The Macedon Ranges Shire council invited local experienced artists to submit an Expression of Interest (EOI) to create a reciprocal exchange of artwork or creative experience with Macedon Ranges Sister City Tokai in Japan. The aim of the Creative Art Exchange is to highlight local talent and tell local stories, to inspire, educate and entertain the people of Tokai, Japan. The artwork or creative piece will seek to investigate and interpret the essence of the Macedon Ranges, its communities and its environment.
After I submitted my EOI I was invited to an interview by a panel of both council staff and independents from other organisations such as Craft Victoria. I was selected as the successful artist and following I explain my concept and blog my progress.
Why I wanted this opportunity:
This opportunity is very exciting and interesting for me personally, it sparks my imagination, will contribute greatly to and is in keeping with my current art practice. My work often depicts iconic Australian animals such as the dingo and echidna within the Australian landscape.
I have twice been to the Tokai region of Japan, my style somewhat developed from my love of ancient Japanese arts forms of Ikebana, Bonsai and Suiseki. I utilise their principles of line form and mass and this influence can be seen throughout my work. I will definitely visit my work in Tokai!
Japan has a deep appreciation for the arts and artists. Often cities or rural towns have thematic public sculptures on display featuring a town mascot such as a cat or fox. Each collection is unique to the town and provides a link to the history and culture of the local area.
I propose to make three unique bronze sculptures, the sculptures will reflect the beauty of our natural environment through colours, textures, imagery and story telling. Like all my work, they will have an element of poignant whimsy and humour about them.
I will depict three points in time. The beginning, when the traditional land owners were custodians of the land, to settlement, to today. My intention is to simply tell a visual story of our history in a way that I hope will invite curiosity and wonder. The three sculptures will be linked by common elements, a figure, a crow, a dog and a tree.
For 26,000 years the Macedon Ranges was inhabited by the Kulin Nation, the Wurundjeri, Dja Dja Wurrung, and the Taungurung people. One sculpture will depict a gum tree with a crow sitting in the branches, a dog and a figure will feature in the landscape. It will pay homage to the traditional owners of the land. According to aboriginal mythology, the crow represents Waa, one of the two moiety ancestors of the Kulin nation.
Around the late 19th early 20th century Melbourne’s social elite began to settle in the Macedon ranges. They built their summer residences, grand Victorian houses with ornamental gardens. Some of this Iconic architecture and garden sculpture can still be seen throughout the Macedon Ranges. One sculpture will portray a well cultivated topiary garden being tended to by a figure while a dog and crow watch on.
The country town of Kyneton where I live and the surrounding towns in the Macedon Ranges is a haven for artists like me, with the beauty in the changing landscapes that come with the seasons and the great cafe culture. One sculpture will reference today in the Macedon ranges, this sculpture will have a definite quirky element. Like the local resident in Kyneton that has filled the branches of a tree in their front garden with coffee cups, it is known around the neighborhood as the ‘coffee cup tree’.
How I hope people will interact with the piece:
An artwork’s purpose is to create a narrative between the viewer and the work. Because not all people think the same way or visualise the same picture, each person makes their own interpretation of the work and it makes it a completely different work each time it is viewed. In this sense an artwork can change or evolve in the presence of a person contemplating it. My main aim is to make people smile, I want to create a work that people enjoy.
My process involves an idea, then sometimes I will do a sketch or a drawing. Then I start making a wax model of the sculpture. This can take weeks or months depending on the complexity of the sculpture.
When I have finished it I then take it to the foundry for it to be cast into bronze. After it has been cast I pick it up and then start refining it with electric and hand tools, once I have finished it off I will apply patina.
I have finished them at long last! It was definitely a labour of love at the end but I am pleased with the result.
They will be on display at the golden dog gallery until the 15th of April (Then I send them to Japan!)
I am getting some professional photos taken late next week, as my phone camera photos don’t really do them justice.
Titles to come, go to Instagram @larissagrayandthegoldendog and comment on which one is your favorite, let me know!
This is mine:
Firstly, everything takes twice as long as I think it will take me.
Secondly, and my artist friends you will relate to this feeling I am experiencing.
You know when you have a blank canvas, a piece of lino, a rare slab of clay, or a bonzai plant you have been growing out for shaping.
And then you are scared to start, for fear of fucking it up.
That’s where I am at with this now, I am so close to finished. I had the 3rd one welded, I have worked them all back and applied the base patina.
I have even organised shipping and professional photography. Now I just need to muster the courage to do the final patina!
Timepoor and with an impending deadline meant today I spent 9 hours grinding, sanding and working back the bronzes. A long but satisfying day.
I managed to get 2 ready to patina, one still needs to be welded back together, so I will need to go back to the Foundry for that, but then I get to patina them! Yay! The best step also the final step in a long and complex artistic process.
They cast, I can sleep tonight! It has been a tense 3 weeks waiting but finallyvmy babies are back.
Albeit one still needs to be welded back together and I still have an immense amount of work ahead of me but I am relieved to say the least.
Also they are much bigger and heavier than I intended, but they will be beautiful finished.
To quote Craig the Foundry wizard, ‘they are getting bang for their buck’ ! LOL
As always my artworks evolve as I go. I might start with a specific idea then it takes on a life of it’s own.
Usually fine, not great when you have a deadline. But tell that to my muse, my creative inspiration. I just count myself lucky that it it is allowing me to work in the day time hours at the moment. And like many artists I am a compulsive, so it is not finished until I am satisfied it is perfect. Again not great on a deadline.
Despite this, and a small medical setback, progress has been made. I have finished the wax model of my first sculpture (do I dare utter those words).
Because the intention of my triptych is to tell a story of our history in a way that I hope will invite curiosity and wonder. I have decided to title the works as if from the first line of a fable, story or fairytale.
1. Dreamtime, this sculpture refers to the traditional custodians of the land the Kulin Nation, the Wurundjeri, Dja Dja Wurrung, and the Taungurung people
3 possible titles, leaning towards 2 or similar
A) Once upon a time, when people and animals were all the same and spoke the same language…
B) A long time ago, back in a time when animals could talk…
C) In the dream-time, when the earth had been stretched over the water and shaped into ranges and valleys…
2. Settlement, around the late 19th early 20thcentury Melbourne’s social elite began to settle in the Macedon ranges. They built their summer residences, grand Victorian houses with ornamental gardens. This piece depicts a topiary garden being tended to by a female figure while a dog and crow watch on.
A) Before the world became as it is today, when people worked hard and life was a simpler affair…
B) Far away in a sunburnt country, where folk still dreamed of ordered woods and gardens…
C) A long time ago, when men still set out to seek their fortunes and women still sometimes turned out to be witches…
3. Today, the country town of Kyneton where I live and the surrounding towns in the Macedon Ranges is a haven for artists like me, with the beauty in the changing landscapes that come with the seasons and the great cafe culture, life comes at a slower pace. This works portrays this country feel with a definite quirky element.
A) In a place neither near nor far, and a time neither now or then, was a town filled with curiosity and wonder…
B) Once upon a time, there was a tree that all the town folk knew about, for its branches were filled with coffee cups…
C) Once, on the far side of yesterday, there was a country town where life was lived at a slower pace…
Ooo I am really looking forward to getting them back from the foundry.
Today read this wonderful editors article online and I think it sums up the purpose of art to the viewer in a nutshell. http://time.com/5523770/seeing-the-bright-side/
So I thought I would paraphrase the parts that resonate with me so that I may add a positive spin to my artist turmoil. With credit to Ava DuVernay the writer, of course.
‘ indicates where I have altered it to make it more succinct for this purpose.
Why Art is the Anidote for Our Times
We live at a time when division is the norm; when ‘it seems like’ humanity ‘has been’ stripped ‘from the world’, when it’s all just too much to organize in our heads, art calls to the optimism within us and beckons us to breathe.
The literal visibility of the proverbial bright side. To me, that is the job of art. To meet us where we are and to invite us in–to think, to feel, to wonder, to dream, to debate, to laugh, to resist, to roam, to imagine.
Art is worthy of our interrogation and is in fact an antidote for our times.
‘Connectedness born of traumatic experiences can and should transform to true engagement with one another.’ Engagement not steeped in fear and separation, but in shared knowledge ‘and recognition.’ Art instigates all of this.
‘Through the appreciation of art we can find optimism, hope and change.’
Amid sleepless nights, panic attacks, crisis of confidence and technical difficulties I still love every moment and know it is worth it all.
I am making progress, despite struggling with the wax in the heat, when I spoke to Craig at the foundry he said it’s probably because you are using ‘winter wax’. I did not know that was a thing, so there you go. Anyway too late now, so as Craig at the Foundry said ‘You’ll be right’ And so I will.
And to quote the painter Catherine Abel “For a brief moment at the beginning I was adrift in the exquisite unfolding of pure creativity ~ the rest was a labour of love.”
Yep, that’s exactly how I feel right now.
I am still contemplating the titles, I have some ideas… but you will have to wait and see.
So I have started making the wax models for my 3 sculptures.
This hot weather is making the process challenging (read stressful! lol) I will be doing lots of problem solving.
These are really just sketches in wax at this stage and have already changed since I took the photos. But it gives you an idea of the complex process involved in making a bronze sculpture.
More about this process later.