Thursday, 22 March 2012

Struggling with my Banksia Project

The Cloth & Habitable Space class had to give their presentations for our projects yesterday.  My project is based on banksia leaves, working in shape and line, keeping it simple, working with the laser cutter on fabric and acrylic. 

I was a little put out when one of the assessors said that as so many of us wanted to use the laser cutter, we would do well to find commercial venues that offered laser cutting, as there is only one laser cutter on campus and it would be overbooked as it is shared between textiles, woodwork, furniture and other design disciplines.  I only decided to do laser cutting as it is one of our set techniques this year, and I thought I would do well to follow the syllabus (rather than focussing on print which is what I want to do).  It also turns out that we get no assistance to work up our designs in Illustrator, which is the programme that the laser cutter uses.  We also need to source and supply our own materials, which is difficult for me, as I am dependent on public transport and suppliers are at least 2 bus rides away.  Fortunately, Lauren, one of the students, will ask her boyfriend to use his car to go to a supplier to get us some acrylic.  At the moment, all I can see is problems in achieving the outcome of my design ideas.

We all received written feedback from other students on our presentations.  I found my feedback really helpful.  For this week's homework, we have to show how we have used the feedback.  The main feedback for me was that although the inspiration of banksia, and 3 key words - simplicity, repetition, and presence/absence - were clear, there was limited concept.  I can go further - there was no concept behind the work!  So this morning, while I cycled to and from the pool, and swam 1000m, I thought about a concept behind the work.  It was a lot of angst.

I have been feeling really homesick over the last 10 days or so.  Yet I have/am enjoying my time in Australia and have gained so much from being here.  I have enjoyed seeing things that are specifically Australian and this is why I want to work with Banksia leaves in my artwork.  I value my presence in Aus, the quality of education, the way in which it has expanded my mind.  But I am aware of my absence from England, from my home, from my familiar environment.  So how do I link my positive feelings about Aus to the Banksia leaves, while also representing what I'm homesick for?  I started thinking about plants that are specific to England and/or me.  I thought about the trees in my garden that have distinctive leaves - rowan, plums, hedging plants.  None of these grabbed me.  Then I thought of the most obvious English tree - the oak.  This has interesting leaves, that are very different to the banksia.  As usual, my work is going to have a strong emotional content that is specific to me.

If I can incorporate something about an oak leaf into my work, it might represent how I feel.  I want the banksia leaf to be the main focus, (ie positive, presence), whereas the oak leaf would be secondary or subtly represented (ie negative, absence).  I can see this worked up in acetate, as a clear box.  I've created a border design, that I had visualised wrapping around the sides of a clear acetate box, with the design extending from the border, onto the top of the box.  And maybe a circular design on the middle of the top, for a top view of the banksia flower.  But if I wanted to incorporate a feeling of what I'm missing, I could put an oak leaf motif on the bottom of the box that only shows what I'm missing, if people choose to look closely.

I can think of lots of ways of incorporating bold banksia prints, with an oak leaf.  I hope to do some printing, and actually, if I encounter too many problems with laser cutting, I will change the project direction to print. 

From my ramblings above, I think I may have to change one of my 3 key words.  I need to drop "simplicity".  My work is just not simple.  The more I see of simple work, the more I think it is highly evolved.  And on further analysis of my presentation yesterday, even the inspirational artists I chose, did not do work that was simple.  They had a simple idea, that once repeated in pattern, was complex or busy.  I may focus on my work being "simpler" but "simplicity" would be a misnomer!

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