Friday 10 March 2017
Gasworks Arts Park
21 Graham St, Albert Park
The Vincent Hotel
107 Victoria Ave, Albert Park
Tracey McIrvine likes the word zeitgeist. I’ve never met anyone who manages to use the word zeitgeist so often in a sentence. Her white thunderbolt fringe frames her face, and her strong opinions framed the vibe of our newCardigan event on Friday 10 March. Our March cardi party was a departure from any of newCardigan’s previous events. Meeting resident artists, printmakers, sculptors, and ceramicists in their studio spaces, and having the opportunity to hear from the artists themselves about their work, inspiration and prior exhibitions, it was intoxicating being amongst creative people that live and breathe their art every day. I must confess that I was a bit envious of their lives as self-employed artists. When I was young I dreamt about being a self-employed artist, but know from close friends now that it is a tough life financially to keep afloat and to stay true to your own aesthetic and ethics about who you collaborate with and partner on projects.
For the past 16 years Tracey McIrvine has been a Visual Arts Manager, not an artist – she stresses, with an amazing vocabulary picked up from books (she has been an insatiable reader from the age of four). Tracey says she loves librarians. Enter librarians arriving late, and Tracey literally yells yay! I think this is the best response these librarians have ever received for turning up late to an event – their embarrassed smiles conveyed as much.
An audience advocate – not advocating for one kind of medium – Tracey is a non-artist, passionate about the narrative of life. She also is an art buyer, advocating for audiences to buy art to support artists in their work. Her criteria for exhibiting at Gasworks Arts Park is based on the premise that ‘nobody will be embarrassed in my space – artworks are only ever exhibited if the artist is ready to go to market’. Tracey asks herself when selecting artworks for exhibition: ‘Is it made well? Is it meaningful? Is it local?’ It is clear that Tracey is passionate about exhibiting artists’ works who ‘communicate the crucial issues’, as she believes that community arts is a ‘great exchange of humanity’ – she asks her resident artists, ‘what do you have to say?’
Gasworks Arts Park has 14 resident artists onsite. The studio spaces are spread out across the site in red brick buildings with tall ceilings and wonderful natural light. I managed to meet some of the wonderful artists and have brief but stimulating conversations about their art, and grabbed their business cards so that I could later find their folios online.
Ursula Dutkiewicz is a ceramic artist who has contributed her work in a number of exhibitions at Gasworks Arts Park since 2002. When Ursula invited me into her studio space, she said ‘this is my history’. I was struck by the great number of ceramic sculpted suffragettes from her series The Art of Suff-Rage, which permiate the space. Both Ursula and I appreciate the significance of this work so close to International Women’s Day, although I would appreciate this work anytime of year. To explore Ursula’s work online, please visit her website.
I very briefly met Leah Jackson and Gilly Thorne in the Ceramics Studio, and viewed their works in their individual studio spaces. To protect the rights of the artists, I asked permission before photographing their work. Rightly so, artists are careful not to photograph and publish their work online while in progress due to commissions received, and to protect their intellectual property rights. I know from artist friends of mine that their work is often stolen and reproduced overseas, which is wrong on so many levels.
Leah and Gilly both work in ceramics, however they are opposites in aesthetics and the colours they use. Leah uses pastel colours and geometric patterns with organic and geometric shapes to her ceramic teapots and mugs. Gilly uses earth tones, greys, blacks and dark greens with organic shapes and abstract designs on the surface of her ceramics. The contrast between these very different ceramicists work is a delightful contrast in the display in the studio space pictured above.
Kris Coad’s work is predominantly white, smooth, soft, unified and calming – a very pleasing aesthetic for someone like me that has a chaotic mind that needs soothing. Talking to Kris also had a calming effect, my brief conversation with her made me want to continue the conversation over a nice cup of tea. In addition to Kris’ gentle ceramic pieces, she also produces light installations which are often commissioned by restaurants and other venues. Kris completed her Masters of Fine Art by research at RMIT in 2002. Since then Kris has had nine solo shows, and over 60 group exhibitions. To view Kris’ work online, please visit her website at www.kriscoad.com.
Tanya George is a sculptor who works with a variety of materials and techniques to convey her vision for a piece. Her work is extremely varied and displays her versatile skills. Tanya grew up in Germany and moved to Australia in 1989, studied Fine Art and then in 1995 completed a Bachelor of Film and Television at VCA. After making a number of short films and documentaries, Tanya has returned to sculpture over the past few years. Sculpture is a trial and error medium, in Tanya’s view, especially as she often experiments with different mediums. Tanya’s installation Strange Fruit, for the land art exhibition From Nature at Gasworks Arts Park in May 2015, featured spinifex that Tanya had collected at a Port Phillip beach for the exhibition. The ephemeral nature of the exhibition – coupled with visitors taking the spinifex home with them (Tanya enjoyed this level of engagement from visitors) – limited the length of time for the exhibition to three days. To view Tanya’s works, please visit her website: www.tanja-george.com.
Leahey told me that he breaks rules, he doesn’t follow them. He asked me where I was from, I explained I work at Melbourne Museum and I also organise events for newCardigan. Trying to explain GLAM (galleries, libraries, archives and museums) to a very cool artist like Leahey, I felt like doing a Wayne and Garth – get down on my knees and say, ‘I’m not worthy! I’m not worthy!’ I contained myself, and brought the conversation back to Leahey’s art practice. Leahey worked in the film industry, in Hollywood doing special effects and making robotics. He literally has a Mad Max prop he made hanging from his very cool studio space, see photo below. His work is industrial and often large in scale, with much of his heavy and welded artworks in public spaces. Do yourself a favour and visit his website and read Leahey’s very impressive CV. He also has an air of mystery, I’m not sure if Leahey is his first or surname, but having one name adds to his very rock and roll sculptor awesome vibe.
Wen Shobbrook is interested in archive collections, local history and accessing this information to inform her art. I was happy to tell Wen that the Discovery Centre at Melbourne Museum provides artists with access to collection items in group sessions so that artists are able to observe and sketch the collection item – which excited Wen no-end. I have her business card, so I will be sure to contact her and follow up her interest. I have a number of artist friends who are also interested in accessing the museums collections, so we might have a group forming for Discovery Centre to run another session. Wen’s studio is a bustling creative space with a large arched window giving it beautiful natural light. My envy is in check, I promise. To visit Wen’s beautiful folio online which illustrates her interest in historical photographic collections of historical periods in local history, please go to wenshobbrook.wordpress.com/portfolio-2.
Elizabeth Milsom is a printmaker and artist working with various techniques to naturally dye silk, working as an artist and teaching art for the past 30 years. Immediately coming into her studio I geeked out over her beautiful plan presses. I’ve always wanted plan presses at home to store my own artworks, I guess thinking about how to store my art is one of the reasons I was drawn to archive work. I had an extremely brief chat with Elizabeth as it was 7:30pm and our cardi party had sadly come to an end. To view Elizabeth’s work, please visit her website at emilsom.com. To find out more about newCardigan and future events, join our mailing list.