Sarah Breen Lovett Ona Janzen Linda Seiffert Jacqueline Spedding
Curated by Sabrina Roesner
Field Trip Sarah Breen Lovett Ona Janzen Linda Seiffert Jacqueline Spedding
Curated by Sabrina Roesner
â&#x20AC;&#x153;We need the tonic of wildness...At the same time that we are earnest to explore and learn all things, we require that all things be mysterious and unexplorable, that land and sea be indefinitely wild, unsurveyed and unfathomed by us because unfathomable. We can never have enough of nature.â&#x20AC;? Henry David Thoreau 2
Index Field Trip essay by Sabrina Roesner Works: Sarah Breen Lovett Works: Ona Janzen Works: Linda Seiffert Works: Jacqueline Spedding List of Works
p. 4 p. 8 p. 14 p. 18 p. 22 p. 26
Field Trip Field Trip brings together four contemporary Blue Mountains artists in an exhibition of site-specific works that explore the physical, cultural and historical landscapes of BigCi. BigCi (Bilpin international ground for Creative initiatives) is an artist run residency, located on eight acres of bushland, bordering the Wollemi National Park in the World Heritage listed Blue Mountains. The property and its artist residency program provide a unique platform for creative development by linking artists, scientists and community. I invited Sarah Breen Lovett, Ona Janzen, Linda Seiffert and Jacqueline Spedding on several field trips to BigCi over a twelve-month period. Each artist responded directly to the environment and unearthed a myriad of narratives connected to the property. Their diverse inquiries including video and multi-media installation, photography, ceramics and sculpture resulted in four site-specific installations displayed across the BigCi property. The title of the exhibition Field Trip plays with the notion of scientific exploration and discovery. Whilst at first glance artists and scientists seem like polar opposites; both explore, interpret and map their environment and provide new points of perspective which feed into a larger cultural discourse. John Maeda, President of Rhode Island School of Design empathises the importance of research and enquiry within artistic practice it in his article 4
‘Artists and Scientists: More Alike Than Different ’: “We know that the scientist’s laboratory and the artist’s studio are two of the last places reserved for open-ended inquiry, for failure to be a welcome part of the process, for learning to occur by a continuous 1 feedback loop between thinking and doing.” Considering this, my curatorial focus for Field Trip was on the collaborative exploration, evaluation and creative development of work. The process of discovery, recording and analysis was as important as the final outcome. The participating artists shared and discussed their initial ideas and concepts from an early stage, which can be challenging as many ideas are still raw and unresolved at this stage of the creative process. Sarah Breen Lovett, Ona Janzen, Linda Seiffert and Jacqueline Spedding returned to BigCi many times throughout the year and collected samples, interviewed the owners and spent time at their sites. Two artists stayed at BigCi for several weeks and shared the residency space with other visiting artists. Allowing time and space for collective learning and creative development resulted in works which go beyond the physical interpretation of this place. Personal memories and experiences were revisited, cultural and spiritual beliefs explored and the processes of change and challenges embraced. Those themes are echoed in the works created for Field Trip, which hopes to place a strong emphasis on a more comprehensive, sensitive and inclusive enquiry into this unique landscape.
The Blue Mountains universal values i.e. their unique bio- and geodiversity as well as their heritage and cultural values have been acknowledged nationally and internationally through their inclusion as Greater Blue Mountains World Heritage Area (GBMWHA) into the National Heritage List and the World Heritage List in 2000. The GBMWHA spans over 1.3 million hectares comprised of sandstone tablelands, eucalypt forests, canyons, creeks and wetlands. Ann McGrath OAM, Professor of History and Director of the Australian Centre for Indigenous History at the Australian National University describes this region as a unique place of national value in her essay ‘Crossing history’s mountains: the historic values of the Greater Blue Mountains’:
“The Blue Mountains region is a place of outstanding Australian national heritage value and a unique repository that spans early convict and pastoral history, economic and technological growth, tourism, wilderness and political movements, science, culture 2 and creativity.” This region has been the subject of many artistic inquiries by early colonial painters, and played a key role in the conceptualisation of the nation’s colonial history since the first crossing of the Blue Mountains by non-Indigenous people in 1813. Their grandeur and splendid scenery, as well as their heroic explorers, were the key subject in many famous works, which are now in national collections,
such as Eugene von Guerard’s Govett’s Leap and Grose River Valley, Blue Mountains, New South Wales (1873). However, the Blue Mountains and their surroundings have been home, to and formed an important travelling route for, many Aboriginal groups for over 40,000 years, long before the arrival of European settlers. Their presence is scarcely acknowledged in those colonial depictions of the mountains. When they made an appearance in early records, they were often depicted as part of the flora and fauna or objects of scientific interest. One of the few colonial artists who employed a more sympathetic style was J. Alphonse Pellion (1796-1868). His portrait of local Darug people Aurang Jacke chef de Spring-Woode, dans les montangnes Bleus, avec 2 femmes. BetzyNatiwoé. Merey (1819) (Aurang-Jack with his wives Betzy-Natiwoé) is inscribed with their actual names, 3 which shows a more humanistic approach. In the late 20th and early 21st century artists’ focus shifted from depicting the mountains natural beauty and tales of heroic discovery to a more comprehensive inquiry into their cultural and historical significance for both their Indigenous and nonIndigenous inhabitants. The Greater Blue Mountains have been, and are, home to six distinct Aboriginal 4 language groups . The expulsion of the Indigenous peoples from this area went hand-in-hand with 19th century colonial exploration. It resulted in loss of living space, hunting grounds, sacred stories and connection to country and still causes deep trauma today. For early settlers with a European understanding of ‘nature’ the mountains were a harsh place, and many struggled adapting to this ‘unforgiving’ environment. It is therefore important 6
that current artistic practice considers and celebrates both the Aboriginal and colonial history of the Blue Mountains and it is necessary for us to reflect upon the significance and meaning of ‘place’ and ‘ownership’ within this area. Whilst each artist in Field Trip presents us with an individual narrative, strong links between the works are apparent. The themes explored in each work resonate deeply with the idea of place, belonging, discovery and loss. These artistic inquiries provide a starting point for an open-ended dialogue about possibilities of physical and emotional engagement with a place and its significance from an environmental, cultural, spiritual and historical standpoint. I would like to acknowledge Damian Castaldi and Solange Kershaw (s o d a c a k e), who were part of the first nine months of the Field Trip project and due to circumstances beyond their control had to withdraw from the exhibition. All artists involved and myself thank them for their contribution. Field Trip was exhibited on the traditional lands of the Darug and Gundungurra Peoples.
Sabrina Roesner Curator References:
1. Maeda, J. (2013) ‘Artists and Scientists: More Alike Than Different’ www.scientificamerican.com 2. McGrath, A. (2015) ‘Crossing history’s mountains: the historic values of the Greater Blue Mountains’ in ‘Values for a new generation’, Greater Blue Mountains World Heritage Advisory Committee 3. Wilson, G. (2012) ‘Picturing the Great Divide’, Blue Mountains Cultural Centre 4. Six language groups have been identified as the traditional owners of the Greater Blue Mountains World Heritage Area: Darug, Gundungurra, Wanaruah, Wiradjuri, Darkinjung and Tharawal. Yet many other Aboriginal people may hold strong connections to the Blue Mountains. Source: http://whc.unesco.org/en/list/917 (2017)
SARAH BREEN LOVETT ONA JANZEN LINDA SEIFFERT JACQUELINE SPEDDING
Sarah Breen Lovett Sarah Breen Lovett is an artist, curator and academic (B.Des first class honours, B.Arts, M.Arch and PhD) and currently Postdoctoral Research Fellow at the University of Sydney. Breen Lovett has instigated and worked on many exhibitions, symposiums and publications at the inter-disciplinary meeting point of art and architecture. As an inter-disciplinary practitioner Breen Lovettâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s moving images and installations have been exhibited in exhibitions, film festivals and academic conferences in Rome, London, Berlin, Brisbane, Perth, Sydney, Melbourne and the Blue Mountains. These have included The Expanded Architecture Series of exhibitions recently published by AADR as a Bauhaus Edition, Cinecity Architectural Film, Palimpsest Performances and the Modern Art Projects Art & Architecture series. 8
Breen-Lovett has explored the ideas around landscape presented in this work for Field Trip through previous exhibitions held in Centennial Park, Gaffa Gallery, Damien Minton Gallery, Airspace and Clandulla State Forest Gallery. Breen Lovettâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s practice is concerned with exploring relationships between the self and surroundings. Firstly, this is realised through a curiosity about haptic and habituated relationships to architectural assemblages. Secondly, her own interactions with the natural world question notions of belonging and how we prescribe significance and meaning to different aspects of landscape and the symbolism that evolved around it. She utilises moving image, sound works, projection, installation, participatory performances and curated exhibitions that involve performance and site-specific works to explore these ideas. www.sarahbreenlovett.com
The Three Angophoras For her work The Three Angophoras Breen Lovett investigated the notion of sacred spaces created in nature as sanctuaries and places of contemplation. Tracing back her ancestral roots to Ireland, where the Celts worshipped trees as sacred objects or abodes of nature spirits, she uses colonial cotton rags as a historical reference. Responding directly to the three tall Angophora trees located on the BigCi property, which are in close proximity to one another and have naturally formed a triangle, Breen Lovett spun a cocoon of white cotton rag. Some people believe there to be a special energy or power in the vacant space between these trees. On the first field trip to BigCi, her initial reaction was to create an installation that encouraged visitors to occupy the space â&#x20AC;&#x201C; to reflect on connection to landscape. However on further visits she started questioning whether it is always appropriate to occupy a place that is perceived to be special. Does human presence interfere or contribute to it? In addition to this installation, the artist created a sound work, which contains fragments of an interview with BigCi owner and director Yuri Bolotin, who explains his own background, love of nature and the significance of these three trees. Together the works aim to question notions of connection to land and occupation of sacred space. 9
I’m an atheist, so to me this is my church and this is my religion – the bush
Interview with Yuri Bolotin ….Rae (Yuri’s wife and Creative Director of BigCi) and I grew up in Central Asia in a big industrial city – Tashkent on the Silk Road. I could see Mountains from my window… … We were refugees … I don’t feel homesick – the home is here – so much more deeply and more meaningfully. I have a much deeper connection with the nature here. I feel this is me – where as over there was not… I don’t have the feeling that if I was not born here then I can’ t feel that way… … Our bushwalking is for a purpose ... we acquire knowledge and share that knowledge about the environment … 12
… Darug would be the Indigenous peoples that are most often mentioned from this area… so we are trying to collect the knowledge and continue the knowledge of the landscape, the nature and the country … … On a site like this I would like to see the least amount of interference, because it needs to be as much as possible left as it was, otherwise we would lose that reference point of where we came from… … When I first came here, what really took my heart was the fact that it is in the bush and it is not developed … somehow it radiates creativity, it radiates love… Rae first thought it was overwhelming … it was almost too much beauty…
… So Kate Maul (the first owner of the property) and I were following a path… stopped at the meditation bench… then she took me to the three Angophoras ... She felt that these trees are special and have a certain healing and magnetic power within their circle… … They are probably about 50 - 60 years old… these threes are quite unusual, very unusual… I would envisage there would be a common root system there, but the fact that all three have survived and reached that height and magnitude I think it’s quite special… … All artists that come here react to Angophoras because there are many other trees, but Angophoras elicit the strongest response.
We have had a number of artists who worked with Angophoras on the property, but not with those three Angophoras … … One artist, Honi Ryan, stopped us in between the three Angophoras and asked us to hold hands. She felt we would feel special and I think everyone did. If I was to stand quietly and hold somebody’s hands for a couple of minutes somewhere else in the bush I would feel the same way… I didn’t feel you needed to be in the three Angophoras for that … I’m an atheist, so to me this is my church and this is my religion – the bush, so I do believe in the spirit of the bush and being inspired by that … 13
Ona Janzen is a Blue Mountains based photographer. Her work is influenced by a desire to pause and still her subjects, to capture fleeting moments, seemingly between states, when one is most present and most conscious. Her work has been shown in group exhibitions such as the Moran Contemporary Photographic Prize, NSW State Library (2012); Head On Portrait Prize, Australian Centre of Photography (2012, 2014, and 2015); Keepsake, Blue Mountains
City Art Gallery (2013); Collectorsâ&#x20AC;&#x2122; Edition#1, Blue Mountains City Art Gallery; Shadow Weave, Western Plains Cultural Centre (2014); and Head in the Clouds, Blue Mountains City Art Gallery (2015). Janzen has been a finalist in the Australiaâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s Top Emerging Photographers Awards for several years, and has been the recipient of various Gold and Silver Industry (AIPP) Awards at State and National level (2011-2016). www.onajanzen.com.au
vivus// vietus: a study of botanical decay Ona Janzen’s photographic prints and video work depict a series of five plant specimens collected from the BigCi property.
mortality - they also document the changes occurring to an object once taken out of its original context.
Janzen reversed the idea of the field trip by taking a range of plants out of their natural environment and context into her studio. Whilst the images depict their slow transformation and inevitable decay - evoking a sense of ‘memento mori’ a symbolic reminder of everyone’s and everything’s
Janzen’s work references BigCi as a place of creativity and inspiration by alluding to an experience that many artists have while undertaking a creative residency: a subconscious process of adapting and changing perspective, once one is taken out of the known environment
and routine. She also highlights the idea that ‘death’ as such…is never really so. It is merely a catalyst for change, expansion, growth - whether that is visible or not. The decay of the specimen is a natural part of the process, and so the beauty of it is documented, rather than rejected. The environment from which the specimens are taken continues to grow, alter, sometimes thrive…even as a part of them is forever removed - and there lies the new creation. Just as an artist in residence
recedes, adapts and then creates. They alter their reality, in order for expansion to occur. The placement of the prints, within the walls of BigCi’s art shed - adjacent to the large windows that look out on the natural bush - referenced perfectly the never ending process of growth and expansion, in spite of ‘death’. 17
Linda Seiffert Linda Seiffert is a Blue Mountains based artist with a Bachelor of Fine Art (Ceramics) from the National Art School, Sydney, who specialises in ceramics and works in a variety of other mediums. Seiffertâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s practice inquires into the mystery, diversity and dynamism of the natural world. Her artistic investigations span a broad scope of ideas and contexts, with her subject matter shifting and evolving in each new project. Nature is her long standing muse, her quiet observations culminating into expressive and emotive forms. Natureâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s infinitely evolving expressions flow through her distinctive hand built sculpture and installation, reflecting the forms and patterns that as humans we find most curious and compelling. Currently, her research explores the transitional zones between the man-made and natural environment. It ponders the existing incongruity of these conditions as a symptom of our human separation from the natural world. Recognising the tenuous experience of navigating between these contrasting environments, Seiffert reflects on our human relationship with, and our place within, the natural world. Her work has been exhibited in group and solo exhibitions in Sydney and the Blue Mountains including Sculpture at Scenic World (2013); Undulatus, Blue Mountains City Art Gallery (2014); MAP Projects Art & Architecture series (2016); By Virtue of Nothing, Chrissy Cotter Gallery (2016); and Ereignis, Cessnock Regional Art Gallery (2016). 18
Conversation with a Turpentine Tree Conversation with a Turpentine Tree is a sitespecific installation comprised of ceramic and found objects placed around the remains of a large tree located on BigCi called the ‘Cathedral tree’. Resembling a naturally formed cathedral with its arched hollows and monumental stature, the large, burnt-out tree is an essential structure which forms part of the natural architecture of BigCi. The clay and found objects that comprise Seiffert’s installation reflect and embody forms and patterns found throughout nature and engage with the positive and negative spatial elements of the ‘Cathedral tree’. Their abstract sculptural forms and surfaces echo the shapes and textures in the tree; the burnt-out heart of its trunk, the split branches and the silver-black cracking of its charred bark. 20
Despite losing much of its heartwood through the trauma of fire, the tree continues to grow. Its strength and resilience are palpable. Elements of Seiffert’s work also reference the spiritual beliefs and practices of the previous owner of the property. A Buddhist woman who previously lived at BigCi, had a very close and spiritual relationship with the land. She practiced meditation in various places and enjoyed ritualistically placing small objects (often made of clay) amongst the plants and rocks - possibly as offerings of gratitude to this place with which she felt so strongly connected and in reverence of the ‘great spirit’ she felt resided in this land and throughout all of nature.
Jacqueline Spedding Jacqueline Spedding is a Blue Mountains based artist with a Master of Fine Arts majoring in ceramics. Jacqueline uses found objects and organic material in her sculptural practice and installations. Her work is characterised by permanence and decay held together in tension as a way of exploring the transient nature of our existence. Jacqueline graduated from Sydney College of the Arts, University of Sydney, in 2012 including six months on exchange in the Master of Ceramics program at Cardiff School of Art and Design in Wales, UK. After graduating, Jacqueline set up Cascade Artist Studios with three other artists in Lawson where she lives. Speddingâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s artwork has been exhibited in public and private galleries, artist-run initiatives and non-traditional art spaces. In 2015 she exhibited a site-specific installation, Shelter, at the Woodford Academy in the Blue Mountains. Prior to this she won the major acquisitive award at Sculpture at Scenic World for her work Transcend. Jacqueline has shown her artwork in group exhibitions at Blue Mountains City Art Gallery, Western Plains Cultural Centre, the Royal Botanic Gardens Sydney and ArtXchange Gallery, Seattle, USA. Her work featured in a national review of ceramics, Homebrand, at the Casula Powerhouse and she was selected for Hatched, a national review of emerging artists held at the Perth Institute of Contemporary Art (PICA). Spedding has taught fine art and ceramics as a casual lecturer for Federation University, Sydney College of the Arts and Gymea TAFE. She currently works as a Senior Collections Officer for Sydney University Museums. www.jacquelinespedding.com
Displaced The site Jacqueline Spedding chose for Field Trip is a small clearing by a dry riverbed with a stump of a Turpentine tree. Turpentine trees are slow growing; their wood is dense and hard and resistant to water. Felled over a century ago, the stump has weathered into ridges and valleys along the cuts left by a hand saw. When Spedding first saw the site it brought to mind recent scenes of land clearing in Sydney and reminded her of a painting showing a field of stumps, remnants of the greater blue gum forest, from the early 1800s. For Spedding, there is a rawness to a freshly sawn stump where a familiar tree has once grown. She notes: ”The landscape becomes disorientating. Sydney once had huge forests of Turpentine trees, now gone. It must have been an intense loss to Sydney’s Indigenous people, on so many levels. Trees are not just resources – they have cultural significance. The stump is a marker of loss, a silent absence in the bush.” The story of the stump is echoed in Spedding’s family history. Her grandfather took a team into the cedar forests behind Lismore in northern NSW to fell a tree to make into a bedroom suite for her grandmother as a wedding present. The dressing table from the suite came down to Spedding via her father who left her family when she was young. She never knew that side of my family and while she has maintained a relationship with her father,
it is never quite free of her experiences as a child growing up. The dresser is a strange object – Spedding is drawn to it and feels withdrawn from it at the same time. Spedding grew up on the outskirts of Sydney surrounded by bush and admits to feeling ambivalent about it: “In summer the bush around Sydney is prickly, hot, rocky shrub that can seem unrelenting. The leaf litter and fallen branches are almost impenetrable and the heat makes it hazy and disorienting. Cool weather and rain soften it almost beyond recognition.” The leaf litter and fallen branches are almost impenetrable and the heat makes it hazy and disorienting. Cool weather and rain soften it almost beyond recognition. Spedding decided early on that she wanted to use water in her work - as a reference to how Turpentine wood was used at the time this tree was felled and to the loss experienced by those who share its story. She used a collection of found drawers lined with beeswax to hold water drawn from a nearby creek. The drawers link her story to the site while holding other unknown histories. “That we still look to nature largely as a resource, ignoring its complexity and our relationship with it and other sentient beings, is the source of my interest in this site.” 25
LIST OF WORKS SARAH BREEN LOVETT The Three Angophoras 2017 cotton rag installation, 2 channel video and sound component (interview with Yuri Bolotin) various dimensions ONA JANZEN vivus// vietus: a study of botanical decay 2017 ten digital prints on Hahnemuehle photo rag and digital video (2:40 min) prints 32 x 64 cm each LINDA SEIFFERT Conversation with a Turpentine Tree 2017 natural clay from the BigCi dam, found charcoal various dimensions JACQUELINE SPEDDING Displaced 2017 wooden drawers and bees wax various dimensions 26
Field Trip was presented on the traditional lands of the Darug and Gundungurra Peoples. Curator: Sabrina Roesner Many thanks to the participating artists: Sarah Breen Lovett, Ona Janzen, Linda Seiffert and Jacqueline Spedding. Thank you also to Solange Kershaw and Damian Castaldi. Many thanks to Rae and Yuri Bolotin for their ongoing support of the arts and generosity in hosting this exhibition at BigCi. Thank you to David Brazil and Justin Morrissey for documenting the exhibition.
This catalogue is published in conjunction with Field Trip, 16 April 2017, presented at BigCi Bilpin international ground for Creative initiatives 82 Hanlons Road, Bilpin, NSW 2758 www.bigci.org www.fieldtripbigci.com Photography: David Brazil, Sabrina Roesner and Jacqueline Spedding ÂŠ the Author & the Artists 2017 The content and images of this publication may not be reproduced or distributed, in whole or in part, without prior written permission of the author. However, reproduction and distribution, in whole or in part, by non-profit, research or educational institutions for their own use is permitted if proper credit is given, with full citation, and copyright is acknowledged. 29