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.