Updated: Jun 16, 2020
I am excited about the free rein we have been given to begin meshing the work I am doing across all of my RMIT print classes.
Today I sanded back my lino and made a few sketches relating to some ideas that I've been working on. The process of wetting and lightly sanding my lino was a lovely moment to contemplate where I want to take this lino project.
I am enjoying layering images of the Australian War Memorial with military stencil symbology against landscape - all relating to my time in Afghanistan. This is all building on imagery that I have been toying with throughout the semester.
Military stencils are used in the Army to mark maps to help making plans and keeping track of operations. Each symbol has a meaning which relates to an action, entity or capability. When they are laid over a map, the symbols denote location in relation to a context and timeline. Colours and shapes are also related to the alliance of the entity: friendly, enemy, neutral or unknown.
Reading a landscape as a battle ground is important in the military, but when coming home and in a civilian context, this seems a strange way to relate to Place. I want to work through this idea in my work around Place. The military stencils I am using as a template for this piece belonged to Andrew, my late husband - a man who came back from the Middle East troubled, unable to make his place in the new landscape work.
I am also incorporating the image of the Australian War Memorial into my work. I have used this imagery in my Workshop monoprints. For me, this place of commemoration in Canberra is important. I have been going back there for the last 20 years, throughout my career. Each time I go back, it seems to house more and more meaning as my family's experiences are captured. Andrew's uniform in Afghanistan is held there, and last year I donated a print I had made to Australian War Memorial art collection.
This image, found at https://artguide.com.au/gallery/australian-war-memorial, has been used for its simplicity and starkness. I see a face in the building, two little worried eyes in the frontage windows, and a gritted open mouth at the entrance. I want to incorporate this sense of anxiousness into the Australian War Memorial motif.
Mountains have also been a motif throughout my work. Below are three mountain areas which have been important to my work. Firstly, the mountains of Afghanistan, where I would look upon each day in my time deployed to Tarin Kowt (photo from https://adventure.com/afghan-ski-challenge-winter-olympics/) Secondly, Mt Ainslie, situated behind the Australian War Memorial, with its walking track I used as a training ground before I walked the Kokoda Track in Papua New Guinea a few years ago (https://www.gettyimages.co.nz/detail/photo/australian-war-memorial-mt-ainslie-royalty-free-image/103821762). And finally, the surrounding mountains of my childhood farm where I have spent a lot of my time near, particularly during the COVID-19 pandemic this year (photo from my neighbour who sent a drone over our properties during this year's Easter floods).
I have also recently found two inspirational written works related to mountains. Firstly was an article by David Brooks (https://www.nytimes.com/2019/04/06/opinion/sunday/moral-revolution-david-brooks.html) sent by a friend of mine who I met on the Camino de Santiago in Spain last year. It relates so much to my taking up art as a second mountain. Brooks writes:
"On the first mountain we shoot for happiness, but on the second mountain we are rewarded with joy. ... What’s the difference? .. Happiness involves a victory for the self... Joy involves the transcendence of self."
The second text was by Pema Chödrön, in her book 'When Things Fall Apart: Heart Advice for Difficult Times':
“Well-being of body is like a mountain. A lot happens on a mountain. It hails, and the winds come up, and it rains and snows. The sun gets very hot, clouds cross over, animals shit and piss on the mountain, and so do people. People leave their trash, and other people clean it up. Many things come and go on this mountain, but it just sits there. When we’ve seen ourselves completely, there’s a stillness of body that is like a mountain.”
I have been interested in looking at the work of contemporary Australian artist GW Bot. In particular, I love her painting Glyphs - Murrumbidgee River for its expression of topography, layers, and symbology.
Franki Sparke is another Canberra printmaker I love for her complexly layered yet simple compositions and symbology.
Two books inspired me for this project:
Harmon, K & Clemans, G 2009, The Map as Art: Contemporary Artists Explore Cartography, Princeton Architectural Press, New Jersey, USA.
Reid, P and National Archives of Australia 2002. Canberra Following Griffin: A Design History of Australia's National Capital. National Archives, Canberra, Australia.
The planning undertaken by the Burley and Marion Griffin in the design of Canberra is beautiful. The watercolours which Marion did of the city are so beautiful and I want to reflect the importance of landscape, mountains and symbology into my work. Maps themselves can be works of art of Place. The following are pictures related to these two books I have found inspiration in.
Veteran art has also been an important inspiration for this. The following exhibitions were important in my .
March into Art: Narratives (23 April-12 May 2019) Australian National Veterans Arts Museum’s annual exhibition of art by veterans and family members, No Vacancy Gallery, Melbourne.
2019 Napier Waller Art Prize (20 September – 1 November 2019), Australian War Memorial annual exhibition of art by veterans, Canberra.
2020 Changed Forever: Legacies of Conflict - (February - March 2020), Bendigo Soldiers Museum.
I have purposely chosen a simple image which is loaded with symbolism. I want to print my lino prints on military maps for added conceptional notions of place, allowing the terrain denoted on the maps to link to the mountain motif also. I will also work mountain imagery through the technique of pasted paper onto print: chine colle.
You can see below some of the notes I have made in my notebooks relating to all of these ideas:
My next blog will focus on the making of my lino cut!