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Saturday, June 27, 2009

An interesting night

I had a wonderful time at the Nillumbik prize opening, nice to see my work at Montsalvat where I met lots of interesting artists, drank lovely wine, enjoyed the art, had a beautiful dinner, but didn't win the prize. Oh well, I was pleased just to be in it and as the judge John Wolseley said himself, "All judges are idiots!" Only joking, this judge was a bright spark actually. I felt the merging of many periods in my life and a great sense of achievement to be included in this event.

I spent the evening chatting with lots of people, re-finding my Life Drawing teacher from NMIT the fabulous Annita Furey, who was great to see again. Among other familiar faces was Jole di Florio who I studied drawing with at RMIT, Kaya Storm, Hillary Jackman and Matcham Skipper of course, (resident jeweler of Monntsalvat). John Wolseley and Morag Fraser AO (Chair of the Montsalvat Board), gave dynamic speeches which were very real and passionate. To quote John Wolseley's very humorous speech again "Don't you hate people who name drop?"

I enjoyed being part of this lively art crowd for the night and felt like an honorary member of the community just being included in the show.

Interestingly, the piece that won was the only video work Wet Feet Under the Pier by Dena Ashbolt. It seemed quite a controversial choice and I get the feeling it stirred things up for some of the artists there. Having a background in video projection (my Masters was on Light as a Medium), I could appreciate the themes in this work, yet I was surprised by the decision. Many people seemed mystified by a video work in amongst so many more traditional mediums.

I had an interesting conversation with Artistic Manager Simone deHaan about the gap between the more regional and the inner city art communities, and the need for more dialog between the two. Imagine the benefit of more exchange between those interested in traditional forms of art and local culture, and those interested in new mediums and broader contemporary practice. Of course, there is obviously a mix between artists with these interests, but there also seems to be a lack of understanding and some sort of cultural divide between artists working in different ways that I feel could be addressed. After all, artists and should feel free to draw on a wide range traditions and mediums and engage in new or old ways of making art. As artists and viewers don't we gain more by remaining open to different forms then by dismissing them?

It was clear that John Wolseley's choice intentionally supported the art practice in a relatively new medium and stimulated a lot of discussions that night which are probably still continuing...

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Nillumbik Prize

Tonight opens the Nillumbik Prize exhibition at Montsalvat, my piece Land Memory - Melbourne is included. (see previous post). It is very exciting and a little nerve racking as much of the other work is of quite a high quality. It will be good regardless of whether I win or not.

Nillumbik Prize Exhibition 2009
Montsalvat Barn Gallery

There are works in the show by Dale Cox and Marco Luccio and it is interesting and encouraging to see I am not the only one exploring the theme of the Australian landscape in a contemporary way. I have spent some time in the last few days in the mountains and plains between the Upper Yarra Damn and Yering, observing the landscape, drawing and organising exhibitions. I have been working on a large painting of the mountain ranges and see myself entering a blue phase of working with all the beautiful colours of the landscape here. I am hoping to exhibit next year at Yering Station - the oldest winery in Victoria, where I just submitted an application yesterday and confirmed my first show in this batch of exhibitions to be held at The Upper Yarra Arts Centre in October this year.

Its a hard job being an artist and doing my own marketing, promotion, administration and seeking funding and sponsorship - all while trying to make my art. I'd better get back to it, meanwhile if anyone wants to help or knows any potential sponsors let me know...

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Towards the source

Today I am intending to travel up the Yarra River, towards the source, making artwork along the way. I use my car as a mobile studio, so my dog and I will be taking my rusty blue station wagon off for an outing. I have dear friends who live just below the Upper Yarra Damn and I aim to get up there today or tomorrow. The upper reaches of the Yarra are the focus for me at the moment. I started work out there a few weeks ago, discovering Yering Station and the amazing view of the mountains from there. So, my aim at the moment is to get to know the area from Yarra Glen to Warburton. Around Yarra Glen the Yarra wends its way around the base of majestic mountain ranges including Kingake and Healesville areas, that surround the flatter land consisting of farms and wineries. This area has some of the poorest water quality of the whole river system as it has been farmland since the 1840's. I am slowly putting together all the parts of the river into my consciousness and look forward to a sweeping understanding of the whole length of our amazing life bringing friend.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Dreaming reality

Later today I will deliver my work Land Memory - Melbourne to the artist colony Montsalvat, where will be included in the Nillumbik Prize and exhibition. I am delighted to have my work selected for this. The prize is to be judged by one of my favorite Australian artists John Wolseley. The exhibition will remain on display till the end of August. It is a wonderful opportunity and a great precursor to my solo exhibition there in the Barn Gallery later this year. This piece Land Memory - Melbourne is one of the key paintings I produced for my exhibition The Yarra Journey in 2007. I am pleased that this key work of the series will be on display again leading up to the next suite of shows, The Yarra Story - Drawing the Birrarung at Montsalvat in December 2009.

Katie Roberts Land Memory – Melbourne Copyright 2006 –2007
Dimensions 120cm x 100cm Mixed media : oil paint, acrylic, ink, pastel, pencil on canvas

Land Memory depicts the Yarra River winding through the heart of Wurundjeri land – Melbourne City. The grid of the city streets is overlayed on an abstract field of ochre, from which emerge various views of Melbourne. The skyline is drawn from a traditional Western perspective and hovers, ghost-like above the land. The human landscape appears as ephemeral or as scars upon the land. Other elements inhabit the layers of the painting including words, dead branches, bar codes, the binary system and the human anatomy. This piece examines the relationship between the human and the natural worlds, and re-maps our city for the 21st Century.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

The journey begins

In 2006 I really started this series about the Yarra River, which winds its way through the inner city suburbs around where I live in Melbourne. I had just finished my Masters of Fine Art, in which I had focused on projection installations and light as a medium. After such a project, I wanted to connect again with tangible mediums and explore themes that are deeply relevant to myself and the wider community.

Katie Roberts Birrarung Dreams (Detail) Copyright 2006
Dimensions: 50 x 31cm Ink, pencil and pastel on 100% cotton watercolour paper.

I was drawn back to my feeling for the Australian land, its unique character and ancient energy. I began wandering along the banks of the Yarra River after taking my son to school everyday. Here the river is wide and brown, and slides between cliffs of ancient sea bed on one side, and the flatter lava flow turned to bluestone that most of Melbourne is built on. In the inner city suburbs of Collingwood, Abbotsford and Clifton Hill I discovered some beautiful places and contrasting scenery of industry, nature and historic buildings. These places are close to the city, yet they retain some beautiful bushland and I felt a deep sense of the land and its layered history. It was at once invigorating on physical, soul and artistic levels. I started making art and taking photos on these walks as well as contemplating the land and its history, gaining what I feel is a deeper sense of the spirit of the place.

Katie Roberts Abbotsford Convent Copyright 2006
Graphite of canvas board.

Below is the key piece from the first show of the series The Yarra Drawings 2006. It is a small work on paper and depicts an areal view of the area including the suburbs of Clifton Hill, Collingwood, Fairfield to the Horsehead Bend at Ivanhoe. Layered into the work are various elements including a geological diagram of the landforms, details of the sales of the land when the area was first carved up for subdivisions and a map of streets and the modern landscape which is literally cut into the surface of the paper. In the top left hand corner the moon is seen rising over Dight's Falls. Through the combination of all these elements Birrarung Dreams incorporates various cultural perspectives and times into the one contemporary view of the landscape, revealing the scars of its history.

Katie Roberts Birrarung Dreams Copyright 2006
Dimensions: 50 x 31cm Ink, pencil and pastel on 100% cotton watercolour paper.

Welcome to the Journey

Welcome to Katie Robert's artistic journey along the Yarra River, the major natural feature in the landscape and life of Melbourne, Australia.

Since 2006 I have been following the Yarra River making artwork about her, as she snakes her way through the bushland, city and urban environment of Melbourne. I have created a body of work that incorporates the history of the landscape and how it has changed in less then two hundred years of colonisation. These pieces attempt to address the issues of environment, reconciliation and the connection between place, spirituality and our identity.

This blog will trace the journey of this body of paintings and works on paper, and document a series of exhibitions and other events that celebrate the Yarra River - or the Birrarung to use its Wurundjeri name.