptance, expression as an important part of life, admiration for the amateur. I think she's a fantastic role model.

How (if at all) has new technologies and digital communication been involved or affected your work?

LUISA HANSAL: I try to stay away from new technologies when I am making my work. It might be because I’m so terrible with technical things and find it all a bit overwhelming. I love that my practice is an excuse to get me away from computers and digital ‘stuff’. My approach to art making is of an organic nature and I thrive on the tactile qualities and time consuming processes I undergo when making a work. The process was a significant factor for my series of prints currently on show at Hatched, each line and dot I scratched into the printing plate became a private and emotional occasion where I could reflexively engage with the personal issue or theme that was being depicted. This process is very important as it allows me to engage with my work and fully actualize what I am trying to communicate within the artwork. Each tiny line, dot, shape and form are equally as important to the overall composition, in the same way that every emotion and life experience we encounter, all play an equal part in shaping our individual identity.

PIP STAFFORD: I was a kid who grew up as computers and networked technology grew up, I was first connected to the internet at home as a teenager, in the days of geocities and IRC chat. I learned how to use a computer running DOS Shell and I believe this way of communicating has really informed the way I think about networking and system-creation now. I still feel like it’s a bit magical and logging on, now using my iPhone or Macbook Pro and wifi, rather than an IBM and 56k Modem, still invokes a sense of truly being connected for me.

SARAH JANE HAYWOOD: Initially I started This Is Your Song with handwritten stories. Then I began to widen it by making it an online survey. This meant that I could easily get stories from far and wide, people could pass the project along and eventually I got a substantial number of entries from people I had never met. I have also done two Skype performances, one to a guy in Holland and one to a guy in Brisbane. But now I have website and a youtube channel as I'm attempting to upload a song a week. I've discovered a lot about internet communities and things like twitter, which previously I had been indifferent to.

What is on the cards for the rest of 2012 and beyond?

LUISA HANSAL: A bunch of groovy Western Australian artists, including myself are showing some work in the exhibition Monster at The Oats Factory on June 1st – 22nd.  I’ve been working onto calico fabric with inks, watercolours and stamps (something I’ve never done before). I would love it if everyone popped down to check out the work and shared their thoughts.

I was awarded a residency at ECU in the Print making studio, so from early August onwards I will be spending my days in the studio working on a new project. I am super excited to experiment with some different printmaking methods and techniques.

As for beyond…lots more travelling, lots more art making and lots more applications to fill out in hope of getting my own studio space.

Oh and there’s talk of doing a collaboration with my housemate Ashley Ramsey. Ashley is in her last year of a Fine Arts degree at Curtin University and she’s doing some pretty wild things at the moment, think; melting ice paintings, distorted figures, fading memories, poetry and lots and lots of paint and resin! We are both eager to find out what would happen if we combined our contrasting styles, mediums and approach to making work…hopefully something marvelous.

PIP STAFFORD: 2012 has been such an unexpectedly and wonderfully busy year for me. I’m hoping that I can get a good amount of time in my studio, playing and experimenting and also spend some time planning and applying for things for 2013.  I have a show coming up at CAST in Hobart, which is a series of 3 events called  Establishment which features 3 artist initiated organisations in Tasmania. I’m also the JUMP program co-ordinator at CAST, which keeps me busy and the rent paid.

I’d love to study again sometime in the near future and I have a really exciting event coming up in 2013, also at CAST, which I am organising with Nancy Mauro-Flude which is hopefully going to feature networked artists from all over the world.

SARAH JANE HAYWOOD: After the Hatched opening I had to quickly rush back to Melbourne as I was helping coordinate a public art exhibition with students from my university. Since then I've been taking a much needed rest and am now working on setting up a recording studio in my house so that I can make more professional recordings. I'm someone who likes to be able to do things for themselves, and so now engineering music is on my to do list. I'm going to be working on putting a band together to perform music with and doing some gigs. At the moment I'm trying to take it easy on myself, I find it hard to take time out to work out what it is I really want to work towards, so that's what I'm planning on using the rest of my year for.

How can people find out more about your work?

facebook page:
email: louisajean21[@]

My website, in progress, is and I’m a regular blogger at and I tweet as @dotdash7

You can find more about the This Is Your Song project at
You can watch previous songs, hopefully soon buy the cd and also submit a story yourself to be turned into a song! If you want to talk, chat or be friends contact me on sarahjhaywood[@] or follow me @sjhaywood (although I don't really tweet all that much, sorry, I think I only have three to my name!)

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Speaking with Clare McFarlane

For this month's Speaking with Clare McFarlane took some time to speak with bear among bees about her work, her formative experiences and future projects. You can currently see an exhibition of McFarlane's work at Turner Galleries (running till the 12 May) or find her work in a Laneway in Perth.

Sky’s chorus I, Clare McFarlane, 2012, acrylic and spray-paint on canvas, 100 x 100 cm

bear among bees: Can you tell us a little about your creative background?

Clare McFarlane: My mother always encouraged me to do art and be creative. I grew up on a farm in a small town and compared to many people I know now I had a rather culturally sparse experience growing up.  No art galleries, no public art - well I remember the high school kids did a mural in town once. There was just the art prize at the local show which was one day, once a year. My mother always encouraged me to take part in this. I remember you won 50c for a second prize and $1 for a first.

Luckily the school I went to had a specialised art teacher (unlike many primary schools) so I did get a lot out of art at school - I was also part of an extension program at the school and one part of that I remember (apart from computer programming and chess) was learning to paint with oils - this would have been maybe year 6 or 7. I really remember those classes and what I learnt then. My mother organised once a week out of school art classes for me with the art teacher. Just me and the teacher... but it was probably really good to have that one-on-one tutoring.

Anyway, I got into the special art program at Applecross SHS, which was wonderful really. Learnt a lot, had some great tutors, met other really talented individuals which was good for me - I'd always been the best at art at my school before but also one of only a few people with any interest in it, so it was great to meet others who were also interested. Though it did take a while to fit in - well... okay, I never really felt like I fit in but that was another story. It was my plan to do biology at uni but in year 12 I got a crush on one of my tutors and decided do art at Curtin (which is what he had done).

Spring’s lament i-ii, Clare McFarlane, 2012, acrylic and spray-paint on canvas, 70 x 100 cm

The year I started at Curtin had a very large percentage of mature age students - I mention this because I think being straight out of school actually benefited me because I was still in the "do what teacher tells you" mindset.  So while some other students, especially mature age ones, had issues with some of the more 'avant-garde' projects, I was quite happy to try new things.  Still I was probably a relatively 'conservative' student - majoring in painting and with a minor in printmaking in second year, then majoring and minoring in painting in third year - all the cool kids did sculpture back then :)

I went on to do Honours and then was part of the first group of students to do the newly created Masters of Creative Arts.  The research I did for that has had the most influence on all the work that followed...

bab: It sounds like your mum was instrumental in your becoming an artist, was she creative herself? 

CM: Well, apparently my mother always wanted one of her children to be an artist - this is what I've been told though I don't feel too pushed into that area.  But she wasn't particularly creative - she did photography and writing I suppose but she didn't come from a creative background, she was a teacher at the local school, teaching English, social studies and health.

Wishful Thinking i-ii, Clare McFarlane, 2010, acrylic and silkscreen on canvas, each 45 x 100 cm

bab: Also, I saw you did a Graduate Diploma in Cultural Heritage. Did that come before or after your Masters work? Did this play a big part in shaping your ideas on Australian identity and the historical references in your work?

CM: Ah yes, after doing Masters and discovering it qualified me to do retail I decided to do yet another degree. This time something that would get me a job. I already had romantic ideals about museums and history before I started the Grad Dip - kind of why I chose it instead of Library studies which I was also looking at.

During my Masters I became interested in the Pre-Raphaelites and I had an interest in history especially in terms of the feminine and sublime (honours) and the Victorian period - (by then my mother was studying and she ended up doing a PhD in women's journals from the 1830s).  And my interest in Australian identity came more from my interest in flora and fauna - it occurred to me at the time it was really 'not done' to use Australian flowers in contemporary art and that would be a bit of a challenge.

Also, at some point someone asked me about my use of Victorian patterns and what this said about Australian identity - so I thought that was interesting and continued to explore that.

The Grad dip in cultural heritage fed into the aesthetics of display in my work I think while also reinforcing ideas of Australian identity and other historical references.

Ideas of display and collecting I suppose actually - Cabinets of wonder, etc

A Murder’s verse ii, Clare McFarlane, 2011, acrylic and spray-paint on canvas, 70 x 70 cm

bab: I worked for a while at the State Library of WA in private archives so I'm always interested to see collections cross over into being art, rather than art being just a part of the static collection. Your recent work for the Fringe Festival as half of The Exit Stencilists duo definitely references that cabinet of curiosity tradition and museum display. Can you tell us more about this project & how it came about? And what role does collecting play in your individual practice?

CM: I actually worked in the Curtin Library for six years while doing post grads at uni - and I did think about becoming a Librarian at one point. :) I also have worked for the Holmes à Court Collection and the UWA collection.  I am very interested in 'collecting'.  Collecting plays a big part in my practice - apart from the references in my work, I have a collection of dead birds, insects and photos of birds and wildflowers, as well as other related matter (books, patterns etc).

I am a bit of a collector at heart so I collect many things - random and otherwise - and sometimes they may become relevant to my work and then sometimes not. I have a collection of tea cups but they have yet to be part of my practice ;)

As for 'Enter through the Window' - Leon Ewing and I decided while doing the work for City of Perth (he was my dogsbody for the project) to form The Exit Stencilists to try and get further art projects - the Fringe Festival exhibition kind of just happened - being part of Gotham Studios I was aware that we had nominated The Peekaboo Gallery as a space for the festival and I thought 'why not be a part of it your self?'.

Leon and I eventually came up with the rather self-indulgent idea of a kind of wunderkammer of changing displays which really suited the situation of the exhibition place - it is viewable to the public constantly and gets an awful lot of passing traffic, so the idea of a changing display gave it more meaning for those that would pass by many times during the length of the festival - and then a few days in we came up with the idea of actually adding to the display as opposed to changing it completely. Seemed so logical when you think about it - and both Leon and I basically got to show off some of our stuff. He is also a compulsive collector - and then we just went extreme at the end - seeing just how much stuff we could display within reason. Of course we documented it everyday - within the display with Polaroids so the passer by could see the evolution - as well as online.  We certainly enjoyed it and it would be good to be able to do it again and refine the idea...

bab: In my recent interview with Maria Hildrick she spoke of her collection of dead little creatures too, we touched on the overlooked history of these creatures, the “once was” life. Can you talk a little about what it is that attracts you to collecting the birds and insects? 

CM: Hmm... I suppose I find them very poetic - to me they really speak of loss - of death, of the briefness of life - fleeting joy of a bird’s life - of flight. But the other attraction is the tradition of the 'gentlemen scientist' of the Georgian and Victorian times. Quite a quaint idea but an idea of its time.

Lilt of the Firetail, Clare McFarlane, 2012, acrylic and silkscreen on canvas, 45 x 100 cm

bab: The Victorian aesthetic seems quite important in your work; can you tell us about that and the patterning you use which are also rooted in those times? Where do the patterns come from are they found patterns, or do you design them?

CM: Actually, I'd say my aesthetic was definitely more Japanese in nature, when you look at my positioning and composition. Japanese and Scandinavian design are where I would define a lot of my aesthetic. But yes, Victorian patterning is a very important element of my work - more precisely it started with Pre-Raphaelite design and the work of William Morris.

These were patterns designed in the romantic period - Victorian in England - and they came from very romantic ideals and ideas.  What interested me was their romanticism of nature as represented in these designs.  At the time (when I was doing my MCA, 98-99) I was looking for a credible way of representing the feminine and technology without reverting to images of sexualised robot women ah-la Metropolis.

The William Morris patterns were a beautiful vehicle for this - they were these networks of interconnected plants - nature redesigned to fit the Victorian aesthetic - they were like a background structure to which we culturally adhere, or a growing network or nodes, hardware, software, servers and information.  They were perfect for integrating the feminine and technology.

SO that was where it started but they have grown to be more - I have used them to talk about Australian identity, as well as the scientific inquiry of nature and the need for humans to classify and catalogue nature.  At the moment I am thinking about it in terms of history and memory - of layers of wallpaper ripped off revealing more underneath.

Most of the patterns I source from books - a lot are William Morris patterns while others are from the same/similar period - the mid to late 19th Century. Sometimes I may change them I bit but I'm not really interested in designing new patterns - I'm just interested in using old ones :)

Dragon’s verse i-iii, Clare McFarlane, 2010-12, acrylic and silkscreen on board, each 26 x 16 cm
bab: What’s coming up for the rest of 2012 for you? Any upcoming shows or special projects? 

CM: Well, there is of course my current exhibition at Turner (a murder's chorus + other winged verse) which has been rather all consuming.  I'm going to go in a few art awards - I am definitely going to try and do at least one more wall mural this year - should be able to get one in Subiaco I hope - been talking to Jenny Kerr but the one we organised got pulled by the building owner - he wanted to put advertising there instead.

I'd like to organise something in Melbourne some time soon and to visit there this year.  I was going to see how much work was left over from the Turner show to see if there was enough to form the basis of something for Melbourne. Or maybe somewhere else - I have not been as forward as I could be when it comes to trying for exhibitions outside Perth - I need to correct that.

bab: And where can people find out more about your work?

CM: Really the best place to find out more about my work is through the Turner Galleries website:

Friday, April 27, 2012

Hello World! or: How I Learned to Stop Listening and Love the Noise by Christopher Baker
An immersive video installation featuring over 5000 video diaries found on the internet.

Saturday, April 21, 2012

I share therefore I am?

While I don't know if my own experience with technology agrees with everything Sherry Turkle says in this talk, many of the points she raises I find really relevant to my masters research. Particularly her points on how we define ourselves by what we share and how we edit/present the self with new media - I would argue though that this can still be just as clumsy and awkward in any social situation, on or offline. Reading peoples posts on Facebook or Twitter appears to be full of unintended stumbling and revealing moments.

New technology does change us... but I don't think we should see it as a passive cause and effect exchange and I guess this is the point Turkle does make at the end about self-reflection.

I'm interested to hear from others on this subject.

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Vacant old hospital building in Leederville enlivened as creative studio space

(From left) Sean Morris and Kyle Hughes-Odgers are among the 25 artists and creatives leasing a studio space at The Ward.
Photo: Eva Fernandez

MEDIA RELEASE, 17 April 2012

Built in 1913 originally as a maternity hospital, ‘The Ward’ in Leederville, has been revitalised as a studio complex for visual artists and creatives, through a joint venture between Artsource and Spacemarket.

The Ward houses 21 studio spaces for visual artists working alongside other creative service peers; such as illustrators, video producers and 3D animators, allowing for collaborations and shared creative emphasis.

Artsource’s guiding mandate is to empower visual artists to build sustainable careers, and it sees having a studio space as the key platform for artists to develop their practice.
Artsource Manager of Studios and Residencies, Loretta Martella said that affordable studio space for artists can be extremely hard to come by, and even rarer; is acquiring a working space close to the city centre.

“Artsource is thrilled to have taken on the head lease for this inner city studio space. What this means for this talented group of artists is a chance to further develop their skills and
ideas in a convenient, central location without the hefty rental rates usually experience in the Perth metro area,” she explained.

While Artsource only holds the lease on The Ward for 13 months from Realmark Property Group, it is imagined that this venture will serve as a favourable model for future studio complexes.
“The Ward is the first commercial building Artsource has attained as a studio complex, and we hope this can be the first of many more inner city studio locations,’’ Martella continued.

The Ward is a welcome addition to Artsource’s well-established Studios Program, which includes a stable of over 80 studios, spread across 8 buildings in the Perth metro area. The other studio locations include Fremantle, Midland, East Perth, Kelmscott, Belmont and White Gum Valley.

Inaugural tenants at The Ward are: Linus Andersson, Tarsh Bates, Claire Bushby, Jo Darbyshire, Giovanni Di Dio, James Foley, Rina Franz, Ruth Halbert, Kyle Hughes-Odgers, Tessa McOnie, Elisa Markes-Young, Sean Morris, Carley Ternes, Deborah Oakley, Kimberley Pace, Perdita Phillips, Josephine Pittman, Aaron Welch, Christopher Young, Alucinor Productions, Inkubator and The Duck House Theatre.

Claire Hastwell, Marketing Coordinator,; 08 9335 8366

About Artsource
Artsource is Western Australia’s peak representative body for visual artists. A not-for-profit organisation in operation since 1986, Artsource works to expand and improve the sustainability and profile of artists through practical services and support. For more information, please visit

About Artsource Studios Program
Artsource is committed to providing affordable studio spaces to artists and see this as a fundamental way to develop visual artists and their practices in Western Australia. Artsource sublease these spaces to artists, keeping the rent low, offering secure tenure of up to 5 years and managing the day-to-day operations of the head leases.

Further info:

Saturday, April 14, 2012

Sandra Dieckmann Illustration

London based illustrator, Sandra Dieckmann draws enchanting images inspired by nature and wildlife, harmonised with beautiful folk style patterning. Bear among bees is so in love with her bear images (a few favorites posted below) but go check out Sandra's website to see a wonderful menagerie of animals, or visit her etsy shop where you will find a range of tote bags, prints and cards featuring her work.

Bear Rock, Sandra Diekmann

Beach Bear, Sandra Dieckmann

Sweet Dreams, Sandra Dieckmann

Tomorrow Bear, Sandra Dieckmann

Bear, Sandra Dieckmann

Sandra Dieckmann Illustration

Monday, April 9, 2012

Speaking with Lance Kershaw Ladu

I was introduced to Lance Kershaw Ladu's work when interviewing Cherish Marrington last November. She pointed me to his Facebook profile where I found such intriguingly beautiful ink drawings, I had to find out more and Lance kindly agreed to this little interview with Bear among bees.

untitled, Lance Kershaw Ladu, ink on paper.

I have to confess I am pretty new to your work and have only seen your drawings online but I’m really loving what I have seen. Can you tell me about the characters in your drawings, are they based on people you know, or are they fictional? And where do your characters come from? 

Well, I have to say; these characters are based on myself I suppose. I try to embody my own feelings and emotions into these drawings, depicting myself mainly as women.

Your work seems to have a baroque or renaissance feel that kind of makes me think of Peter Greenaway, do you like his movies? Have you seen his drawings? And on the subject of filmmakers, there any movies that have significantly influenced your work? 

I adore film. I love Peter Greenaway’s films, like The Cook, The Thief, His Wife and Her Lover, though I have never really seen his drawings before, till you have mentioned their existence. But I must say they are quite exquisite. I am heavily inspired by films, such as The Hours, Mommy Dearest, The Others and many more, but my main focus of inspiration comes from psychotic, sad, depressed, cruel, disappointed women or mothers, which became quite evident in a small web design about myself clearly depicted. But I find an immense beauty in these raw emotions, which I think are intensified through women.

untitled, Lance Kershaw Ladu, ink on paper.

Who are some of your favourite artists? 

I guess I don’t really have a favourite artist. But I adore the works of Cherish Marrington, Gustav Klimt, Egon Schiele, John William Waterhouse, Andrew Nicholls and Tane Andrews.

I saw on Facebook some beautiful works in progress for an artist book you were making. Is that complete now? Can you tell me about it? 

The book called H is for Hippophagy, was a small, 18 paged, book that looked at a different perspective of hippophagy, which is the practice of eating horseflesh. It questioned ‘What is eating the flesh?’ which in my book was the natural decay of a dead carcass. The book was complete, but with my carless handling I managed to shamefully smudge most of the drawings. So it has now been dispersed and adored, hopefully, by their owners.

death [page insert 12 (pg 24/ pg.25) from H is for...HIPPOPHAGY],
Lance Kershaw Ladu, ink on paper.

Is your work mostly drawing, or do you work in other media? 

My work is strictly Ink. I find myself in the terrible position of loving this one medium, this one effect, that my own confounding comfort has scared me from progressing to other mediums. I suppose a love for traditional print techniques and drawing keeps me held to its exquisite bosom. Though, there are secret plans of a doll exhibition, which may lead to some spectacular birth of a new art practice for myself.

What would be your earliest creative memory? 

My earliest creative memory is when I was 6 or something and I drew the study of a woman. Women have played a big role in my life.

Are you working on anything at the moment that you can tell us about? 

I’m planning a show with one of my greatest friends Cherish Marrington, hopefully to be exhibited at Paper Mountain.

untitled, Lance Kershaw Ladu, ink on paper.

How can people find out more about your work? 

At the moment, I can’t be found anywhere. Hopefully soon I shall gain access to oniemy. But, I am easily found on Facebook, having the only name Lance Kershaw Ladu. So if someone is interested in finding me, find me there and stay informed. (Polite smile)

Sunday, April 1, 2012

Being Human Being

The following text is extracted from my 2005 Honours paper, Acts of Intimacy. I have recently revisited this paper looking to draw links with my current work with identity (see this post).

Part Three - Being Human Being

Art serves to establish community. It links us with others, and with the things around us, in a shared vision and effort. 
Gerhard Richter [48]

My art making has always been an attempt at intimacy, to communicate an experience of being this woman, at this moment, in this place, with this history and trying to connect my existence with that of others around me. The art I produce is inextricable from my experience and I am suspicious when artists’ claim their work is not concerned with themselves, as whatever subjects and ideas we may pursue first must pass through the self to become art. Albert Camus wrote, “That the idea of an art detached from its creator is not only outmoded, it is false.” [49]  This is not to suggest my particular experience is remarkable in anyway or to advocate a self-centered existence. In fact, it is more an effort to look at the interconnected commonalities of human experience, our needs, desires, fears and pains.  

Stitching is an important component of my work, thread and cord are representative of many things relating to the body; veins, tendons, the lymphatic system in fact the body is made up of thousands of cord like structures. There is a strong symbolic relationship between thread and life, when we are born the umbilical cord is cut to separate our body from our mother’s and of those who claim to have had out of body experiences many report an elastic-like silver cord joining them to their physical body. Thread also symbolises narrative and there are many phrases such as ‘to follow the thread’ of a conversation which incorporate this imagery. In Greek and Roman mythology the goddesses Clotho, Lachesis and Atropos, also known as the three Fates controlled human destiny by spinning thread, each person acting as a spindle.

Stitching is also both a symbol of time and its physical evidence; with each stitch a second has passed, leaving a mark upon the cloth. When my grandmother started cancer treatment I was in the third year of my Bachelor of Arts degree. Nan, mum and me would spend long periods of time waiting in waiting rooms with other cancer patients and their carers, moving into the treatment room where nurses bustled about putting in and taking out needles – where again we all sat looking at each other, the carers with their healthy bodies and the patients – all just waiting. Occasionally we would try to make light conversation; many jokes were made about pincushions. I found it hard to come away from that space and sit in a studio to make art; it was difficult to think about art theories as many seemed absurd in the presence of life slipping out from real people who were suffering both physically and emotionally. In the final semester I wondered how I could continue, I decided I would take a piece of cloth that could be carried with me and just stitch with no forms in mind, just lines of hand stitching, being in the moment of the stitch.

Image11a. Claire Bushby, Time (or Mr Red), 2003.
Satin, cotton, steel and sand.

This resulted in a piece of satin approximately one metre square covered in stitches. When complete it was attached to a frame which held it in a cone-like shape (echoing the time cone diagrams in Stephen Hawking’s A Brief History of Time) with white sand spilling from the bottom. (see images 11 a - b) This work was first exhibited in the School of Contemporary Arts 2003 Graduate Exhibition, then exhibited at Perth Institute of Contemporary Arts in Hatched 04, titled Time (or Mr. Red), with a piece of text which is an absurd dialogue between artist, process and material. (see appendix 2) I mention Mr. Red here because it seems to be a turning point in my working method. Hand stitching is a meditative process; sometimes it is a refuge, a place to feel empty of thought but also like meditation stitching can sometimes be a challenge to stay with and requires discipline.

Image 11b. Claire Bushby, Time (or Mr Red) [detail], 2003.

For my Honours project I began making plaster body casts and making latex ‘skins’ from them. Each skin has lines of hand-stitching in red cotton. The first series were a pair of feet in six pieces (see image 12) – I had recently read the story of the woman who washes Jesus’ feet in her tears and wipes them with her hair, the mixture of devotion and self-reproachfulness in this account seems to speak about the nature of caring for another’s body.[50]   Feet are also often a part of the body which must be cared for when someone is too ill or immobile to reach them. In the second series I cast parts of myself where cancer had visibly affected my grandmother’s body, my left breast, my left hand, my left underarm(see images 13).This was a cathartic action, a visceral extraction.

Image 12. Claire Bushby, Acts of Intimacy (skins) right foot,
2005. Latex and cotton.

Also produced is a series of photographs; close-up images of my grandmother’s tea-sets in my kitchen, combined with intimate images of my skin (see images 14 A short poem also accompanies this work [see appendix 3]). I inherited a large box full of Nan’s collection of tea-sets along with many of her other belongings such as clothes, letters, books and assorted memorabilia. It all sat on my kitchen floor and throughout my hallway for about for three months. Every now and then I would walk in to the kitchen stare at the box and build the courage to pull out a tea-cup or saucer, unwrap it and place it in amongst my own collection. Each of these objects stood as a raw reminder of the absence of their owner. You can’t help wondering of the importance of certain objects, asking was this one significant? Did this one have meaning, or was it just collecting dust? Each object a material fragment of the history of a life.

Acts of Intimacy (Skins) breast & armpit
Image 13. Claire Bushby, Acts of Intimacy (Skins) breast and underarm,
2005. Latex and cotton.

Sumantro Ghose’s explores similar issues in his Modern Painters/Guardian Prize winning Destruction and Nostalgia – Cornelia Parker’s Cold Dark Matter: An Exploded View.[51]  Ghose muses upon his mother-in-laws death concentrating upon the boxes and bags of her belongings that his wife has brought home. Alongside this personal account he analyses Cornelia Parker’s installation Cold Dark Matter which is the remains of a shed and its contents literally blown to pieces. Parker has then assembled the burnt and charred fragments hanging from the ceiling as though in mid-explosion, like a frozen moment in time. Of the installation Ghose writes,
You scan the objects in Cold Dark Matter like a crash investigator or forensic scientist, sifting through the debris for a miniscule clue to someone’s identity, an object that belonged to a now vaporised existence. With the certainty and poignancy of a medieval shrine, a momento mori, this installation confronts us with our own mortality.[52]

Acts of Intimacy print series, 2005
Image 14. Claire Bushby, Acts of Intimacy, print series, 2005.

At around 9.45am on September 15th 2004 my grandmother, June Doris Storey passed away. Her two children (my mum and my uncle), her partner, Ian and I had decided to stay at the hospice the night before. I spent the night by her bedside, watching almost every breath, her chest rising and falling. A strange gut-wrenching expectation rushing through my body each time the rhythm of her breath slightly changed. After hours of watching through the night, morning came and for some reason I decided I should go move my car when Ian went to feed their dog. My uncle took my place by her side; I got back at 10am missing her last breath by minutes and was appalled with myself.

The hospice nurse later tried to console me by saying that it was a very common experience, often people who have spent days by the bedside of a loved one, walk out for the first time to perhaps have something to eat, only to return finding they have passed away. I had heard many stories about the opposite happening, of an ailing person waiting for someone they love to arrive before passing away with the comfort of knowing they are there. The nurse felt that it was the families’ inability to let go, that perhaps patients sometimes hold on for longer if they sense their families’ distress in the room. This only further heightened my sense of guilt; the thought that I could prolong my grandmother’s suffering through sheer fear of losing her was not at all comforting but it gave me a profound sense of humanity.

Contemplating the many people before and after me in that particular room, observing someone they love for every sign that life still flows through their body. Detecting the signs of losing time, as shadows on the wall change and the sun goes down, only to reappear hours later just like any ordinary day. This overwhelming sense of helpless loss is both personal and collective at the same moment. My loss is mine but I am not the sole holder of this pain. All forms of art have the potential for intimacy between people, to connect and share their subjective experiences.

Art is not about art. Art is about life, and that sums it up. 
          Louise Bourgeois.[53]

[48] Richter, G. (1995). The Daily Practice of Painting – Writings and Interviews 1962 – 1993. Thames and Hudson: London.
[49] Camus, A. (1955). The Myth of Sisyphus. (J. O’Brien, Trans.). Random House/Vintage Books: New York. p.71.
[50] Gospel of Saint Luke, Chapter 7:36-50.
[51] Ghose, S. (2004). Destruction and Nostalgia – Cornelia Parker’s Cold Dark Matter: An Exploded View. Modern Painters, Autumn. p. 19 – 21.
[52] Ghose, S. (2004). Ibid. p. 20.
[53] Bourgeois, L. (1988). Statements from an Interview with Donald Kuspit. In M. Bernadac & H. Obrist. (1998). Ibid. p.166