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JOSHUA YELDHAM CH ILD OF THE STORM


CHILD OF THE STORM PA I N T I N G S S C U L P T U R E S

JOSHUA YELDHAM

for Jude

for all we share especially the wilderness inside our hearts

SCOTT LIVESEY GALLERIES 2019


LIGHTENING

Boy tenses Toes rigour Eyes clamped Sweating head awaits tiger’s pounce. Fear saturates him Readying for the survival fight. No ring or opponent A battle that his ears invited in – The seconds counting brings it closer. Crescendo God’s furniture rattles. Digits soften Heart slows Sky now grumbles only – Numbs him until the next electric show.

Jo Yeldham


1. Fertility


A

famous passage in the Bhagavad Gita tells how Krishna reveals his true form to Arjuna when that great hero is stricken with doubts before the battle in which he will fight and kill his kinfolk. That vision shows Krishna as a supernatural being with “many eyes and mouths, many arms, thighs and feet, with many fearsome tusks, and many bellies.”[1] To lesser mortals he appears as a man amongst men – Godlike, perhaps, in his bearing, but without the extra appendages, let alone the “blazing colours” or the flames that leap from mouths and eyes. For Joshua Yeldham – a student of the Vedas, an artist who practises meditation as part of his creative processes – Divine multiplicity is to be found in every landscape, every tree, bird or human form. Yeldham may not have been vouchsafed a glimpse of Krishna in His mystic glory, but he portrays the world as a field of shifting energies in which surface appearances provide only a schematic outline to be filled in from a busy imagination. Yeldham’s landscapes almost squirm with life. Surfaces are covered in tightly-drawn patterns, empty planes are carved into repetitive grooves. Tiny loops of cane or other materials have been embedded into these hyper-decorative constructions, which might even incorporate the strings of musical instruments. His owls stare out at us with the intensity of ancient deities. In pieces such as Bird Catcher Yeldham incorporates many forms within a single figure in the manner of Hindu art. The drystone carving of Morning Bay might be an example of ancient tribal sculpture from Micronesia. In Yeldham’s multi-media works there is a constant awareness of a spiritual dimension. I say this in full realisation of the frivolous manner in which so many contemporary artists embrace the idea of the spiritual (or indeed, the political!), as if their merest gesture conveyed an infinity of meaning. This often manifests itself in representations of the Void: that mystical emptiness-thatis-also-a-fullness – if stated as such in a catalogue essay or a wall label. This is not Yeldham’s way. The repetitive elegance of the Void holds no attraction for him. It is at once too easy and too much of a refusal of all the teeming complexities of the material world that have to be negotiated on the way to a higher understanding. Yeldham is a pilgrim, so enthused and stimulated by his quest that he can never visualise a destination. He’ll recognise it when he gets there. To a certain extent every artist is on a quest, although there are many different impressions of the Holy Grail. Some are happy to settle for money or fame, but the deepest satisfactions are more intangible. For Yeldham the keenest pleasure comes from creating works that draw upon a common reservoir of spiritual energy discovered in his travels in Japan, India and Arizona, as well as his bush retreat along the Hawkesbury. In his most ambitious pieces he combines these sources of inspiration, notably in Kyoto Studio Interior, in which an antique cedar frame sourced from Japan encloses a photograph of a tree from the Hawkesbury that has been doubled in Rorschach fashion, then incised to make it seem as if the trunks and branches were infused with glittering light. Yeldham draws freely on the iconographies of different cultures and the direct stimulus of nature in works that recognise no boundaries between the Self, the earth and the cosmos. To quote again from the Bhagavad Gita: “He whose self is established in Yoga, whose vision everywhere is seen, sees the Self in all beings, and all beings in the Self.”[2] The Self here is not the brash, egocentric version we know too well in the west. The Vedic Self is the highest form of aspiration. The perfected Self has overcome earthly desire and is at one with the universe. He [3] does not insist on his own priority but recognises his connectedness with all forms of Being.


Yeldham points to a passage from Wim Wenders’s book, Instant Stories, in which the filmmaker discusses the difference between “self” and “selfie”. The former denotes an attitude of confidence, independence, a feeling of being at ease with the world. The latter sees the world as entirely secondary to our own bodily presence – no longer “an object of curiosity and nostalgia” but a stage on which we perform the starring role. Wenders describes “a loss of reality, of the world, of social tissue and responsibility.” [4] Today we are engulfed in a storm of digital narcissism. The “child” of this storm, in Yeldham’s title for this exhibition, is his small son, Jude, who will grow up in an environment in which human beings seem increasingly incapable of looking beyond the needs and desires of the moment; a world in which nature and art are to be consumed in the blink of an eye; recorded as an image on a mobile phone to be posted on Facebook or Instagram as a record of one’s own existence. It’s the virtual equivalent of writing your name on some famous landmark. This preoccupation with self leads to the abnegation of the Self as a holistic concept. When we are incapable of looking inwards, of finding echoes of our own being in a work of art or the experience of nature, we have lost all sense of the sacred. Yeldham would like to believe that Jude will retain that sense. Having already been exposed to different cultures such as that of the Hopi Indians; and through his own creative endeavours, Jude is storing away experiences that will act as a shield against the corrosive, ubiquitous influence of the Society of the Selfie. That, at least, is what his father intends, while knowing that every child will find his or her own path, regardless of a parent’s desires. The owls that feature in so many of Yeldham’s works are akin to a personal totem, reminiscent of the way indigenous artists may be affiliated with a particular bird or animal. Unlike those artists Yeldham did not inherit this connection at birth, nor did some elder give him permission to use the motif. It’s a personal choice that reflects a wishful image of the Self – as wise, all-seeing, constantly alert. If we all had to choose a bird as a totem I’d probably pick the magpie – curious, voluble, never a backward step. Others might see themselves as eagles or flamingos. There’s no shortage of galahs. The many incarnations of the owl reflect the compulsive character of Yeldham’s work and the animist spirit that lies at its core. In Yulong River Owl one can tap a small brass bell, like those modest devices in a temple that attract the attention of a God when a worshipper comes to offer prayers. The symmetrical, almost mandala-like nature of this image heightens its religious connotations, but it is more likely to be a symbol of the Self rather than any familiar deity. The same might be said of Owl of Nature’s Judgement, another supremely hieratic image. In these owls Yeldham is not boasting of his own wisdom but presenting himself as someone seeking knowledge or enlightenment. It’s the underlying theme behind all of these strange, various, ritualistic works. For Yeldham a painting is not a window onto the world but an instrument (sometimes even a musical instrument) that allows us to go beyond the visible. Ideally it’s also a tool for transformation, a vehicle for self-discovery. If the burden of ambition in this work feels too dense and profound, Yeldham might well advise the viewer to do the opposite: to put meaning and metaphysics to one side, and approach these creations with the lightest of hearts. JOHN MCDONALD

[1] The Bhagavad Gita, trans. By Laurie L. Patton, Penguin, London, 2008, p.129 [2] Quoted by the artist in an email, 7 August, 2019 [3] I’m using the masculine pronoun for the sake of convenience, rather than the cumbersome repetition of ‘he and she’, ‘his and her’. [4] Ibid.


2. Owl

of Castle Bay


3. She

Oaks – Yeoman’s Bay


4. Lion

Island – Pittwater


5. Owl

of String Theory


6. Tree

of Protection


7. Owl

of Nature’s Judgement


8.Wood 9.

Owl (above)

Mangrove Song (opposite)


10. Yeoman’s

Bay – Blue Lilies


11. Blue

Bird Rock – Yeoman’s Bay


12. Silver

Owl


13. Castle

Bay


14. Lila

Waterhole


15.

Dark Moon Owl


16. Water

Diviner


17. Cottage

Point


18. Snake

Rock


19. Blue

Bird Rock – Smith’s Creek


20. Morning

Bay


21. Pittwater

– Lion Island – Summer


22. White

Noise – Smith’s Creek


23. Chosen

One – Fan Girl


24. Smith’s

Creek – White Swell


25. Moonah

Trees


26. Holding

My Father’s Heart


27. Snake

Bird


28. Owl

of Renewable Energy


29.

Sooty Owl


30. Tamiya

Owl


31. Dog

Owl of Yeoman’s Bay


32. Yulong

River Owl


33. Owl 34. Owl

of Kauai

of Protection (opposite)


35. Bird

Catcher


36. Swimming

Hole at Yeoman’s Bay


37. Oyster

Owl – Satellite Island


Fertility (Top right) Seed (Middle) Yellow owl box (Bottom right)


38. Mother

Owl


39. Prayer 40. Owl

for Change

Goddess Temple (opposite)


41. Colo

River Owl


42. Owl

of the Middle Ground


43. Fertility

from Smith’s Creek


44. Kyoto

Studio Interior


45. Owl

of the Fallen Wood – vase


1 Fertility Ink and pigment print in box 22 x 14 x 4 cm

5 Owl of String Theory Acrylic and musical instrument on hand carved clay board 97 x 80 cm

9 Mangrove Song Musical assemblage 226 x 145 x 26 cm

2 Owl of Castle Bay Unique hand carved pigment print 48 x 35 cm Series of 28

3 She Oaks – Yeoman’s Bay Acrylic on hand carved paper 210 x 210 cm

6 Tree of Protection Acrylic on hand carved clay board 100 x 82 cm

10 Yeoman’s Bay – Blue Lilies Acrylic on hand carved paper 210 x 210 cm

7 Owl of Nature’s Judgement Acrylic on hand carved paper 210 x 210 cm

11 Blue Bird Rock – Yeoman’s Bay Acrylic on hand carved paper 210 x 210 cm

4 Lion Island – Pittwater Lion Island Acrylic and cane on hand carved clay board 191 x 253 cm

8 Wood Owl Hand carved resin with cane 180 x 40 cm

12 Silver Owl Hand carved aluminium with cane 75 x 40 x 40 cm


13 Castle Bay Acrylic on hand carved paper 210 x 210 cm

17 Cottage Point Acrylic on hand carved paper 210 x 210 cm

21 Pittwater – Lion Island – Summer Acrylic and cane on carved clay board 182 x 122 cm

14 Lila Waterhole Acrylic, wood and string on hand carved clay board 152 x 102 cm

18 Snake Rock Acrylic on hand carved paper 210 x 210 cm

22 White Noise – Smith’s Creek Musical instrument on pigment print on dibond 178 x 120 cm

15 Dark Moon Owl Unique hand carved pigment print Series of 28 48 x 40 cm

19 Blue Bird Rock – Smith’s Creek Acrylic and ink on hand carved paper 120 x 120 cm

23 Chosen One – Fan Girl Acrylic, cane, fan and bamboo on carved clay board 182 x 122 cm

16 Water Diviner Acrylic and cane on hand carved clay board 182 x 244 cm

20 Morning Bay Carved Drystone on pigment print on dibond 159 x 150 cm

24 Smith’s Creek – White Swell Acrylic and cane on carved clay board 182 x 122 cm


25 Moonah Trees Acrylic and cane on hand carved clay board 182 x 244 cm

29 Sooty Owl Ink and hand carved pigment print Series of 25 156 x 122 cm

33 Owl of Kauai Unique hand carved pigment print Series of 28 48 x 36 cm

26 Holding My Father’s Heart Pigment print Series of 28 159 x 120 cm

30 Tamiya Owl Acrylic on hand carved paper 210 x 210 cm

34 Owl of Protection Acrylic, cedar, pottery, drystone, shells and string 135 x 80 x 55 cm

27 Snake Bird Acrylic on hand carved paper 210 x 210 cm

31 Dog Owl of Yeoman’s Bay Acrylic on hand carved paper 210 x 210 cm

35 Bird Catcher Acrylic, cane, bells and shells on carved clay board 182 x 122 cm

28 Owl of Renewable Energy Acrylic on hand carved paper 210 x 210 cm

32 Yulong River Owl Acrylic, cane and brass bell on hand carved clay board 200 x 244 cm

36 Swimming Hole at Yeoman’s Bay Acrylic on hand carved paper 210 x 210 cm


37 Oyster Owl – Satellite Island Unique hand carved pigment print Series of 28 81 x 61 cm

41 Colo River Owl Acrylic on hand carved clay board 97 x 80 cm

45 Owl of the Fallen Wood – vase Acrylic on hand carved porcelain 30 x 20 cm

38 Mother Owl Acrylic and cane on hand carved clay board 100 x 82 cm

42 Owl of the Middle Ground Acrylic, resin, and cane on hand carved clay board 204 x 152 cm

46 Cedar Owl Japan ink on carved cedar 82 x 57 cm

39 Prayer for Change Acrylic, cedar, bowl, lotus and hand carved board 200 x 40 x 34 cm

43 Fertility from Smith’s Creek Acrylic and cane on hand carved Huon Pine 250 x 63 x 63 cm

47 Owl of Transformation Acrylic on hand carved cedar, lotus and bowl 50 x 40 x 20 cm

40 Owl Goddess Temple Drystone, cedar, acrylic and light 130 x 35 x 35 cm

44 Kyoto Studio Interior Acrylic, rock, wire and cedar, hand carved pigment print on Dibond 182 x 260 cm

48 Snow Owl Acrylic on hand carved drystone with cane 36 x 39 x 8 cm


49 Solitude’s Bay Ink and acrylic on hand made paper 76 x 56 cm

53 Lover’s Rock – Smith’s creek Ink and acrylic on hand made paper 76 x 56 cm

57 Wild Child – Yeoman’s Bay Indigo ink on hand made paper 66 x 51 cm

50 Lover’s Owl – 3 Ladders Ink and acrylic on hand made paper 76 x 56 cm

54 Wild Bird of Yeoman’s Bay Ink and acrylic on hand made paper 76 x 56 cm

58 View from My Tinny Indigo ink on hand made paper 63 x 50 cm

51 Salt Grass Owl Ink and acrylic on hand made paper 76 x 56 cm

52 Blue Owl – Satellite island Indigo ink on carved hand made paper 66 x 52 cm

55 Surya – Sun Owl Unique hand carved pigment print Series of 28 48 x 36 cm

56 Frog Owl Ink on carved hand made paper 78 x 77 cm

59 Young Girl of Apple Tree Bay Indigo ink on carved hand made paper 66 x 52 cm

60 Owl of 3 Ladders Ink and acrylic on hand made paper 76 x 56 cm

* Dimensions are a guideline of original artwork only


61 Tidal Country Acrylic and ink on wood 40 x 40 cm

62 Wild Bird Rock of Castle Bay Acrylic and ink on wood 40 x 40 cm

63 Kyoto Rock Acrylic and ink on wood 44 x 44 cm


ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS The Dharruk clan of the Hawkesbury The Hopi Nation, Arizona Scott Livesey Jo, Indigo & Jude Yeldham Yeldham family Herbert family John Coleman Phil Coppola Fidoso Picture Framing Sophie Foley Mim Fluhrer Sibella Court & Ben Harper Robyn Lea Catalogue Design by Joshua Yeldham, Jo Yeldham & Arielle Gamble Indigo Yeldham Text by John McDonald Colour reproduction by Spitting Image, Sydney Printed and bound by KHL Printing, Singapore Artwork Photography by Mim Stirling ISBN 978-0-9925688-4-9 Š Copyright photography and artwork Joshua & Jo Yeldham 2019 All Rights Reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, including photocopy, recording or any other information storage and retrieval system, without prior permissions in writing from the Artist. Exhibited at the

SCOTT LIVESEY GALLERIES 909A High Street, Armadale Victoria, Australia, 3143 T: +61 3 9824 7770 F: +61 3 9824 7771 www.scottliveseygalleries.com info@scottliveseygalleries.com

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