Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Connecting


I headed down to Queenscliff in Victoria this weekend for the official opening drinks and artist conversation for my exhibition at Salt Contemporary Art.

Fiona asked me some interesting questions during our 'artist conversation', and as happens in contemplation afterwards, I think of what I would like to have added to my responses. Her first question asked about the title of the exhibition 'Breathing in Mountains' and what meaning this had for me. The exhibition features paintings that reflect on my experiences of the World Heritage listed environment of Cradle Mountain in Tasmania, which I visited this year in February. The landscape of Cradle Mountain is incredibly pristine, there is almost no 'built' environment, with some board walk paths protecting fragile vegetation, but this is the extent of man made features. In landscapes like this I am aware of being in a place that is completely alive, landscapes are living, I am surrounded by communities of lives. There is no concrete, no hum of machinery or bling of an iphone. As I walked each day through the striking environments at Cradle Mountain I felt all of my senses were engaged, awakened to the sounds, smells, textures and sights. I feel a sense of connection to the lives around me, I am alive in a place which is full of life, and in essence these days spent in natural landscapes are the ones when I feel most alive. My title 'Breathing in Mountains' encapsulates this feeling of breathing in the natural world, it is a feeling of recharging for me, even elation at times.

I would like to thank Fiona and Salt Contemporary Art for hosting my exhibition and doing a great job of hanging the works. Thank you to all my family and friends, along with visitors to the gallery who came along for the afternoon, it was great to see and meet you. Also thank you to Deirdre Carmichael who writes the Artin' Geelong blog for a great post about the works in my exhibition; it was lovely to catch up with you again Deirdre. And to those who couldn't make it on the day but sent me good wishes, Thank you.

Friday, November 23, 2012

A write up for Breathing in Mountains

'Miniature Worlds - On the Overland Track' ©2012, Nicola Moss. Acrylic and graphite on canvas, 90 x 90cm.

Breathing in Mountains opens today at Salt Contemporary Art, I'm so looking forward to seeing all the paintings hung together. The Arts Bulletin at City of Greater Geelong site has a lovely write up about the exhibition, you can read the full article here.

This is a little excerpt -
"Encompassing her interest in environmental conservation, Moss has decided to visit all the world heritage listed areas in Australia in what could be described as her ‘ecological bucket list’. So far she has produced work in response to three of the sixteen Australian natural world heritage sites and she hopes to visit more next year."


Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Collectibles 2 at SGAR

 
'In Loving memory - Tambaroora' 2012. Acrylic, watercolour, natural ochre, rust stain, hand cut paper, framed size 40 x 32cm. Nicola Moss.

If you are in Brisbane you might like to check out 'Collectibles 2' , the second annual exhibition of small-scale pieces created by Australian artists and designers on show at Spiro Grace Art Rooms in Spring Hill, Brisbane. Three hand cut paperworks created during my residency at Hill End will be on show in the exhibition.

'Collectibles 2' opens this Friday 23rd November, 6-8pm, at Spiro Grace Art Rooms; continuing to Saturday 15th December 2012.


Breathing in Mountains

'Breathing in Mountains'(detail) 2012, Nicola Moss. 150 x 220cm.

 Breathing in Mountains opens at Salt Contemporary Art, Queenscliff, this Friday. The paintings have all arrived and been hung for the show, I'm looking forward to seeing them up together. I will be heading down in the first weekend of December to give a talk about the works and inspiring landscape of Cradle Mountain. If you would like to come along the talk begins at 2pm followed by opening drinks at 2.30.


The Overland Track and Cradle Mountain.

Friday, November 9, 2012

Artists Pool - Cradle Mountain

 'Life on the waters' edge - Artists Pool', © 2012. Nicola Moss. Acrylic, pigmented ink and charcoal on canvas, 122 x 122cm. Photographed by Carl Warner.


When we arrived at Cradle Mountain one of our first stops was at the National Parks office to purchase a map of walks in the area. Whilst pouring over this a small speck of water caught my attention - Artists Pool, with a name like that I had to see it. On our second day of walking we took the trail over Hansons Peak and then continued on along Lake Rodway Track to Artists Pool. Situated on the eastern side of Cradle Mountain the track passes through dense shrub areas, moist peat sections and then into a valley with large weather-bonsai'd pencil pines. It's a very scenic walk with the mountain rockfaces reaching high on one side. When we reached Artists Pool I could see it is aptly named with amber coloured waters reflecting mature gnarled trees, mountain back drop and delicate ground cover surrounds. We spent some time having lunch there enjoying the pristine environment. I found these natural 'compositions' in the landscape at Cradle Mountain very inspiring.



I'm very tempted to return again in an Autumn-Winter season to see the pool covered in snow, you can see a photograph by Grant Dixon here.




Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Back in the studio

'Through lichen hollows skirting Dove Lake', © 2012. Nicola Moss. Acrylic on canvas, 120 x 120cm. Photographed by Carl Warner.


It has been a busy week back in the studio. After unpacking from the residencies I then wrapped works for delivery to my upcoming solo exhibition - 'Breathing in Mountains' at Salt Contemporary Art. The months leading up to going away were spent completing paintings for this show, it was interesting to see them again after a couple of months break. Inspiration for the exhibition came from travels in February this year to Cradle Mountain in Tasmania, a unique rugged environment situated within the World Heritage listed wilderness region. You can read more about my walks herehere and here.

I'm looking forward to seeing these works up on show. 'Breathing in Mountains' opens on Friday 23rd November and continues to Friday 14th December. I will be giving an artist talk on Sunday 2nd December at 2pm, followed by opening drinks, please feel welcome to come along and join in the opening.

Dove Lake with Cradle Mountain shrouded in morning mist.

Saturday, October 27, 2012

Geology - Terrain - Soil

 I'm finally back home again, looking at piles around me, wondering where to start. Firstly a wrap up of my residency at BigCi and experiences of the Greater Blue Mountains World Heritage area.

After having an amazing time at Hill End I began to doubt my decision to work two residencies back to back, would one overshadow the other? Would I be as focused at BigCi? They were different residencies in several ways, but interesting parallels emerged, some quite unexpected. Orchards of fruit trees were a feature of both environments as was mining, both current and historic. In a way the vastness of the Blue Mountains area which posed a challenge initially, came to present the strong feature of place. The very structure of this landscape, its geology, terrain and soil is what has shaped its land use and in effect non-use by people. I found the patchwork of fertile and infertile soils, accessible and wilderness areas, juxtaposed against one another very interesting. I also realised that the scale of this landscape is not just about the hectares square it covers, but about the surface area of its terrain. In the escarpments, canyons and gullies, surface area is magnifold 10x, 20x, 50x? I don't really know precisely. Areas full of niches, vertical rock escarpments and plateaus with canyon caves underneath, create a multitude of microcosms supporting diversity of life.

So I found one residency informed the other, I could relate and contemplate experiences between them. I felt a heightened sense of awareness and focus. Partly I think due to my lack of obligations, I just needed to get up each day and look, really observe, reflect, make work, research, look some more...make some more work. Yes it was as good as it sounds, I am fortunate to have a very supportive partner, Thank you Phil! The residencies were an opportunity to be in the moment, the here and now in those landscapes.

Now I'm ready to get on with the work, very eager really with so much in my head. Will keep you posted with how it progresses.

 Top image is the lookout at Pulpit Rock, Blackheath. Image above is the track to Walls Lookout. Below is a small cave in Wollemi National Park, across the road from BigCi. The last image is from one of the caves at Sunnyside Canyon in the Gardens of Stone National Park; I described this previously as a small theatre size, when I look back at this image, it was more like a huge Imax theatre really. Getting off-track walking in the Gardens of Stone National Park was definitely one of the highlights during my BigCi residency.


Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Sculpture by the Sea

Last weekend I had an opportunity to visit Sculpture by the Sea for my first time. We caught a bus to Bondi Beach and walked the beautiful coastal trail from Bondi to Tamarama Beach. With 113 sculptural works to see along the way, we enjoyed several hours of viewing.
There is a wide range of works, material, subject and concept. Some works are funny, others reflect on the landscape they are situated in. Poignant works reflected on tragedies of tsunami and bombings, while others were aesthetically beautiful. I enjoyed a wide cross section of works on show, a few images are below. Sculpture by the Sea continues till 4th November.
Detail of 'mengenang (memory)' a wind driven installation of 222 bamboo 'bird-scarers' tuned to D-minor began as a reflection on 222 lives lost in the Bali bombings, by Cave Urban.
'Paper boats' by Maurizio Perron, I thought these were very striking in contrast to the coastline.
'Together' by Elaine Clocherty made with found local natural materials, harmonized beautifully with the sandstone coast.

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Diversity

One of the challenges I've had during my residency at BigCi is working within such a broad area. The Greater Blue Mountains World Heritage area extends over one million hectares. Even in a lifetime it would be difficult to see everything that this unique landscape has to offer, far less in four weeks. Having said this I have had opportunities to glimpse small areas of spectacular wild landscapes, walk some well worn tracks and observe the diverse local ecology.
Over the last few days I have been contemplating focus, what will I reflect on, research further and make work about. Diversity of choice in a biodiverse region - I spent some time today working in an area of a few square metres outside the studio. Drawing the diversity of flora in that one little patch and the characteristics of the plants I encountered. It was a good exercise to really look and see just how much layered life is around - the mosaic of life.

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Greater Blue Mountains ecology

There is so much to see here. It's been a big toss up over the last week... Get outdoors and see more or spend some time in the studio putting ideas into work. I've been reading a lot too; the history of early explorers, their descriptions of terrain encountered gives a much more realistic interpretation of the wilderness in this region. Driving along bitumen roadways can give a false sense of the landscape being conquered.
I came across the Australian Governments' submission to Unesco for World Heritage listing of the Greater Blue Mountains area, it's very informative and fascinating reading. (when I return home I'll go back over these posts and insert all the hyperlinks that I haven't mastered yet with the app).
Eucalypt diversity is one of the main reasons for the area being listed, with forests creating dynamic ecologies, high diversity of understory species, along with associated heathlands. The Greater Blue Mountains area is the world's single best example of this existing in a region that is still largely wilderness.
Moths get a mention too - "Many of the thousands of moth species in the region use eucalypts during their life cycle. Their interactions with the flora of the region are little explored, but are likely to be of considerable scientific significance."
The moth pictured was on an outside wall of the studio this week, a giant to me at 12cm across the wing tips, what a beauty... So much still to learn about the interrelations of life.
Wild flowers are moving into pod now...equally beautiful I think.

Saturday, October 13, 2012

Sunnyside Canyon - Gardens of Stone National Park

This week I had an amazing experience 'walking' at Sunnyside Canyon in Gardens of Stone National Park. It's a dramatic landscape of pagoda stone geology with heath covered rock plateaus, iron stone and sandstone sculpted outcrops, sheer drops, and below in shaded wet canyons another world of ferns, pools and cavernous ampitheatres. The images I have of the canyon area really don't capture it's narrow yet grand scale.
After almost standing on a large Bearded Dragon as we were about to begin the walk; we headed through scrub till large rock platforms emerged, vegetation became heath like and a small creek appeared. This was the beginning of the gorge, which gradually grew deeper as we headed along. Gradually one carved out cave after another was encountered, along with lush tree fern surrounded pools and huge rock fall blockages. One cavern was incredibly symmetrical and the size of a small theatre, I scrambled up to the back 'seat' and took in an amazing view of the space with brilliant sunlight illuminating the gorge beyond. We went as far as possible to a point where the canyon meets a sheer cliff drop to the valley below. Then it was time for the dramatic exit, we headed back to a split in the rock plateau above and scrambled to the surface, where we were back on plateau heath again with stunning views of the valley and beyond. Such an amazing place and experience!! Thanks again Yuri.
(The plateau surface image shows a slot in the stone - centre above tree/bush - which is where we emerged from the canyon below.)

Monday, October 8, 2012

Wollemi National Park - wildflowers

This mornings walk in Wollemi National Park revealed a few fresh wildflowers to me. Some are just opening and I'll make a few trips this week to see them in full bloom. Others I suspect were there on previous walks, gradually my eye is becoming more attuned to fine details within this densely layered landscape. The spent banksia cones are rich in colour after recent rain, and a flower I always appreciate even when spent.
The Field guide to Australian Wildflowers I purchased last week at the Mount Tomah Botanic Gardens has been very useful in identifying many plants.
The orchid is Purplish Bearded Orchid (Calochilus robertsonii), quite large at about 3cm across and beautifully streaked color.
The white flower is Leptospermum macrocarpum, I think, and is just coming into flower now, I find the form stunning. This wildflower is mainly found in the Blue Mountains on sandstone or rocky sites.
The tiny pink cupped flower may be Fringed Heath Myrtle, but I'll need to do some more identification work on this one.

Saturday, October 6, 2012

Out of the studio - BigCi

The bushland property of BigCi is like one giant living studio space. I'm enjoying working outdoors here, listening to the various bird calls and watching leaves fall to the gully below like natural confetti.
I was drawn to an empty metal frame sitting in the bush and felt it resembled a cabinet, perhaps of curiosities, like a museum showcase of environment specimens. So I set about collecting elements of the landscape and making a cabinet of sorts with paper sides. Then it became a 'drawing cabinet' as I thought about stains and marks drawn by the elements, weather and falling debris.... Perhaps even a marauding night animal.... Who knows, and isn't that all part of the experience. My installation has weathered for a few days now and misty rain all day today has me excited to see what develops. Makes up for the slight disappointment I felt on the first overnight morning when not a single mark or fallen leaf had intervened.... Ha!
In the late afternoon light shadows transform the space into a puppet theatre setting. I wonder what it will be like in three weeks time.

Thursday, October 4, 2012

Wollemi National Park

Across the road from BigCi, where I'm currently and artist in residence, is the Wollemi National Park. This National Park is part of the Greater Blue Mountains World Heritage area.
A short ten minute walk from the studio takes me to this lookout area, where I enjoyed a spot of bird watching. The Greater Blue Mountains Heritage area contains a recorded 265 bird species, which equates to 33% of Australia's total.

BigCi ecology Part 2

Big skinks, dainty wattle, rock and more rock, natural bush alive with bird call.

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Ben Bullen State Forest

On my first day at BigCi I joined members of a few bushwalking groups to hike off track through areas of Ben Bullen State Forest. The area adjoins Gardens of Stone National Park but unfortunately falls outside the lines drawn. We started at the top of tall sandstone and ironstone pagodas, geology evolved over millions of years, into striking sculptural forms, escarpments, canyons, split rocks and caves. Over the next five hours we scrambled into valleys, through stunning canyons, back up onto ridge lines and then through tall forests. It was amazing to see such an array of diverse environments in the short distances (as the bird flies) we were covering. Lyre bird nests could be seen in cavities worn out of the soft sandstone.
It was an incredible experience to get so close to these places. Unfortunately there was another side to this walk, the area we were traversing is currently proposed for an open cut coal mine. As we headed through forest below the sandstone pagodas I could see a void appearing ahead of me, gradually it grew until there was nothing else to see but a huge empty ominous space, all living matter ceased to exist, completely obliterated. It was hard to imagine that the areas we had passed through could be lost in this way. The walk was referred to as - 'From heaven to hell and back', I could see why.
More info can be found here if you're interested - http://nccnsw.org.au/content/protect-gardens-stone

It was quite an introduction to my residency, encapsulating competition between conservation and development on the fringe of one of Australia's great World Heritage listed areas. So much to think about.
Thanks to Yuri for inviting me to join the walk.

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Ecology of BigCi

BigCi at Bilpin sits between Wollemi National Park and Blue Mountains National Park, surrounded by stunning World Heritage listed landscapes. There is so much choice of where to walk, observe, work...so basically wherever I go I'm seeing flora and fauna I've never seen before. I couldn't have timed the residency better with wildflowers, hakeas, waratah and banksia in full bloom.
Here is a small snapshot of the local ecology.

In the studio - BigCi

I arrived at BigCi ( http://bigci.org/ ) on Friday after a drive through some beautiful Australian landscapes from Hill End to Bilpin. BigCi is where I will be artist in residence for the next few weeks. I'm thrilled with the studio space I'll be working in, with ample space and excellent lighting. Residency host and sculptor, Rae Bolotin has created a great working space situated amongst native bushland.
The first few days here have been full on with several bushwalks and explorations of trails in the neighbouring Wollemi National Park, literally across the road. It's a lot to take in at first, as I gradually familiarize myself with the local flora, fauna, characteristics of environment, stunning geology, etc! More posts on this to follow. For now here's a pic of the studio space.

Monday, September 24, 2012

Late afternoon - Hill End

As my time here at Hill End draws to a close I have been contemplating this unique place and my experiences of it. It took me a week to realise Hill End is more special than I had imagined.
Hill End forms an enclave of sorts, with paling fences, remnant and recent orchards, and historic grand avenue trees. Surrounding this, the Australian native landscape blurs at the edges of town with an abundance of pioneering wattle and thick coppice forests. Outward veins of eroded gold mining gullies and stunning panoramic lookout views sit close to town before the wider rolling hills and rocky slopes take over.
Hill End is perhaps not completely unlike Rome with it's ancient city walls; in the sense that it is a town shaped by strong cultural heritage, now constrained, or maybe conformed is a better word, to the past, for now and into the future. Hill End presents an environment shaped over many generations with each stage still evident in some form - it is what I think makes this place so unique.
What has been most present in my mind during this residency is thoughts about time - time and history are evident wherever I look in the landscape. In many scales, from the daily routines of night and day, to the rich abundance of sensory seasonal displays, from annual climatic ranges to the historical remnants and activities over many periods which have shaped this place. Elements of time, both natural and man-made are the marks and shaping factors of this environment.
There is, of course, much more than this to Hill End, the community and family history heritage over generations; the surrounding pastoral farm land, the tenacity required to live in this type of climate, but like most artists I'm sure, my eye is drawn to particular elements of this place, my mind contemplates particular relationships here. Perhaps we each find a slightly different story in this place.
It has been such a pleasure to have this opportunity of sharing time in Hill End. To catch a glimpse of this unique place. I would like to especially thank Bathurst Regional Art Gallery, Richard, Robina, Emma, Marion, staff and volunteers of the gallery; National Parks and Wildlife Services NSW, the community of Hill End and most of all my husband Phil for his ongoing support.

Sunday, September 23, 2012

Spring

In just a short couple of weeks I've been able to watch the trees transforming here at Hill End. Spring is beautiful to watch with it's incredible surge of new growth, pollen, bees and birds, all in a frenzy. So different from the change of seasons in subtropical Queensland.