The last day of my NY adventure has arrived. Here is a pretty quirky selection of pics from the time here:
Yesterday I took a fabulous walk from the Lower East Side, across the Williamsburg Bridge to Williamsburg. Once there I picked my way through the suburb, visiting cafes and shops recommended by my local friends.
My last destination for the day was MoMA PS1, in Queens (finally I fulfil the Queenie to Queens promise!)
I visited to see a Lara Favaretto exhibition, which was really great, but discovering a work by one of my favourite artists, Janet Cardiff, was the highlight. Entitled Forty Part Motet, the work is located in a beautiful room with a vaulted brick ceiling, looking out over Queens. The installation is simply a circle of speakers set at head/ear height. The sound is a forty channel piece choral work, with each of those speakers presenting one voice. Sitting in the middle of the space is an unbelievably beautiful and moving experience as the voices lift and swell, join and separate. Then walking the circle, it is possible to hear each of the individual voices from Bass Baritone to Soprano. I was moved to tears within minutes of sitting in the room and I wondered at the power of voice to do this.
One of my favourite expressions from the SEGD conference that I’ve just attended is ‘making spaces where people can sit and watch nothing.’
Last Thursday Kate and I went on a tour of the Highline. It was lead by Matthew Johnson of Diller Scofidio + Renfrow, a key member of the design team (middle pic below).
Here are some pics of one of his favourite spaces on the Highline. It is a point where the path steps down in an amphitheatre focused on a glass screen to 10th avenue.
As Matthew described, it is a space designed to let people ‘watch nothing’, just like you would a crackling fire. The space is really popular and I can see why. Sitting above the middle of the street offers a unique perspective and it is mesmeric to sit and watch the cars emerge from under the bridge (as if from nowhere) and make their way down the avenue. It seem to prompt what I call sideways conversations, where you sit together focused on watching something else. Conversation seems to flow in really interesting directions in these moments.
In year 12, I did a major assignment on Claus Oldenberg. As a result, I have always loved his work, good and not so good. Today I visited an exhibition of the work of Tacita Dean at New Museum. She has done a series of films on significant US creatives, including Oldenberg. So at the end of much walking, I took great pleasure in sitting in the dark for a long while watching this film. I flipped off my clogs and put my feet on the cool concrete.
The film simply shows him dusting and rearranging a great collection of objects in library shelving in his studio. Yet, through this act, it is possible to see his unconscious aesthetic mind at work.
Years ago, when I was very close to finishing a chapter of life living in London, I came up with the expression, ‘the spirit of leaving.’ I thought at the time that if I could bottle it and sell it, I’d make my fortune.
Its that feeling, or awareness, that you have when you are approaching the end of something. Every experience seems heightened, with a touch of bitter sweet. Rich enjoyment with a little melancholy for the end of an adventure. While my current experience isn’t quite as strong as it was in London (after four years in the city), it is still there.
A few afternoons ago, I was excited to see the mountain again. She/He had been in hiding for days and days. The sun came out and I captured the view above, from just outside the house where I’ve been living. I went to drop off some borrowed tools and saw this new view of Mount Owen (below) from the incredible platform that their house sits on, west of the town. The mountain was partially shrouded in cloud, but it still felt as though it towered over the town.
I sat down and quietly worked on a new sketch in the studio to the strains of Sigur Ros’ new album Valtari. Loved the calm of it and enjoyed the realisation that sketching has returned as part of a revised or refreshed way of working.
I went walking in the hills with Helena. I’ve intermittently joined Raymond and Helena on these walks, but generally let that be their time. The sky felt like it had lifted. I talked with Helena about how this is probably a place where I’ve felt most affected by the weather. We talked about the incredible colour of the hillside as the sun rose.
We had a beautiful lunch sitting in the window of LARQ, including Helena’s delicious pan fried fish with chorizo and my mandarin creme caramel (that I’ve already bragged about!)
I touched base with the people I wanted to thank and realised that new friendships were another great layer to this time away.
I scouted around for buildings I hadn’t seen. Found a couple of beauties, including this cottage, which appears to be a lean-to, on a lean-to, on a lean-to, on a lean-to. Funny. There’s a bit of that building around Queenstown. Really long houses formed out of many outbuildings or lean-tos. Decisions for a little bit of extra space.
I drove back from Queenstown to Hobart. It seemed fitting that the town was shrouded in fog and rain. The waterfall on the way over to Gormanstan was running fast, its white water pouring off the cliffs, glowing in the low, moody light.
The 4 hour drive back to Hobart passed almost as if in a dream, my mind roving over the experience of the last few months. Once again, as on my trip in, I checked in on my touch points of the journey. The mountains were all in hiding, but the colours of the Navarre Plains were luminous.
And home. To sit beneath another mountain.
So there ends this adventure.
Thank you to those who have joined me along the way. Check back in over the next week as I’ll do a few posts from New York.
While the focus of this residency has obvioiusly been on art making, there have been many other fabulous aspects that deserve a little space.
Almost every day of this residency, I have shared lunch with Helena and Raymond. This is a photo of a meal back in April. Helena pan fried fresh figs and served them with proscuitto and a drizzle of verjuice. So simple, SO good! Whatever is in season, whatever is at the local supermarkets, whatever has been dropped off at the back door by a local or picked up at a deli on the way back to Queenstown makes its way onto the table in some amazing way. Helena has definitely done the lion’s share of the cooking – she’s an expert at drawing together something incredible from anything in the pantry in record time – but Raymond and I have also had our days in the sun. My triumph today was a mandarin creme caramel. My first attempt at something like that. We were all in dessert heaven there for a short moment.
Throughout these lunches, over 50 in total, we talked. Food, particularly good food, is a great stimulant for conversation. Books we were reading or had read, films seen, interviews we’d just heard on the radio, how our morning panned out, all things found their way to the table. I learned about all of the ins and outs of queenstown, its history, the mine, the current characters, the past characters. And of course we talked about art, light, colour…and food! This series of lunches will be a very strong part of my memory of these two months, offering a consistent and nourishing beat between bouts of art making.
Lynda Warner designed a great catalogue for my open studio and academic Jillian Walliss (and good friend) wrote a catalogue essay. If you would like to read/look, download here:
I convinced the local supermarket owner to let me scrounge through his old store for sculpture materials. It’s an historic store on the edge of town that is half full of amazing antique shop fixtures and half full of strange odds and ends that are my kind of thing. We traded a piece of jewellery for his wife for this box of interesting stuff. We agreed that any artwork would be called ‘Owed to Phill’!