Looking down at my concrete studio floor, there’s stuff always. Things fallen. Things placed. Things left. Things appearing.
There are flood worms and there are moth bits. I didn't place these there. But then again, when I say this, I am only thinking directly. The plethora of life beginning and ending seems on steroids with La Niña. It’s outside, but also it comes in, appearing on my studio floor post another inundation of water. Crazy and beautiful. They add to my stories, the detritus of life and the things to be done. Not least, these remains make their presence in two of the paintings within the series of nine works of mine that I painted for the Grey Foundations group exhibition at WAYOUT Art Space, a Cementa Initiative in Kandos.
This mini-series and exhibition nod to time and place: the transitional years since graduating from Fine Arts Honours at UNSW and into the lockdowns of 2020 and beyond and it is about coming to Kandos too, on Dabee lands, Wiradjuri Country, with its cement stories. These nine works have been curated into the exhibition with nineteen artists from this UNSW Honours cohort. A couple of works painted in this mini-series take me back to my honour’s year spent with the artists in this group. It was 2019 when I picked up the banksia cone, discarded by the side of the studio at my Bundanon Artist in Residence program. Here, in my painting as in life the banksia cone seems creaturely to me. In another work, is a painting within a painting. This practice has become an iterative thing for me to do. This painting in a painting is of one of the works painted during that honour’s year, of some wombat poo in my beloved measuring cup ducks. It takes me back to the critiques we had throughout our Honours year, of other’s thoughts on my attempts and the generous sharing that happened. I loved playing with the paint in this one, scraping back with a pallet knife some of the concrete floor I had painted in this painting, kind of like leaving a print in concrete as it sets.
My boots are present in some of these works too with the orange peel drying for the fire; the jar with the dried remains placed in it years ago by my cousin Kiata; some of the origami cranes deftly made by my youngest; and the nanna blanket crocheted by my children’s great gran for our wedding. When the works have these boots at the bottom of the scene it’s clear to me when I am looking at them that it is I that is looking down but when the works rotate another story comes to the fore with the boots belonging to someone else and the narrative opening up.
And these works do rotate. Some of them anyway. When I took them in for curation into the Grey Foundations exhibition, I placed them on the floor. It was a buzz when they were spinning around to find their way up for their install into the exhibition. Some were on their side and some upside down in relation to how they had been painted. I’m happy with how they landed. I loved that the process of creating them extended through to this install play with others. Thanks go to Emily Roebuck who Curated this exhibition, Michael Petchkovsky from WAYOUT, and LuLu Smith who came for the install ride with the cohort. And then the works were up and like the other artists works in the Space, all offer some form of connection with others during the install, at the opening and beyond.
Being a part of this whole Grey Foundations thing has offered and enabled ongoing connection for me with many from this cohort, despite these years of pandemic change. It’s been a joy to see what the other artists have created and written. The collective reflections in the Grey Foundations catalogue are moving and beautifully culminate in hope and positivity “Despite starting out into an uncertain world, we are still here, we are still artists and that is something to be celebrated”.
by Nic Mason