French Connections, rewound

In May this year, French Connections commenced with a two-week study tour of Paris.

French Connections is part of an international project instigated and led by Anne Virgo OAM, Director of Australian Print Workshop, which aims to generate a significant body of work in the print medium.

We were thrilled to be invited, alongside two other artists, Martin Bell and Megan Cope, and now that we have returned, we are keen to make new work inspired by all the incredible material we saw, collections we explored, and places we scampered through. 

But before we do, rewind to see the story so far,
French Connections, part 1
French Connections, part 2
French Connections, part 3
French Connections, part 4
French Connections, part 5
French Connections, part 6
French Connections, part 7

 Inspired by the theories of the 'state of nature' expounded by Jean-Jacques Rousseau, La Hameau de la Reine was built between 1783 and 1786, under the supervision of Richard Mique, and drew influence from the traditional rustic architecture of Normandy, replete with a decorative windmill, dovecote, and dairy

Inspired by the theories of the 'state of nature' expounded by Jean-Jacques Rousseau, La Hameau de la Reine was built between 1783 and 1786, under the supervision of Richard Mique, and drew influence from the traditional rustic architecture of Normandy, replete with a decorative windmill, dovecote, and dairy

Ver-sighed

Recently landed: Ver-sighed, a new article on Marginalia (by Gracia), part 7, takes a closer look at a recent study tour to Paris as part of a project with the Australian Print Workshop and the National Gallery of Australia

 Like an El Lissitzky innovation, we made Paris our ‘proun’, a "construction to be looked at from all sides: from above, from below, and from around"

Like an El Lissitzky innovation, we made Paris our ‘proun’, a "construction to be looked at from all sides: from above, from below, and from around"

Our golden seams

Recently landed: Our golden seams, a new article on Marginalia (by Gracia) takes you to Alice Topp's new work, Aurum, presented as part of The Australian Ballet's Verve program

The Australian Ballet's Coco Mathieson and Callum Linnane in Alice Topp's Aurum (image credit: Jeff Busby)

Up!

Recently landed: Up!, a new article on Marginalia (by Gracia) takes a closer look at a recent commission, A Weight of Albatross.

We’ve seen albatrosses come back with their belly full of food for their young. You think it’s going to be squid, but it’s plastic. That chick is going to starve and die.
— Sir David Attenborough (on plastic pollution)

Golden Threads

Recently landed: Golden Threads, Gracia's written response to Alice Topp's new work, Aurum, for Fjord Review

Our seams and cracks, be they through physical injury or knocks to and aches of the heart, are markers of our lived experience, and through acceptance we can come to find meaning in them and appreciation: I am here, imperfect and all the stronger for it. As Christopher Rodgers-Wilson replaced metal ligatures for golden joinery on the stage, he was proof that “injury and rehabilitation can be enlightening in unlocking a new path forward and arming you with a stronger resolve and new found sense of appreciation for your dancing”. Mending is an art, and the essence of resilience.

In other moments, the “crack in everything” could be read in the lines separating two dancers from each other. Between Coco Mathieson and Callum Linnane, their ever-unfixed negative space created an even river line from head to toe. It appeared as if they were the one worn form in the landscape, cleaved in two by the passage of water and/or time: when one part of Mathieson was convex, Linnane’s neighbouring body was concave. Framed in white costumes, designed by Topp, with the dark stage behind them, it was the negative space they created which caught my eye, the background illuminating the foreground. Together, they made the space that let the light in, and it was breathtaking.

Elsewhere, this sensation was evoked in the space one dancer tried to fill when entwined with another. With a head tilted to one side and the opposite arm extended, a lovely long 'u' shape was drawn with the body, a lovely long 'u' shape for another to fill with their head lowered, their ear to the other’s shoulder. A shoulder for a pillow, an arm for support, an ear pressed close so as to hear, a meld of two as one, a perfect fit; the joint-call technique of kintsugi, where a similar shaped piece is used to replace the broken one. Each movement flowed into another, but always either filling the outline made by the other, or following the river bend of the other, but never crossing it, instead, shining a light through it. At times, Amanda McGuigan, Karen Nanasca, and Sharni Spencer rippled and sparkled like light as it sought to emblazon the darkness. Gold and darkness made splendid by staging and lighting design by Jon Buswell.

 Kevin Jackson and Leanne Stojmenov, and artists of The Australian Ballet in Alice Topp's  Aurum  (image credit: Jeff Busby)

Kevin Jackson and Leanne Stojmenov, and artists of The Australian Ballet in Alice Topp's Aurum (image credit: Jeff Busby)

Paris Opera Ballet to awake the sense of wonder

Recently landed: Paris Opera Ballet to awake the sense of wonder, a new article on Marginalia (by Gracia), part 6, takes a closer look at a recent study tour to Paris as part of a project with the Australian Print Workshop and the National Gallery of Australia

The movements of spring, summer, autumn, and winter, rose, blew, rippled, and shook, and we took shelter beneath Chagall's painted ceiling, on fold-down place in the Orchestra seats

Golden animals

Recently landed: Golden animals, a new article on Marginalia (by Gracia), part 5, takes a closer look at a recent study tour to Paris as part of a project with the Australian Print Workshop and the National Gallery of Australia

 Since visiting the Musée Fragonard d’Alfort, whenever we rub our temples we will picture them blue like the painted skulls on display

Since visiting the Musée Fragonard d’Alfort, whenever we rub our temples we will picture them blue like the painted skulls on display

In the archives

Recently landed: In the archives, a new article on Marginalia (by Gracia), part 4, takes a closer look at a recent study tour to Paris as part of a project with the Australian Print Workshop and the National Gallery of Australia

 Deep within the Musée des Archives nationales

Deep within the Musée des Archives nationales

Feather-light, bubble-bright

Recently landed: Feather-light, bubble-bright, a new article on Marginalia (by Gracia) in S-bend corseted gown, downing glass after glass at Chez Maxime, as part of The Australian Ballet's The Merry Widow

 For a franc, a gentleman could enter the elephant’s body, by way of a staircase twisting up one of its legs, and find themselves in an opium den and a froth of belly dancers

For a franc, a gentleman could enter the elephant’s body, by way of a staircase twisting up one of its legs, and find themselves in an opium den and a froth of belly dancers

A Weight of Albatross

Up! Up! Up they go.

After the building had closed, with birds and crimps under wing, we tiptoed into Realm, with Richard Holt, to install our commissioned work, A Weight of Albatross. We woke our rookery of albatross(es)* from their bubble wrap nests, and began threading the piece together, with a map for guidance. By 11pm, our two stainless steel and fourteen frosted perspex birds were in place.

Watch: A Weight of Albatross being installed at Realm, time-lapse video (courtesy of City of Maroondah)

Realm, Ringwood Town Square, 179 Maroondah Hwy, Ringwood

 Installing  A Weight of Albatross

Installing A Weight of Albatross

* The most common collective noun for a group of albatross is a rookery, but a weight is also accepted, and though the OED preferences albatrosses as the plural, Collins and Merriam-Webster are happy to fly with albatross. So a weight it is, A Weight of Albatross, because it sounds more poetic to our ears.

Included in our weight you will find a Wandering albatross (Diomedea exulans), Southern royal albatross (Diomedea epomophora), Laysan albatross (Phoebastria immutabilis), Black-browed albatross (Thalassarche melanophris), Shy albatross (Thalassarche cauta), Grey-headed albatross (Thalassarche chrysostoma), Indian yellow-nosed albatross (Thalassarche carteri), Sooty albatross (Phoebetria fusca), and a Buller’s albatross (Thalassarche bulleri).

A Giddy Delight: The Australian Ballet recalls la Belle Époque in The Merry Widow

Recently landed: A Giddy Delight, Gracia's written response to The Australian Ballet's The Merry Widow, for Fjord Review

At the Paris Universal Exhibition at the turn of the twentieth century, where it was said Debussy first heard Javanese gamelan music, near everything newly-discovered or newly-made could be found. The Eiffel Tower, now synonymous with Paris, for one; the world-encompassing scale of the Galerie des machines where visitors could delight in discovering atmospheric hammers, cigarette makers, phonographs, and telephones, another. Add to this a colonial exhibition of the ‘other’ from across land and sea masses; the Imperial, the largest diamond in the world; and a giant wooden and stucco elephant, which was later purchased and placed alongside an infamous red windmill, the Moulin Rouge, to render complete the Jardin de Paris Elephant. For a franc, a gentleman could enter the elephant’s body, by way of a staircase twisting up one of its legs, and find themselves in an opium den and a froth of belly dancers.    

Paris: the city of entertainment. “Paris was where the twentieth century was…. Paris was the place to be,” said Gertrude Stein of that beautiful era, la Belle Époque. Toulouse-Lautrec, Rodin, and Degas. Bonnard, Cézanne, and Monet. Well may I cry, pour me another cocktail of Post-Impressionism, Les Nabis, and ornamental Art Nouveau, but what of all this and a widow, merry or otherwise? This doorway to the past was, for me, what coloured and illuminated
The Merry Widow. It was the backdrop to the foreground and the foreground to the backdrop, the very balance of the composition, the lightness of step, its undeterred waltzing heart. The elephant in the garden: frivolity and amusement.    

From the palette of the Fauvist “wild beasts”, Matisse et al., to that found inside the belly of the beast, colour radiated mood, and it needn’t be true to the natural world. The emotional state was the heat rubbed into the canvas, into life, and on the stage in Robert Helpmann’s
The Merry Widow, originally created for The Australian Ballet in 1975, and felt last night at the State Theatre from a seat in the stalls. Colour as a vehicle for describing the lustre and space of the city of light, itself. Colour to describe high and low art brushing shoulders.

Adam Bull and Kirsty Martin in The Merry Widow (image credit: Jeff Busby)

In Josephine’s garden, in search of black swans

Recently landed: In Josephine’s garden, in search of black swans, a new article on Marginalia (by Gracia), part 3, takes a closer look at a recent study tour to Paris as part of a project with the Australian Print Workshop and the National Gallery of Australia

  Whether before Josephine’s le cygne noir at Malmaison or in the reading room at the Louvre , one crouches for a closer look, iPhone or magnifying lens in hand, and listens to the floorboards creak as one pads across the room, presence detected

Whether before Josephine’s le cygne noir at Malmaison or in the reading room at the Louvre, one crouches for a closer look, iPhone or magnifying lens in hand, and listens to the floorboards creak as one pads across the room, presence detected

A room with a view, quite

Recently landed: A room with a view, quite, a new article on Marginalia (by Gracia), part 2, takes a closer look at a recent study tour to Paris as part of a project with the Australian Print Workshop and the National Gallery of Australia

With Voltaire in the crypt below my feet and in my ear, ‘the more I read, the more I acquire, the more certain I am that I know nothing’

French Connections

Recently landed: French Connections, a new article on Marginalia (by Gracia) takes a closer look at a recent study tour to Paris as part of a project with the Australian Print Workshop and the National Gallery of Australia

  The joy of Henri Matisse’s  La Danse  at the Musée d’Art Moderne  is doubled when you catch Centre national de danse contemporaine d’Angers (Robert Swinston) rehearsing Merce Cunningham’s  Event #7

The joy of Henri Matisse’s La Danse at the Musée d’Art Moderne is doubled when you catch Centre national de danse contemporaine d’Angers (Robert Swinston) rehearsing Merce Cunningham’s Event #7

“The whole is other than the sum of its parts”

Recently landed: “The whole is other than the sum of its parts”, a new article on Marginalia (by Gracia) takes a closer look at a recent commission, A Weight of Albatross.

A Weight of Albatross, as she takes shape

“The poets almost remind me of the trumpeters”

Recently landed: “The poets almost remind me of the trumpeters", a new article on Marginalia (by Gracia) looks at a new commission at Realm through the ears of Mozart's Requiem

Frosted Perspex offcuts, from A Weight of Albatross, on the working table (#AWeightofAlbatross)

Animal Nature

Recently landed: Animal Nature, Gracia's written response to Stephanie Lake's new work, Replica, for Fjord Review

From modern Latin, from the Greek words sumbiōsis, ‘a living together,’ sumbioun, ‘live together,’ and sumbios, ‘companion’ comes the word symbiosis, an interaction between two different organisms living in close physical association, typically to the advantage of both. In the dictionary, the very definition of a symbiotic relationship, why, it almost sounds like a pas de deux. A ‘step of two’ performed by dancers working together, dependent upon each other, with each other, in synchronicity, aware, at all times, of the other.

In Stephanie Lake’s new work, Replica, Christina Chan and Aymeric Bichon embody this definition. From the outset, they are two different organisms mutually dependent upon the other, moving to the benefit of both, or so it seems. In the dark of the theatre in the Northcote Town Hall, as they stand before a strip of light on the floor, they are the bodily incarnation of mutualism. Bichon moves and Chan responds; Chan moves and Bichon responds. Two silhouettes in accord, making ‘a living together’ through togetherness. You scratch my back; I’ll scratch yours. You tap my left shoulder; I’ll tap yours. My arm draws a large circle in the air. My hand lands upon your head. With the tap, you begin to fall, but not before extending your arms forward and tapping at my abdomen. A push here, a poke there, no cause is without effect. We all fall down. Ring-a-ring o’ roses; a pocket full of posies; a-tishoo! A-tishoo! We all fall down; it’s human nature, after all.

Human nature, animal nature, it is one and the same, whether in the dictionary or the nursery rhyme; the slowest faces a penalty, the weakest in the herd is more at risk of falling prey to a predator. Best pair up with another; make a replica of their survival techniques through movement; and remember that if we all fall down, we can also all climb up. Take my hand; pull me up. In ecological rings, in biological terms, a symbiotic relationship between two or more species can be beneficial to all organisms involved (mutualism) or none (competition), and it can benefit one organism without affecting the others (commensalism) or help one while harming the others (parasitism). In Replica, Chan and Bichon, take turns trying on all four caps for size, from mutualism to parasitism, drawing for me the nature of things as the needle traces the groove and the lights shift from dark to light, warm to cool, red to blue. Lake’s choreography, Robin Fox’s sound composition, and Bosco Shaw’s lighting design all follow the same principle. Chan’s hand connects with a part of Bichon and the sound in symbiotic understanding changes. Bichon claps, the lighting alters in response. There is more than one relationship involved here.

Christina Chan and Aymeric Bichon in Stephanie Lake's Replica (image credit: Pippa Samaya)

The Blue Notebook

Subscribe to The Blue Notebook: Journal for artists’ books, published by Wild Conversations Press, edited by Sarah Bodman, UWE, Bristol, UK, to read our invited contribution, and other tales by other folk. Inside Volume 12, No. 2 Spring – Summer 2018 (pp. 6–14), you’ll find us talking about our artists’ books within Looped, at State Library Victoria.

Head to Book Arts to subscribe (hard copy and digital).

  Looped , presented in partnership with State Library Victoria, in the La Trobe reading room until Friday 31st of August, 2018

Looped, presented in partnership with State Library Victoria, in the La Trobe reading room until Friday 31st of August, 2018