Sunday, May 21, 2006

Taking a breath

I haven't been at my computer very much in the last five days, which has been a lovely experience. It's been a making for me sort of week, and unfortunately these are becoming quite rare. I'm always 'making' for others. Well, to tell the truth, the things I was making ARE for others, but they involved ME making the creative decisions, and that's the big difference.

First up, I was finishing on my backtack contribution. That's been a bit of a rollercoaster! Happy when I managed to letterpress some fabric, cranky when of course the glistening ink dried flat and dull; happy when I managed to cut the pieces out of said fabric without any huge problems, despairing when I sewed them together and it all looked lumpy and distorted. I'm NOT a good seamstress (I initially used the word 'sewer', but that looks disturbingly like I'm a blocked storm-water drain or something). I'm great with the finicky little stitching or cutting, but sewing neatly with a machine? Nuh. Still, I managed (I think!) to make something charmingly cute rather than awe-inspiringly crafty, like this little treasure. I guess it's the participation factor that counts. I'll mount some pictures (hur hur) when we're supposed to unveil them, June 1st, I think. I'm posting my parcel on Monday, which I think will make the arrival deadline. Phew. Time to jump off that particular rollercoaster and get back my equilibrium.

Secondly, I was making a contribution for an upcoming local exhibition about Cystic Fibrosis. The exhibition is called 65 Roses, which is now a trademarked CS phrase, after a little boy who mispronounced his sister's condition. Consequently the theme of the exhibition, which is raising money for CS research, is 'rose'.

For those that don't know, Cystic Fibrosis (according to the blurb on the exhibition brief) is the most common life-threatening recessive genetic condition affecting Australian children. It affects approximately 1 in 2500 children born in Australia. Symptoms of CS include poor weight gain, coughing, frequent lung infections, salty sweat and abnormal poos. It affects a number of organs, especially the lungs and pancreas. Frequent infections can cause irreversible lung damage. CS is caused by a fault in the gene that controls the movement of salt in and out of the cells. This causes mucous throughout the body to be much thicker and stickier than normal. There is currently no cure for CS, but doctors and scientists are working on ways to repair the faulty gene and are developing new and improved treatments.

Phew! Lots to think about when trying to make a something for the exhibition, and without much disposable time. I would have loved to set and print something letterpress, but there just wasn't the opportunity. So I ended up doing a bit every night and spare moment, at my 'making desk' in a corner of the loungeroom (which is at the moment submerged in a sea of cut-up and cast-off bits of paper, fabric, threads and other flotsam and jetsam, much to BB's teeth-gritting yet silent frustration), just making individual pages for a looseleaf artist's book.

I wanted to play with that idea of not knowing: not knowing whether your child is affected, not knowing how to cope, not knowing the cure. I started thinking about roses, how you get them in hospital, and how they smell, which then got me thinking about other types of roses. I stumbled upon a old map at one of the exhibitions I've seen in the last few months and saw a compass rose, which is the thing which looks like a star showing the radiating lines of direction, and I had a EUREKA! moment. Suddenly I was thinking of sea voyages of exploration, salt water, drowning, coughing, discovering, breathing.

For years now I've had an old but not valuable hardcover copy of Robinson Crusoe, so I ripped out the pages and used the cover to make a solander (clamshell) box which holds all the looseleaf pages. The pages are made from all sorts of materials: paper, old x-rays, rejected photographs, bits of the old tympan from the press at art school, and one page is cut from the faceshield given to me to use on the resuscitation dummy at my recent first aid course. On most pages I scored a latitude/longitude grid, and on many I played with the radiating lines from points of interest that you see on old maps. There is no solid narrative to the pages; they are meant to mix and match and make different readings.

It's a unique book, and I'm hoping to sell it at the exhibition, but I've started scanning the pages and many of it's combinations, and I thought I'd set it up as a virtual book after the exhibition is over. Here are a few images:

The spine, which I altered to make the title into R_O_S_E by oevrsewing with gold thread.

The front cover, obviously one that was used for every book in this series of children's books.

Face shield
The face shield page (scanned against a dark blue background; normally it's clear).

Setting out
This is the only page which gives any kind of narrative rationale to the book. The lines are cobbled together from words cut from the novel. It's a bad scan; it was hard to capture the scored grid lines in the page.

Remember to breathe
One example of mixing the pages to make an image. I call this one 'Remember to Breathe'. :) The under-page is an old graphic-design type layout page with letraset words; the upper page is an old x-ray with a negative-film compass rose sewn on with black linen thread.

One combination
Another mix and match image, made using three separate pages. The left strip is part of a piece of press tympan, the middle is monoprinted Zerkall paper with collage (from the novel pages) and carbon-paper drawing, and the right is Magnani paper cut and coloured with colour pencil.

I'll post more pages when I've got a chance.

The exhibition 65 Roses is on at the ANU School of Art Foyer Gallery in Canberra from Tuesday 23 May to Wednesday 31 May 2006, tying in with Cystic Fibrosis Day on 26 May. The opening is on the Tuesday night at 6pm. I've had a sneak preview - there are a lot of very good and prominent artists selling work very cheap for fundraising, so if you're local, come along and grab a bargain for a good cause!

Alright. Next job is rearranging the type cabinets at the BookStud. I'm flexing my puny muscles in anticipation...

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