Cadaques is beautiful with jaw dropping, picture postcard good looks. The road in is a winding vertiginous climb, followed by a descent through steep hills that are terraced with countless stone walls, retaining layer upon layer of skinny earth, planted with olives. The work it must have taken to build these on such a scale seems impossible.
This has been a long journey for me, one that started last year when I received an email telling me that I was one of six winners of the International Miniprint of Cadaques. I had submitted four prints earlier in the year and in something that felt a bit like a lottery win, I had been chosen, from 750 artists from 56 countries. I was thrilled and very excited. Of course after a while that wore off slightly as I set to work to produce around 30 new prints, plus editions, by April 2015....and of course I had to go to Cadaques. Well, technically I didn't have to go, I could just have sent the work...but that was not a very appealing option. The saving grace is that mini prints are small, just 100 mm square, on a paper size of 180mm square, so I thought it wouldn't take too long (wrong!). But while it was a lot of work, I did manage to finish on time.
Then trip planning became my priority. The time involved in travelling to Europe, from New Zealand, meant that I couldn't just pop over for the opening, I had to stay for a while.
I decided to start in Venice and see the biennale, which was a great experience. Venice was wonderful, not least because I stayed in charming and peaceful Sant Elena, minutes from Giardini and Arsenale, but a world away from the tourist hordes in San Marco. My host was the lovely Veronica Green, another New Zealand artist who lives and works in Venice. I had a wonderful week there and wished I could have stayed longer. There was so much to see I needed a month.
Escaping the heat of a single night in Barcelona, I arrived in Cadaques and settled into my apartment, with the most gorgeous views. I went straight to the beach and swam in the cool salty Mediterranean Sea. Paradise! I found the gallery just minutes away and met mother and daughter team, Merce and Merce, who run Taller Galleria Fort and Miniprint International of Cadaques. There they hold the miniprint show every year, alongside the solo shows of each of the winners from the previous year. When I arrived it was at the end of Irish artist Aidan Flanagan's exhibition. I'd already chatted with Aidan online previously and was happy to see his work in the flesh, though unfortunately missed meeting him. Aidan had bought one of my prints so that was very encouraging. As I write this ( though not as I post it ), it is Friday, the day before my opening. My lovely friend, author Jenny Mortimer (she writes murder mysteries under the more formal Jennifer Leigh Mortimer) will be joining me soon to lend moral support (not to mention a stunning meal at Compartir that warrants a blog post all of its own).
After Giardini, Arsenale was overwhelming in its scale and much was dystopic and depressing. Yes there were gems but you had to kiss a lot of frogs to see them. Some images of my favourites for now, and my thoughts and artist credits to follow.
After a long arduous journey, interspersed with moments of frenetic activity, with connections too closely timed, I arrived sans luggage and jet lagged in Venice. Of course it was worth it all to be in this wonderful city. I am staying with another artist from New Zealand, Veronica Green, who lives and works in Venice. Her lovely home is in St Elena, a beautiful peaceful and authentic part of Venice far from the tourist hordes. Finding Veronica was one of those crazy coincidences that New Zealanders, only ever 2° removed, enjoy.
My first day in Venice started with a very early morning (jet lag/time zone insomnia) stroll through the cobbled streets and cool green parks of St Elena, then along the waterfront towards Giardini. I was smitten! The day before a tornado had blown through, taking away the heatwave that might have overcooked my ardour. I was captivated by the details, everywhere I looked were small accidents of antiquity. I photographed the little strips of metal and plaster, that hold the stone bridges together, every one an individual piece of raw jewellery.
Later I went to the Biennale at Giardini, where the scale was very different, but there were still many gems. Amongst my favourites were the Swiss artist Pamela Rosenkranz, with the very elegant, disorientating but compelling installation, 'Our Product', and the much photographed 'A Key in the Hand', by Chiharu Shiota, of Japan. I had seen many beautiful images of this installation, but they fail to convey the immense scale, and the fragrant smell of burnt wood and metal. As someone who makes things as opposed to writing about them, my first question was, where did she get so many keys??
Mesmerising video/projection installations that impressed, were the Russian 'Green Pavillion', Irina Nakhova, and Koreans, Moon Kyung and Jeon Joonho with, 'The Ways of Folding Space and Flying'. Worst was the video, with sound, of a man vomiting blood.
I was captivated by the visceral materiality and scale of the huge Oscar Murillo, 'signalling devices in a now bastard territory'. Twenty massive 'flags' made from black oilskin and other materials hung across the front of the main Pavillion. Inside I was drawn to the work of Australian artist Daniel Boyd, who works with charcoal and glue on polyester, to create large paintings.
I'll post some photos from my phone, the rest are still trapped on my camera.
The following day I went to Arsenale....and after Giardini, that was quite a different experience! More to follow...arreviderci!
Print has traditionally been a process of multiples but in my practise the work sits outside the traditional idea of prints as being an edition of near identical images, from a single matrix. In ‘Outsourcing’ editions are variable, both in colour and in some cases the arrangement and rearrangement of pattern pieces, reflecting the ‘blocks’ of the fashion industry in a new construct of old garments. The works record the disintegration of the materials of the printing plates, once a living skin degrading and decomposing, like the cast off clothes we consider imperfect or unfashionable.
The ‘Labels’ prints (I, II and IIII), evolved from a deconstructed vintage Oroton handbag label. Strongly stitched through multiple layers, it was defiantly made to last, unlike mass produced disposable fashion. These laboriously inked and wiped plates, and the resulting prints, reflect a similar ethos.
'Wasteland' considers the impact on the environment and questions the real costs, of overproduction.
Many of the titles within this body of work use textile industry and sewing terminology (‘Line up Notches’, ‘Back to Front’, ‘Cut/Make/Trim’). Others provide ironical commentaries on consumption and obsession. ‘Fetish’ explores the desire and compulsion that results in the accumulation of large numbers of handbags and shoes. In ‘Interface’, I have exposed the interfacing between poor cheap fabric and luxurious leather that speaks of inequality and conflict across incompatible boundaries.
For more than thirty years I have explored materials through printmaking, textiles, painting and installation. I began my art practise as a printmaker, and in recent years I have returned to print processes, using the detritus of industry to make my work.
My ‘Outsourcing’ series of collagraph prints examines the clothing industries practise of outsourcing garment manufacturing to poorer countries. Unpicking linings, tugging apart layers and discovering strange interiors, I have deconstructed leather clothing and printed the individual pattern pieces. Oily ink translates the imprints of skin (animal and human), and of the work of those that handled, stitched, wore and fondled it.