Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Your favourite tree?

Having an open studio during my residency at Grafton Regional Gallery invited many informal conversations with visitors. I would inevitably ask them about their favourite tree in Grafton. There were some clear stand outs, in particular the large White Fig (Ficus virens) on the corner of Prince and Victoria Streets. Planted around 1880 this giant of a tree reaches well across the width of Grafton's extra wide streets casting cool shade under its green umbrella. The camera doesn't really capture its scale.

Jacaranda's, naturally, had several mentions, sometimes a particular tree that stood more alone was distinguished. And then there were comments on Silky Oak and Flame trees, along with the large row of figs on Breimba Street, another cool shady green sanctuary. I was stopped in the street and asked what the Tulipwood trees were, perhaps photographing trees gave away my interest.

When I first arrived in Grafton the Tabebuia were in full flower with bells of golden yellow filling the branches and making carpets below. By the time my residency ended the Poinciana trees were bursting with new leaf and flowers just emerging.


In the last week I photographed several Lacebark trees along Bacon Street, they were a standout for me, I just love the form of the tree with it's pink bell flowers. And one other curious tree will remain memorable, not so much because of its species, paperbark, more for the two metre cloak of nature strip grass which it wore.


There is one more tree I'd like to mention, a rare species in cultivation, the White Lace Flower (Archidendron hendersonii) on Duke Street, had its beautiful puffball flowers on display. These are only a selection of the street trees I saw in flower. Do you have a favourite?


Friday, November 7, 2014

Out of the studio


I had a great day on Tuesday when I joined local artist Sue Harris, who invited me to go with her, on an outing to see fauna survey work in a local reserve. We met with a ranger and two ecologists on site to see what had been caught in the traps set overnight. Seeing the wildlife up-close was fantastic. Each animal was handled so delicately during its identification for the survey. The landscape was beautiful with sandstone ridges, grass trees and a rock-bed creek of interspersed pools. We heard frog croak and saw various burrows, along with a couple of lace monitor. It's not often that I would have an opportunity to join in an outing like this, not just to see the scientific work that is being undertaken, but also to partake in the conversation that occur around subjects of environment.
Thank you Sue, it was so good!


Escapees



During my residency I've enjoyed spending time walking around the streets of Grafton photographing elements of the natural and built environment. I've noticed many trees have outgrown their initial curb or ground enclosure. Some tree roots sprawl across bitumen, rippling the ground surface, while co-occupying or competing with parking space. I find the edge of environments interesting, the place where two different zones cross over, in permaculture this zone is an area of higher diversity. In a street scape I imagine it could be a place where values are weighed up - the tree or the carpark?

Monday, November 3, 2014

In the studio


Work is starting to come together on the wall of the studio at Grafton Regional Gallery. I'm at the end of week three in my residency, with one week to go. It's always interesting to be somewhere you don't know and experience the place and community - I think of it as being a sense of 'fresh eyes'. Nothing is that familiar so I tend to see everything equally, so to speak. Four weeks is a good length of time to get a feel for a place, I can't 'know' it, but connections and ideas develop, often unexpectedly.
Sound is something that has put me outside of my comfort zone during the residency. Before I came I was thinking of Grafton as being in regional Australia, a country town, and hadn't quite grasped the suburban town-ness of being in an apartment on Fitzroy Street. Where I live and work on the Gold Coast is very quiet, silence is a common experience during my days there. I hadn't realised how much of a sanctuary that place is, removed really from a lot of the day to day activities of community. Grafton has ignited many thoughts about community, participation, and what it means to live in town. I won't miss the street sweeper at 4.30am every morning, but I am aware of being far more engaged with community life and its emotions. Plenty for me to contemplate....this has been in part a 'fresh ears' experience.

I would like to Thank very much Grafton Regional Art Gallery for supporting my artist residency, with generous funding from Arts NSW. The residency has been a unique experience, I'm looking forward to the next week.

Grafton Ecology


The collection of vegetation, seeds and flowers continues to grow in the studio space. Making interesting reference material for work in progress, along with a few tools for mark making.

Silk postcards

A little follow up on the historic needlework cards I saw last week. I was looking at the Australian War Memorial website and found they have a substantial collection of the needlework, which were embroidered on silk as postcards, peaking in popularity during the First World War. They were mostly hand embroidered by French women in their homes and sent to factories for cutting and mounting as postcards. Sent home to loved ones, I can imagine the messages avoided speaking about the realities of war.

Friday, October 31, 2014

The bridge


This post is for Deb.
I took my first walk across the historic Grafton Bridge this week. It has two decks with road traffic above and railway and pedestrian below. There is a lot of history and engineering in the bridge which you can read about here.
I enjoyed the experience of crossing the river, it's big and one of the reasons Grafton came to be, that and the timber that was first harvested from the area. I disturbed several pigeons on my walk, the bridge is home to hundreds? I'm guessing from their deposits. The textures of the bridge are great, rusted metal, weathered wood, and archways of red brick underneath at each end. The breeze of fresh air, watching water flowing strongly below railway lines and listening to rumble of unseen traffic above makes it an experience of senses.

Flowers and memory


I came to Grafton on my residency to look at the ecology and trees of this historic city, and think about how the community engages or relates to the environment around them. During my time here I have seen many connections to the flowers of the trees and of course most evident the Jacaranda Festival celebrations that are timed to coincide with its flowering.
During the week I headed to South Grafton to look at the Jacaranda Embroidery Group's Biennial Exhibition of needlework. What really caught my eye was the Remembrance display of needlework. The poppy flower displayed in crochet was very striking, but even more intriguing I found were the historic needlework with messages of luck, hope and celebration. They all feature natural elements in flowers, vegetation, birds and landscape. Flowers have so many cultural associations of remembrance, celebration, home, thanks and the simple pleasure of perfume and visual beauty. Plenty to think about while I am here.

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Open Gardens


As part of the Grafton Jacaranda Festival several local gardens are open to visitors, I headed out this morning to see the flowers. I have seen Grafton as a city of flowers as much as it is a city of trees. Bromeliads, hippeastrum, roses, succulents and annuals were all well represented, along with shade giving palms, water features and ornaments. I saw plenty of reused materials and creative hanging plants.

Jacaranda Festival weekend


There has been so much happening in town this weekend with the 80th Annual Grafton Jacaranda Festival. Saturday morning started with the parade of youth and banner competition. Led by the 22 piece Royal Australian Navy Band down Prince Street, I enjoyed the atmosphere and seeing the kids school banners celebrating the festival. Later in the evening I joined a large portion of the community to watch the Jacaranda Queen Crowning event. The dancing entertainment was great with 80 years of festival interpreted in 80 years of dance, seeing Abba followed by Michael Jackson was classic.
The whole evening had a lovely festive, community feel, I can't remember the last time I was at a country fair. The 2014 Jacaranda Queen was crowned amidst much tradition and ceremony, congratulations to Emily Causley.

In between events I spent the weekend working in the studio and meeting visitors to the gallery. It's nice to have an opportunity to share experiences of Grafton and to hear thoughts on the work developing.