'Tracing Materiality' is a project and exhibition by Sydney based artists Gillian Lavery, Renuka Fernando and Kath Fries. Exploring expanded drawing practices that move beyond drawing as representation to focus on materiality and mark making. The artists’ process-based approaches are open-ended, improvisational and unfolding, taking place live within the gallery over the exhibition’s duration. This blog will trace the artworks' developments.
Tell us a little about yourselves and how this project came about?
The three of us were discussing how we all work with open-ended processes, so our idea for this exhibition started with a conversation, which became a series of conversations, exchanges of ideas, questions and references. Many of these circled the idea of “not knowing” and how this notion plays a role in art practice, so this project and exhibition explores the notion of practice as a place where things can happen, as opposed to producing finished objects.
What is the current creative project you’re working on and what is the inspiration behind it?
Gillian Lavery – I am currently exploring ways to open up the process of making artwork to the viewer, to give it more visibility and importance rather than focusing on the end result. After travelling around Japan, Europe, the UK and Iceland, and undertaking two artist residencies last year I am still processing everything that I have seen and experienced. I know that these will continue to inform my work for the next few years, though I am not exactly sure how yet.
Kath Fries – My work for Tracing Materiality explores tactile and sensory engagements with beeswax and paper, using scratching translucencies, drips, changing natural light and the beeswax’s aromatic presence. I plan to create installations in Chrissie Cotter Gallery that respond to pre-existing aspects of the space including the natural light of the windows, old bolts in the ceiling and the lightboxes by the staircase. These installations will combine site sensitivity with the tactility and mutability of beeswax as a drawing material.
Renuka Fernando – I’m currently working on series of small rapid sketches which I began on a recent trip to Canada. Although I don't consider the drawings referential as such, they are influenced by my road trip across British Columbia during the winter. From these sketches I will be working on a larger drawing, which will take place within the gallery during the course of the exhibition. I like to be led by the drawing process itself and respond to the materiality of the drawing and the surface up which it is made. In turn I consider the drawing to be essentially linked to the place in which it is made and I hope to respond both to the gallery space itself and the other works which will be occur within the gallery.
What drives your creativity?
We all share a similar desire to think about things through materials and processes. It's a way to understand other people and the world and connect to others, be it family or other artists, writers or thinkers.
What creative artists have most inspired or influenced you - and why?
Gillian Lavery - William Kentrige is of particular interest to me at the moment. Part of this is the way that he articulates his process and emphasises the importance of play and open ended experimentation in his practice. Louise Bourgeois has influenced me for a very long time and it was seeing her work in Paris many years ago that prompted me to go to art school. I am inspired by the way that she had stayed true to her subject and herself against all odds, she made what she wanted to, what she had to. She also works across so many different mediums - though I am particularly interested in her drawings and textile pieces.
Kath Fries - I’m most interested in the practices of artists who work with the instability and changing nature of materiality. Like Hannah Bertram, a Melbourne artist, works with dust to create meticulous, decorative, temporal installations that are deliberately destroyed at the conclusion of the process. I was lucky to visit Teshima Museum in Japan an few years ago and was really inspired by the serene water droplet Matrixinstallation by Rei Natio, where visitors sit inside a tranquil architectural/landscape space, designed by Ryue Nishizawa, to watch and feel tiny trickles of water seep out of the undulating floor and gradually be absorbed back into it again.
Renuka Fernando - I have always been drawn to artists that have an interest in the mark making process. I saw a retrospective of Cy Twombly’s work in London and I was overwhelmed by the sheer scale and energy embedded in his marks, particularly the Bacchus series (2005). Locally I have always loved the work of Sally Gabori and Tony Tuckson. To be honest it’s very difficult to narrow it down to only a few.
What are you aiming to communicate through your work?
We all tend to think of our practices as a way of opening up a space of exploration. We don’t have a message beyond inviting people into a space that is different to what they experience in their every day life.
What do you hope will be the outcome of it? How will you judge its success?
There are many levels of success in a work of art. We are mostly interested in how one work or exhibition provides a path for the next work. Installing and exhibiting these works together might generate a whole new line of enquiry. As long as we are learning, pushing ourselves and taking risks then we are satisfied. If the viewer enjoys it and gets something out of it too - then that is an added bonus.
What is your next project?
Gillian Lavery - I am working on something for a group show at 107 Projects in Redfern in May. I am hoping to use some of the experiments that I was working on in Iceland for that show and see where I can take them.
Kath Fries - I’m working on a paper-bark doorway installation with oyster mushrooms growing in it for a group exhibition ‘Out of Time’ at Airspace Projects, Marrickville in May.
Renuka Fernando - In June I will be doing an artist residency with the Chris O’Brien Lifehouse Foundation in Camperdown. The residency takes place within the hospital and I will get the opportunity to work with patients and visitors introducing the ideas of mark making as a means of self-expression and play.
What are your future goals?
Keep making, playing, thinking…
What are your favourite places in Marrickville (park, music venue, bar, coffee shop, other) to work or wind down?
Gillian Lavery - When I had a studio in Marrickville I loved spending my lunch at Henson Park. I enjoyed lying in the grass and watching the sky and listening to people walking their dogs, children on the play equipment and the occasional tennis match.
Kath Fries - I live around the corner from Willie the Boatman microbrewery - we’ll have some of their beers at our Tracing Materiality exhibition opening! Also on Mary Street is Sample Coffee Roasting, they have a lovely café and I buy their coffee beans. Over the road is St Peter's Fruit World, which stocks a great range of fresh fruit and veggies as well as local yogurts, cheeses, tofu and dumplings made in the Marrickville area.
Renuka Fernando - I love that little hole in the wall Vietnamese place on Illawarra Road, they do the best Banh Mi in Sydney.