Monday, August 31, 2015

PC Issues

Shark Net by Pants (2015)

There is no new post for August as I have PC issues which will hopefully be resolved later this week. Instead, I reproduce this post that appeared on Art of Pants recently.

I finished this piece yesterday*. As I walked around Lake Larrikin in the morning, I spotted a pod of Bottlenose dolphins close to the shore. 'Seeing dolphins is a good omen,' I thought. I bought a lottery ticket, went home and finished the assemblage above. In the afternoon, I lay on my winter-sun sofa and read a section of Karl Ove Knausgaard's Boyhood Island. The boy Karl Ove and his grandfather spot a pod of porpoises in the sea off their Norwegian island and the grandfather tells Karl Ove, 'seeing porpoises is a good omen, you know.' My chances of winning the lottery improved.

When it comes to Karl Ove Knausgaard, I am one of the firmly gripped. Boyhood Island is the third in the series My Struggle. I have read the first two in English and have asked the kindly people at Larrikin Library if they will be so good as to purchase the fourth, Dancing in the Dark, which is recently out in English translation. In the second book, A Man in Love, Knausgaard paraphrases Lawrence Durrell's method of novel-writing - 'you set a goal and go there in your sleep.' This method also works for assemblages. The elements are all out there, they just need a few sleeps to come together. 

I found this piece of driftwood last week. Australian artist Fiona Hall constructed a wall of animal-shaped driftwood for the Australian Pavilion in this year's Venice Biennale. There is an awful lot of it on the beaches of southern Australia and the Larrikin coast is no exception. I've made a few animal-inspired driftwood assemblages myself, some of which have previously appeared on this very blog. The piece featured above struck me initially as shark-like but it could also be a very angry dolphin. 

I immediately began to sift through my mind-closet for a suitable mount and remembered that I had a long, thin, framed board among the many that I've purchased for a few dollars each at charity shops over the years and that it had a blue, 'stressed' frame. It had previously displayed a Zodiac poster - Cancer, the Crab. Presciently nautical, I thought. I had a sample pot of emulsion that would do for background and some water-based gloss so there was no expense there. My initial thought was that I would make a piece that mimicked a trophy. Then I remembered that I had some garden netting in the shed.
Some popular Australian beaches are strung with nets to help prevent shark attack. I am strongly against these (unless of course I am swimming at one of these beaches, in which case I feel a lot safer). The nets kill other marine animals including turtles, seals, rays, dugongs, small whales and, yes, dolphins. Bad, bad omen. 

I decided to make a piece about shark nets. (That lottery ticket should pay off tonight.) Apart from the usual problem I have with assemblages - i.e. the assembly bit (note to self - Araldite will not stick anything to anything). Happily, the piece of driftwood had two well-positioned protrusions on the underside which were amenable to screws. After a great deal of unladylike language and wishing that I had several extra available hands, the thing came together. 

It's not clear from the photograph above, but the little rock at bottom left has the word 'DREAM' chiseled into it. I have no idea where this object came from* but it was kicking around and it was the right colour so it went on - and so far remains, thanks to a generous blob of Araldite. Dream is a word that has special significance in Australia, especially in relation to nature. It seemed right to add it in.

I have a feeling that the 'DREAM' rock might be from a conference pack dating back to the late 90s, when an element of warm-fuzzy, body-mind-spiritedness was often woven in to soften the hard-data coldness that tended to dominate public-sector proceedings. I can never bear to throw this sort of artefact away. Superstition can be good for art.

* July 2015