Wednesday, May 17, 2017

...On a walk

'City and Nature - Arboretum' ©2017 Nicola Moss. Hand cut papers, etching and collograph print, watercolour, synthetic polymer paint, pigmented ink, and Japanese paper on Stonehenge paper. Photographed by Carl Warner. Courtesy of SGAR.

Sunday, May 14, 2017

Exhibition Catalogue - ...On a walk

Curation and Cultivation: Thoughts on the Intersection of Ecology and Cultural Identity in the work of Susan Harris and Nicola Moss

 Earth-shaping in the form of gardening and landscaping can be understood as expressing ideal relationships between man and nature, revealing certain patterns of interaction between the people and their surrounding ecologies. Bringing together Susan Harris’ experiences and documentation of bush habitat and Nicola Moss’ exploration of Grafton’s town ecology after a residency at Grafton Regional Gallery, this exhibition is a result of multi-faceted art practices that integrate with the artists’ lifestyles through volunteering, observation and ecological research. On a Walk identifies the overlapping processes through which one can begin to take root in one’s surroundings; through planting, through community, and through walking; in a uniquely pragmatic view of identity forming through one’s Place.

Eschewing the romanticisation of the untouched Australian wilderness; a place that never existed in Australia in the first place but has been actively “cultivated” by indigenous populations over millennia; these artists understand that nature is “curated” to various degrees in our everyday situations.
In Australia, there is a constant balancing-act between “curating” and “cultivating” which is imbued with complexity and nuance. In Grafton, as with most of postcolonial Australia, our European gardening and landscaping practices have been written into the history and shaping of the town. Grafton is identifiable by roads lined with purple Jacaranda trees, a species that originated in South America and was subsequently planted around the world during colonial expansion due to its visual magnificence. 

“Many traditional pleasure gardens … recall Eden or the Golden Age, an imagined pre-cultural past when man's harmony with nature was untroubled and effortless. On the other hand, the subtle interplay between artifice and accident, between art and nature, between illusion and reality in European garden traditions from the Renaissance onward embodies changing cultural patterns for coping with nature as adversary, as the given material for the activity of human reason, as the untamed realm confronting the human will.[1]

Street trees have been planted in Grafton since a Public meeting held in 1866, in which the Mayor said not only would the trees provide a more habitable environment from the shade, but also they would add to “the beauty and ornamentation of the town”[2]. Though many planting styles are introduced, they are also uniquely human; it is natural to desire shape, pattern and consistency in our environment and our history. The Jacarandas have provided the visual environment that has produced a collective imprint on the local psyche. This planting has resulted in the longest-running floral festival still celebrated in Australia, is immortalised in a Cold Chisel anthem, and memorialises local serviceman who lost their lives during times of war.
However, not every floral introduction took root. As Grafton was established, residents attempted to re-create, or curate, traditional European cottage gardens, often referred to as “homesick gardens”[3], in nostalgia for a British homeland that most of them had never seen. Woven into this process was the often unrelenting loss of specimens that were unable to survive Australian conditions, to the disappointment of the growers. Postcolonial and rural Australian gardeners are therefore uniquely positioned to understand the contradiction that lies at the heart of European landscaping traditions; that they express both a desire to be connected, and a desire to curate; and are often emphatically reminded of our failure to do both.

The contradiction between artifice and nature, curation and cultivation, is negotiated every day in the uptake and integration of native planting and environmental practices in community gardening and environmental associations across Australia. This negotiation also occurs through the art practices of Moss and Harris, which, rather than occurring in the vacuum of the studio, develop in community and environmental context; a quiet activism.
As a result of this negotiation between curation and cultivation, community gardeners and grassroots environmental movements have allowed participants to physically “design and inhabit their ideas for the future and (re)conceptualise the past”.[4] Such movements have therefore been at the forefront of influencing Australian cultural identity, adding layers of complexity to anthropocentric and nationalistic notions of what it means to be Australian.
This brings us to the question that lies at the heart of this exhibition, one of how to bring an ethos of sustainability to the wider community. The artists show that part of the answer is collectively acknowledging the interconnectedness of cultural and natural environments. Nature and Culture are not binary opposites or discrete concepts, but rather the product of each have been woven together over millennia, consistently affecting each other. Living in an anthropocentric era, where issues of global warming and loss of species and habitat are more frequent and ever worsening, we return to the realisation that the fates of nature and culture are interlocked. This is especially felt in rural Australian communities, who are often the first to be affected by environmental changes.

Moss’ Grafton residency in 2014 highlighted for her that “the Jacaranda Festival is an experience best appreciated on foot; one that facilitates engagement, empathy, festival celebration and identity.”[5] Further, walking is a humble way to know one’s surroundings through a process that is simultaneously active and passive, and leaves room for observation, contemplation, and the chance to take in sensory information through the body as it is engaged in an automatic activity.
In the slow art practices of Susan and Nicola, the paper-based work becomes an extension of the body. It translates embodied knowledge gathered through walking in deliberate but gentle processes of drawing, printmaking and papercut.

“We value [drawings] for their immediacy, for the insights they offer into the process of the creative act, for their fragmentary, incomplete nature, their intimacy and directness; in drawings, we seek truth, not power.”[6]  

Using methods of expanded drawing allows the artists to inscribe themselves into time and place, demonstrating the multi-faceted journey to feel connected to one’s surroundings. Though shapes between the works overlap, one might see the doilies of the Country Women’s Association in Moss’ mandalas, among maps of the city and surrounding topography. In Harris’ drawings, the shapes of seeds, leaves and bark emerge from studies drawn on bush paths.
In this exhibition, lines and mark making in expanded drawing processes create patterns and connections, crawling like roots or neural pathways between silhouettes: results of intuitive processes of curating and cultivating in harmony.
Essay by Marisa Georgiou

We would like to acknowledge the land on which Grafton now resides, the Bundjalung and Gumbaynggirr peoples who cultivated it, and their elders past, present and emerging.

[1] Esther Gordon Dotson, Shapes of Earth and Time in European Gardens, Art Journal, Vol. 42, No. 3, Earthworks: Past and Present  (Autumn, 1982), pp. 210-216: 210
[2] Clarence River Historical Society 80th Jacaranda Festival 2014 booklet, P2
[3] Allaine Cerwonka, Native to the Nation: Disciplining Landscapes and Bodies in Australia. Minneapolis, MN, USA: University of Minnesota Press, 2004. P112
[4] Ibid.
[5] Note from the Artist, 2017
[6] Karen Kurczynski, Vitamin D2, New Perspectives in Drawing, 2013, pp6-14: 8

Wednesday, May 10, 2017

On a Walk - open at Grafton Regional Gallery

'...On a Walk' is now on show at Grafton Regional Gallery. With thanks to Susan Harris for exhibiting with me and Grafton Regional Gallery for hosting me as artist in residence in 2014.

Official opening with the artists this Friday 12th May at 5.30pm.

Saturday, May 6, 2017

'...On a walk' ready for install

'City and Nature - Tree in hand' ©2017 Nicola Moss. Hand cut papers, collograph, synthetic polymer paint, charcoal frottage, pigmented ink, rust stain, washi paper. Photographed by Carl Warner. Courtesy of SGAR.

Works are in their frames ready for installation next week at Grafton Regional Gallery.
On a walk... opens 10th May, with drinks and conversation with the artists Friday 12th May from 5.30pm. Please feel welcome to join us.

Sunday, April 23, 2017

Back in the studio....

'Curated ecology - City of Trees' (detail) ©2017 Nicola Moss. Hand cut paper, synthetic polymer paint. Photographed by Carl Warner.

The last few weeks have been full since I returned to my studio on the Gold Coast. After unpacking and then packing away (I'll return to it later in the year) my work from residency at Youkobo Art Space; there were a few deadlines to meet for my upcoming joint exhibition with Susan Harris at Grafton Regional Gallery. First up, cutting of a new mandala artwork 'Curated ecology - City of Trees'; along with photographic documentation of artworks for the exhibition catalogue and a writer to be engaged for writing the catalogue essay.
With this said I'd like to give a big Thank You to Marisa Georgiou who wrote a fantastic essay on very short notice; and another big Thank You to photographer Carl Warner for turning around the high resolution images same day.

It felt like a good time to give my website a thorough update and add new works for the exhibition - check it out here.

I'm looking forward to the opening of 'On a walk...' with Susan Harris at Grafton Regional Gallery on Friday 12th May. If you are in the area, please feel welcome to join us. More details on the show shortly.

Monday, April 3, 2017

Thank you!

I have so many people to thank for what has been a most excellent residency experience at Youkobo Art Space, Tokyo.
Firstly a huge thanks to Phil - for your ongoing support of my practice and looking after the girls.
Special thanks to Tatsuhiko Murata-san and Hiroko Murata-san, Directors at Youkobo Art Space, for creating such a welcoming, organised and helpful residence. And thank you for the always smiling support and assistance, Makiko-san and Jamie-san at Youkobo.
Thanks to my fellow residents - Xiang Yun and Saku for being great companions! I enjoyed sharing the meals, laughs and journeys with you.
Thanks to all the studio visitors and new friends in Tokyo, it was lovely to meet you and discuss City and Nature with you.
Thanks to family and friends at home who joined in the experience. And Thanks to Bozzo Mori-san for the great photos.

With sincere Thanks to Arts Queensland and City of Gold Coast for support through the Regional Arts Development Fund.

The Regional Arts Development Fund is a partnership between the Queensland Government and the City of Gold Coast Council to support local arts and culture in regional Queensland.

Sunday, March 26, 2017

Open Studio at Youkobo Art Space

Fellow residents at Youkobo Art Space - Saku Heinanen and Xiang Yun (aka XY). Photo courtesy of Sylvia Chen.

It's been a great week with five days of Open Studio at Youkobo Art Space. Presenting City and Nature with research, artworks and conversation about my experiences of Green Space here in Tokyo. The discussions with each visitor about their relationship to nature and green space has been very interesting.
With Thanks to Kay Watanabe and Mika Nakamura-Mather in Brisbane, Australia for inviting their Tokyo friends, much appreciated.
Image above photographed by 'Bozzo'.

Thank you to everyone who visited and contributed to my project, it was lovely to speak with you. And special thanks to Makiko-san and Hiroko-san at Youkobo Art Space for your lovely translations and interpreter skills!
Thank you also 'Bozzo' Mori-san for your professional skills and photographers eye capturing images of Open Studio.

The Regional Arts Development Fund is a partnership between the Queensland Government and the City of Gold Coast Council to support local arts and culture in regional Queensland.

Monday, March 20, 2017

3331 Art Fair

On Friday Loh Xiang Yun and I joined Hiroko Murata and Tatsuhiko Murata, the Directors of Youkobo Art Space, and Makiko Tsuji, AIR Co-ordinator of Youkobo, at the opening event of 3331 Art Fair - Various Collectors Prizes. The Various Collectors Prizes presented a curated exhibition of 77 artists' work, selected from emerging to well-established artists.
Some artists were selected by galleries, others selected by curators and arts industry figures; Youkobo Art Space directors selected two artists in the Art Fair.
It was a lovely evening of art viewing, introductions, wonderful conversations and invitation giving to our upcoming Open Studio event at Youkobo Art Space.

A few artists stood out for me, Fuyuka Shindo whose work I saw on my last trip to Japan at the Sapporo International Art Festival. Her artwork is a detailed layering of imagery in embroidery on dried fish skin, with the appearance of translucent textured parchment, it's a delicate yet striking combination of materials, heritage and ecological discussion. It was a delight to meet Fuyuka on the night and see more of her work.
Yasuko Toyoshima had a substantial work on paper installed on the gallery wall, discussing history of migration of Japanese people. Specifically selected washi paper added another layer of significance to the work.

With special thanks to Murata-san for many introductions. Above image courtesy of Youkobo Art Space. 3331 Art Fair finishes today Monday 20th March 2017.

The Regional Arts Development Fund is a partnership between the Queensland Government and the City of Gold Coast Council to support local arts and culture in regional Queensland.

Saturday, March 18, 2017

Private garden tour - Shinmachi

It was an absolute delight to be given a guided tour of two private gardens in Shinmachi this week. Youkobo Art Space where I am currently in residence, sits within Shinmachi, a name from older times for a smaller surrounding local area. I've walked many of the streets in Shinmachi looking at land that was once an agricultural greenbelt of Tokyo. So being invited behind the gates to see gardens up close was a real treat.

At Youkobo Art Space, Tatsuhiko Murata introduced me to the 'Urban jungle', a garden with many memories, heritage, art and seasonal flora. Artworks by Hiroko Murata and Ryozo Takashima have a delightful presence as they occupy open and hidden spaces within the garden. Citrus fruit, salty plum, apricot and ornamental banana plants provide seasonal flowers and attract birds. This little 'wild' patch is a haven.

Tatsuhiko Murata-san in his garden.

Above: Ryozo Takashima-san with his artwork 'Jinen Seki' transported from 'Trolls in the Park' 2015 Open air festival to the Youkobo garden.
Trolls in the Park is a contemporary art exhibition held annually since 2002. Bringing together an open air art exhibition held in metropolitan Zenpukuji Park every year since its inception, and various exhibitions in the town of Nishiogikubo since 2014.

The second garden visited has been in the family of Noda-san for many generations, formally being an agricultural farm. Now surrounded by dense suburbia, a smaller garden remains with remnants of agricultural heritage. It was so interesting to hear the history and connection to land of this family. A grove of bamboo forest stands amongst surrounding homes as a special place to visit and listen to the wind blowing.

With special thanks to Youkobo Art Space and Eiichi Noda-san for opening their gardens and exchanging their stories with me.

The Regional Arts Development Fund is a partnership between the Queensland Government and the City of Gold Coast Council to support local arts and culture in regional Queensland.

Thursday, March 16, 2017

Opening at Youkobo Art Space

Invitations arrived for the Open Studio event at Youkobo Art Space. I'd like to extend a warm welcome to come and join in viewing our residency developments and have a chat, it would be lovely to see you.
I'll have new paper cut works and small sculpture pieces on show along with residency research and work in progress.

Open 22nd to 26th March, 2017, 12 noon to 7pm daily, with opening party Friday 24th March from 5pm. Youkobo Art Space, Zempukuji 3-2-10 Suginami-ku, Tokyo.

The Regional Arts Development Fund is a partnership between the Queensland Government and the City of Gold Coast Council to support local arts and culture in regional Queensland.