Monday, April 19, 2010

Presentation at the National Geographic store

Seems every day it rains torrentially in the late afternoon at the moment - the sky goes a deep grey, then all hell breaks loose. It's all very dramatic but it means it's almost impossible to get a taxi, especially at rush hour. We don't have a car at the moment and I would have got drenched even getting to any public transport from where I live. Anyway, last Friday I eventually got down to the National Geographic Store in Vivocity where the editor of ScubaDiver Australasia, Diego Garcia, was presenting the winning photographs and videos of the ADEX Voice of the Ocean competition. I only managed to catch him discussing the videos, but even so it was really interesting to hear his critiques.

All the winning photographs and artwork were on display in the store aswell and I'll go down later in the week to take a closer look. I really liked how they displayed my prints in a glass case - looks very classy!

And here's me (on the right) being presented with a certificate and bag of goodies from Laura, the Event and Marketing Manager for ADEX and Asian Geographic magazines. A great end to the week!

Thursday, April 15, 2010

ADEX Ocean Artist of the Year!

I am really thrilled – last weekend I won first prize for one of the prints I entered in the ADEX Ocean Artist of the Year Competition! I entered three original prints as a series, all inspired by the mandarin fish (Synchiropus splendidus). The prints combined two relief printmaking techniques which I will talk about later. This is the winning print.

I thought I'd tell you a bit about the background to this and the other two prints. As many divers (especially those diving in Asia) know, mandarin fish are quite shy, hard to spot and challenging to photograph. Although they seem to have a fairly wide distribution (Australia, tropical Indo-Pacific up to Japan), they are not the easiest fish to find. Their habitat is generally in shallow water in coral rubble, and they are quite skittish in their movements. I’ve seen them only a handful of times (all in Indonesia) at dusk when they come out to mate. I had always assumed that this is the only time you can really see them. Not so! There is a colony of mandarin fish who inhabit a rubbly slope in Ambon Bay who seem quite happy to hop in and around the rocks grazing, and are fairly willing photographic subjects.

Along with two friends, my husband and I were in Ambon over Christmas last year and visited this particular dive site two or three times. Marcel took many photographs of the mandarin fish and I used these as reference material. Here's one of Marcel's photos. These fish have the most wonderful faces - bulbous eyes which swivel around, and a little pointy mouth they suck food up with. They use their pelvic fins as a sort of balance when they hop around.

I was interested in the idea that for such a seemingly shy creature, they have such flamboyant colours and markings. Their body is predominately orange, with irregular turquoise blue band markings, their face and lower jaw area is yellow/green with blue stripes. (I have since discovered that the vibrant blue in the mandarin fish are caused by very unusual blue pigment-containing cells called cyanophores.) In contrast to the brightly coloured and bold designs on the body of the fish, the pectoral fins are delicate, and slightly transparent blue/green. They are really exquisite, though a little hard to appreciate the beautiful undulating movement with the naked eye.

I found out that their common name was due to the fact that their appearance was somewhat reminiscent of the robes of Imperial Mandarin court officials. I decided to use the robe motif as a ‘canvas’ to display the colours and patterns inherent in different parts of the mandarin fish. (The Mandarin court officials had different robes depending on the occasion and so I named each print after a different robe). I really wanted to incorporate the delicate pectoral fins in some way and in the end decided to emboss a design of the fins into the paper.

I’m also really pleased that my prints will be shown at the National Geographic store (#01-19 VivoCity, Singapore) along with other winning photographs and videos of the ADEX Voice of the Ocean Competition until the end of the month!

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

margaret river cow parade

Ah, the brilliance of the cow parade! Give a bunch of artists a blank canvas (or rather a blank cow), and set them free to create. You can find the results (all 85 of them) dotted all around the Margaret river region, in wineries, galleries, lighthouses, outside shops, all sorts of places, even the airport (yes, I know not technically the Margaret river). This is such a joyful project, full of humour, creativity and I love that these cows are all in public places. Bad cow puns abound (there's plenty you can do with 'moo', 'cow', 'herd' and 'milk') and they provided some of the inspiration for the cow designs.

Left to my own devices, I would probably have gone out of my way to see all the cows. Not wanting this as a reason for divorce I contented myself by seeing the occasional cow we stumbled across on the way somewhere, and just one or two we’ve gone out of the way to see.

What I love about this idea is that so many of the cows are so associated with ‘place’. I could write an essay here. But I love that about this regional exhibition, I learnt quite a bit more about the area. Anyway, here are some of the cows I came across.

SW Australia has a rich history of cattle farming and that came out in some of the works such as the one at Redgate Wines by artist Sue Codee who grew up on a cattle farm near Albany. It's called Cow in Transit.

Margaret River is a mecca for surfing and at least three cows paid homage to a surfing. I love this cow by Rod Egerton on top of the Settlers Tavern in Margaret River. It's called Cowabunga - Hang a Hoof!

I particularly liked this cow (Karta Warra Cow) by Matriarchal elder Ms Vivian Webb-Brockman at Moss Brothers Wines.

I admit we did go out of our way to see Jacques Cowsteau (see what I mean about bad puns!). Created by Geographe Marine Engineering, it was outside a cafe at Port Geographe Marina. Quite a lot of the dive gear looked real to me - apart from the oversized mask!

A few cows paid tribute to other artists. Dreams of the Daliesque Bovine was fabulous. Made by Suzanne Horton, it was on the main street in Augusta.

Also in Augusta was the cow below created by the AMR Shire Team. Being slightly obsessed by maps and all things aerial, this one really appealed to me. Called In the Scheme of Things, it shows a bird's eye view of some of the areas around Margaret River.

Last but by no means least, artist friend Graham Stove’s cow ‘Constance’ at Gulyuyp galleries. Love it!

fremantle doctor

I am really having my fill of perfect days this month (oh and last month too). I started writing this a few days ago when I was down in the Margaret River, it started: "I’m sitting here with a glass of zinfandel, listening to the new album by the sublime Swell Season who I saw playing live last weekend - one of the most amazing acts I’ve seen for a long time, after a day clambering over huge granite boulders, (getting more than a bit scared) watching massive waves on the Leewin Naturaliste National Park in SW Australia." Honestly, there aren't many days so perfect for me! Then I stopped. Just wanted to live the moment and could not write anymore...

Now I'm back to thinking and writing, and on my way to Singapore less than 24 hours, so a bit of time for reflection. What I love about being in Australia is that there is art everywhere. I am going to miss the sculpture that's just across the road from the apartment (on the quayside in Fremantle), a sculpture honouring the famous Fremantle Doctor, the south-westerly wind that blows inland.

In some ways it is quite unassuming, an old sea buoy with metal seagulls on top, a little quirky, with a strange string arrangement on top. This sculpture really takes off when the wind starts up – the wind ‘plays’ the strings. This sculpture was designed by Tony James (assisted by Pierre Caponi), and the wind harp designed by Alan Lamb. I love the fact that this sculpture responds directly to nature. It doesn't move, but it responds.

I stayed long enough to witness quite a few weather (and wind) changes. Some times when the wind was really blowing you could hear the wind harp from the other side of the road! Other times, there was barely a sound. What's nice about this sculpture is you can get really close and put your head between a static kind of pair of earphones which amplifies the sound. Yet again, I'm reminded that I want to get some sound recording gear! This sculpture really became part of my landscape for a few weeks, I will miss it.