The actual selection was really hard - there are lots of very talented people that graduate every year, and this year is no exception. I had a wide range of choices, especially from Printmedia itself, which is having a very strong year. However, I have a real interest in working with people who are not printmakers by choice, mainly to see how they explore the notion of printing textually, so I always have a look around outside of the printmaking workshop for one of my choices.
It took me a while, but I came up with Louise Upshall, who is a painting graduate whose final work consisted of zines and collage, and who has a confronting (in a really good feminist way) called Cervixosaurus. Click that link if you want to be reassured that there are young women who still believe in feminism.
The second choice was Merryn Sommerville, from Printmedia & Drawing. In the words of Gillian Welsh, 'some girls are blessed with a dark turn of mind', and Merryn is one of them. Her work pretends to be pretty, but then grabs you by the throat. We've owned a print by her for a while now, from (I think) her first year of art school, and her final year work is devastating: eerie and creepy pastel drawings of children on dark paper, accompanied by ceiling-strung disembodied vintage childrens' clothes.
Here's Merryn, accompanied by a bevy of equally talented young things:
From left to right: Louisa, Edie, Rachel, Merryn. Merryn is wearing a vintage 1920s flapper dress, complete with sequinned fascinator.
Another reason to go to the opening was to listen to the guest speaker, Robyn Archer, who didn't disappoint. She kicked ass, talking about ambition; the ability, nay the necessity to fail; the fact that art doesn't have to please anyone but yourself, thanks very much; and she started the buzz for the Centenary year (2013) celebrations that she's organising by saying how much she wants the art school to participate because it's full of energy, talent and knows how to put on a good party. And yes, Kerryn, she said good things about Adelaide, mainly the fact that by the time she got to the world stage, she'd learned everything she'd needed to know from her small home city. She rawked.
So I gave out my prizes, and am looking forward to some fabulous conversations over lunch with those two young women...
...and then dashed off to my dinner appointment, around the corner of my neighbourhood, to the home of some friends who are amazing, um, homemakers is the wrong word, but I don't know what else to say. Their garden is magnificent, all interesting and useful and edible plants, with nice nooks to sit in and a big pizza oven setup. I went to eat pizza, and eat pizza I did.
Somehow over dinner we got talking about music, and about ukuleles. I know a lot of people who have taken up ukulele playing, not the least Helen Garner, whose short piece 'The Ukulele Club' was published in The Feel of Steel in 2001. Back then, she could write about a man from Sydney wanting to join the Melbourne Ukulele club:
They stared at me.
'Is there such a thing as a ukulele nerd?' said Sally.
Well, Sally, yes there is, and apparently now, ten years later, there are a lot of them around. Both of my pizza friends, F and M, play ukulele, but M is definitely a ukulele nerd. When I expressed interest in trying one, she brought out a few from her collection, one of which she had made herself.
We sat around the fire in the chilly summer night (!) and played something simple. I am a casual uneducated guitar picker from way back, unable to read music but able to followed chord tabs and with an ear for a tune, so I followed pretty well.
And fell hard.
M let me borrow one of her ukes. I took it home and downloaded too many songs from the internet and played all weekend. Of course I'm crap, and I can't sing, but I'd forgotten the simple pleasure of making one chord move into another in a way that makes your heart sing along.
I went to my first Uke Group on Monday night, and while it was tricky to keep up and sing at the same time, it was fun because it was completely inclusive, and non-competitive. And there were those chord changes, ringing into the heart.
My fingertips hurt. But now I know what I'm getting for Christmas... we're going to the music shop on Saturday.