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    Category Archives: women in art

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    Women from history: Hilla Becher

    hilla-becher

    By Jasmine Mansbridge

    Relationships fascinate me. The fact that two people choose each other and then make a life together is pretty amazing. So, when I was asked to write a series of posts about significant creative women from history for CWC, I thought it might be interesting to look at some of the great creative partnerships/relationships in art history… with the idea that there might be something to be learned from them!

    In this first blog post I have chosen to look at the relationship of German conceptual artists, Hilla and Bernd Becher. Hilla and Bernd met when they began working together in Dusseldorf in 1957 and they married several years later. Cameras in tow, they adventured about the countryside, united by a shared fascination with the decaying forms of early industrialisation. Over time their singular aim became to preserve what they felt was a disappearing part of modern history. Hilla and Bernd together, were compelled to capture these utilitarian monuments via their preferred medium of photography.

    I must admit that it was the photography of Hilla and Bernd and their subject matter that first drew my attention to them. The stark objective way they captured their audience of man made structures, which included water towers, mills and furnaces very much appealed to my aesthetic. The exhibited photographs of these structures were often set into “typologies” or grids, so as to allow for viewers to make comparisons about similarities and differences between the different structures and for them to be able to see the detail and careful workmanship that had gone into the making of many of them.

    The Becher’s first began using their documentary style of photography in Germany’s Rhur valley, which was close to home and over the years they then travelled to many other declining industrial centres, in Britain, France, Belgium and the United States.

    There is not a lot written about Hilla and Bernd’s relationship outside of the boundaries of their art making. If they lived and worked today, they may have a blog, or an instagram account (!) and so there would be, perhaps, more direct insight into what made them tick as a couple.

    So, for the purposes of this post I am relying on mere presumption about the Becher’s personal relationship. They spent decades working together and appear to have consistently shared a singular vision and artistic focus. This is an impressive achievement for one person alone, even more so for a couple. I wonder if the boundaries they imposed on their work contributed to their success in both art and love? If this sustained common goal gave their relationship both stability and longevity?

    Hilla and Bernd are also rare in the fact that they appear to be true equals in their art making process. This is apparent when you listen to the talk they recorded for Arch types. Given the times in which they worked, Hilla could easily have only been Bernd’s artistic assistant, and may have accepted that role happily. But, by all accounts theirs was a partnership, a collaboration. The two of them working methodically to create an impressive body of artwork. They obviously valued each others skills and each felt they needed the other to complete the task at hand. They don’t appear to have had solo projects and if they did, they were not the main focus for either of them. This sense of equality surely contributed to their success.

    The Bechers felt passionate about the preserving of history and viewed their work as important. I wonder if this dedication enabled them to put aside any differences that may have arisen between them. Was the cause behind their photography greater to them than any kind of competitive artistic ego? In the same way couples will often put aside differences for the sake of their children. I imagine that maybe Hilla and Bernd did this for their works of photography.

    Bernd taught photography at the Kunstakademie Düsseldorf for 20 years, until 1996. It was due to internal policy, that Hilla was unable to be employed alongside her husband, although she is said to have been instrumental to the running of the photography department. Hilla obviously accepted this and there is nothing I could find written to suggest she was unsatisfied with the arrangement. Hilla’s position highlights the challenge presented to female artists in the past (and lingering into the present). The formidable Becher partnership endured until Bernd’s death in 2007 and since her husband’s passing, Hilla has continued to exhibit their work, using the couple’s existing photographs.

    When looking at the Becher relationship I felt there were many questions left unanswered. I wonder if the personal details of their relationship were off limits and if it was something they agreed not to talk about. If this is the case I understand. I am comfortable sharing many aspects of my own life, but I respect my husband’s need for privacy and do not talk much about “us”. Hilla and Bernd were certainly are an intriguing couple who produced a flawless body of work. For further reading, I’d recommend this book about the Bechers titled Life and Work by Susanne Lange.

    I’m very interested to hear from those of you who are in personal relationships with other artists. Have you ever collaborated on a project? How did that go? What are the ups and downs of this? Tell us on Facebook, Instagram or Twitter.

    —–

    Jasmine Mansbridge is a painter and mum to four (almost five) kids. She regularly blogs about the intersection of creative work and family life at www.jasminemansbridge.com, and you can also find her on Instagram @jasminemansbridge.


    Posted by: Tess McCabe
    Categories: women from history, women in art | Comments Off
    Posted on

    Meeting deadlines with kids underfoot

    meeting-deadlines-with-kids-underfoot-by-jasmine-mansbridge

    By Jasmine Mansbridge

    Picasso once said that; “our goals can only be reached through the vehicle of a plan, in which we must fervently believe, and upon which we must vigorously act. There is no other route to success”. I don’t imagine Picasso frantically making kids lunches, rushing to get out the door by eight in the morning, so he could then get back to his studio to paint in a three hour time frame, but I do like this quote as there were never truer words spoken. Basically if you add raising children to any plan that’s when the challenges truly begin.

    Deadline stress is unavoidable and it seems that kids have inbuilt sensors which make them difficult when you least want them to be. So considering how to best manage your family as well as your creative work commitments will help you achieve maximum output with minimal stress.

    I am a painter and a mother of four children, aged 3 to 17 years of age (with a baby due any day). So I have a broad range of needs to work around. I try and avoid overloading myself with commitments, but when an important date looms (for me that is usually an exhibition), there are things I do to make life easier for myself and my family.

    I don’t recommend making a life out of living this way though. Seasons of work, and then rest, benefit everybody in a family. The wheels would come off my wagon if I did the things I am about to suggest all of the time. But, here goes: some things that work for me when facing deadlines with my business.

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    Simplify your wardrobe.

    Get a “uniform”. Mine for a while now has been black converse shoes, jeans and simple T shirts. I just add a jacket or scarf if its cold. This means dressing requires little thought in the mornings and I can get ready in about ten minutes. I save dressing the way I want for weekends and when I am going somewhere “nice”! This also goes for hair, whats happening up there? If it takes you a half hour to dry and straighten it, maybe try a messy bun when you’re flat out. You don’t have to look unkempt, but streamlining your weekday wear will ease you into a busy day and give you time for other stuff.

    Plan simple food.

    I generally think about food for the week on a Sunday afternoon. Although I am not a menu planning/spreadsheet kind of girl, a little thought and a quick shop will make a big difference to your meal time stress levels for the week. When I mean simple food, I mean things such as one pot dinners like roasts and pastas. Children can get involved in making food which is also a great help. Lazy meals like soups with bread or slow cooked meals means you can put them on and forget about them until its time to eat.

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    Fill the fridge with fresh, easy to use ingredients.

    When it comes to kids snacks, I cut back on baking and other foods that are time consuming to make. Instead I buy tubs of natural yoghurt and hommus, then for easy morning and afternoon teas I just have to add fruit or muesli to the yoghurt, or savoury biscuits, carrots and celery to the hommus. This keeps everyone full and healthy, without lots of preparation. It will stop you having to resort to the convenience of take away and it also saves money.

    Negotiate with your partner/husband to share or take over bedtime and other household duties.

    For example, when I am busy painting I can get so much more done if I can at least share the kids bedtime routine. If I can start working straight after dinner at night, I find that I have a lot more energy to paint and I am a lot more productive. If I wait until the kids are down for the night, I find it so much harder to restart my energy flow. Also, negotiate for weekend working time. My husband is really good at helping me get over the line when I am busy, but it does take good communication and verbalising your needs for this to happen. It is also about give and take, so be prepared for some compromise. When my husband is busy with his own work, I do of course try and pick up the slack and do the same for him.

    Have an “in bed” and “out of bed” time for yourself!

    When I am painting late into the night, I usually get a second wind at about eleven o’clock, even though I might have been exhausted at nine. So, I make myself go to bed by 12:30pm. The times I have broken this rule and stayed up half the night, I have paid for it by being very weary the next day and then I am not able to work the following night. I really have to be out of bed by seven to get everyone ready for school and to be prepared for the day ahead, so sleeping in is an impossibility. I seem to be able to function pretty well on seven or so hours sleep, so my set hours work for me, (though its still a commitment to work long hours). Work out what works for you and try to stick to it. To keep a bit of balance, I usually give myself a night off on a weekend, to watch a movie or do something with my husband.

    Get a cleaner in on a regular basis, at least once a fortnight if you can.

    If you have a busy life, this is probably my number one de-stressing tip! Having a cleaner won’t mean you don’t have to do housework, but it does ease the pressure on your household while you go AWOL into your creative workaholic zone. If you are worried about the cost of a cleaner, try tallying what you might spend on coffee, wine, or other extras, and all of a sudden a cleaner may seem cheap, (but be warned they are equally addictive).

    Source some kind of childcare.

    Childcare is a tough one I know, and it can be expensive, especially if your not making any money up front from your creative work. I have had different help at different times. My mother in law is wonderful and has had my youngest children many times when I have a deadline to meet. But mostly I have had to just work with my kids around (not ideal, but necessary at times). I have also paid my teenage children’s friends and other friends to play with and entertain my small children, (picnics or games in the back yard work for a couple of hours). I have used occasional childcare, in the form of two hour sessions available at my local gym. It does take focus to switch in and out of creative mode so quickly and work when you have limited time or you are sharing your head space, but it is better than no time to work at all.

    Try and find creative ways to let your children work alongside of you, some of the time.

    In my studio I have a couple of tubs of basic crafting materials. Pencils, colouring books, glue etc… My children don’t find me painting that exciting, as they are used to seeing me do it on a daily basis. This means they are happy to take up a corner (or half the studio) with their activities while I paint. Age is obviously a consideration, but stick some tunes on and you might get an hour or so of work done and they will get to use their own imaginations. It does take patience and tolerance and a certain kind of head space to make this work for you. If you have a deadline though, a couple of hours will be invaluable. If you are stuck for ideas, the internet is full of age appropriate kids activities, so get Googling!

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    Don’t take it all to seriously.

    This is my last tip, and its because it’s probably the most important. While on the one hand it takes a hell of an effort and consistent commitment to pursue creative success and also raise a happy family, on the other hand , your family will always be your greatest measure of success. So, if you’re having a day when you feel like you are banging your head against a wall and getting nowhere, or if you feel tired, frustrated and worn out, then the best thing you can probably do it take a deep breath, call a friend and head to the park or the beach, or somewhere that is not at home or your studio for a few hours! When I do do this I come home recharged and refreshed, my tank full again. Remember being a creative person should be fun! (at least most of the time).

    Jasmine Mansbridge is a painter and mum to four (almost five) kids. She regularly blogs about the intersection of creative work and family life at www.jasminemansbridge.com, and you can also find her on Instagram @jasminemansbridge.

    {All photos by Jasmine Mansbridge}


    Posted by: Tess McCabe
    Categories: business tips, guest blog, women in art | Comments Off
    Posted on

    Bushfire recovery effort: Tea towels from Cloth’s Julie Paterson

    We’ve all seen on the news the devastation the recent fires throughout New South Wales have caused. But it’s closer to home – literally – for former CWC speaker Julie Paterson of Cloth.

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    Julie is an active advocate for animal welfare and is also an ambassador for The Foundation for National Parks and Wildlife. In recent weeks her home in the Blue Mountains has been spared destruction, but many of her neighbour’s properties and the surrounding wilderness have unfortunately not been so lucky. Her partner Amanda wrote this blog post describing the decision to leave their home and the haunting return days later.

    To help raise funds for the recovery effort, Julie has put her creative hands to work and is selling a range of limited edition, 100% linen, hand screen printed tea towels through her website. There will be a few designs, and the first ‘Banksia’ (pictured below) is based on an original lino cut.

    The tea towels are $38.00 and funds will go to The Foundation for National Parks and Wildlife to be distributed where they are needed most.

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    Posted by: Tess McCabe
    Categories: community support, women in art | Comments Off
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    Fluoro-pop: The art of Rowena Martinich

    By Liz Banks-Anderson

    Rowena-Martinich-portrait-1

    You’ve probably walked past one and the sight has demanded a second glance. Rowena Martinich describes her art works as “fluoro-pop abstract expressionism.” Visually, they are vibrant, striking and bright and are a welcome sight in the tedium of a grey Melbourne Winter.

    Rowena is an artist whose use of colour in the transient, everyday space has become a signature. Her work is often displayed in the spaces of the everyday to challenge the notion that ‘art’ can only exist within the conventional gallery space.

    The everyday settings of Rowena’s works add to their immersive nature, capturing all of your attention.

    Martinich calls herself ‘an abstract expressionist with a difference.’ While her work is sometimes displayed in an art gallery she is more likely to transform through her use of colour an unconventional display space such as a retail store front.

    Rowena says the idea of displaying artwork strictly within the gallery system is very limiting both for the audience and the artist. Instead, she is inspired by architecture and interiors, which strongly influence her artwork and how it can fit into that scenario.

    “I feel that art should be accessible and enriching, so making it public is the first step. I also love the idea of transforming people’s experience of a space simply by adding expressive layers of colour,” she says.

    Rowena believes that everyday spaces are often not given a second glance until an ‘intervention’ of some kind, viewing her artwork as an “activator of urban space, particularly transient spaces, often passed through without a moment of thought.”

    “Through my work one can experience the everyday, but differently. What may ordinarily be an empty interval  – a non-experience in passing from one place to another – can be altered by the experience of walking through or past one of my works,” says Rowena.

    There is something very free, fluid and natural about Rowena’s work. It captures a boundless creative energy. The artist processes a myriad of thoughts during the creative process. 

”When I am deeply focused on a work, I am in my own world of problem solving, specifically balancing the painting, its layers and colour compositions.”

    Rowena works with acrylic on canvas, colour-fast acrylic for exterior public works and acrylic on vinyl adhered onto glass for window installations.

    “Most of my painting is done with large brushes these days, however I have been known to use mops and brooms to create extra large brush strokes on public works, as well as chemical sprayers for a splattery effect.

    “I build up layers of colours, starting with large areas of block colour then gradually add layers of dripping colour. With each layer I need to be sure that the one below is dry enough that the colours will not mix. I also ensure the paint retains the perfect consistency so it doesn’t run too quickly, or isn’t too thick that it won’t run at all. I also try and take regular breaks in the fresh air!” she says.

    Rowena has bold hopes and dreams for the future and these inspire her to create. Key among these include painting a trackside marquee for the Melbourne Racing Carnival and a fashion collaboration comprising beachwear and surfboards.

    Most of all however, the acknowledgement of her work is her greatest inspiration. Rowena says she loves how art allows her to interact with the public, especially when working onsite on murals. 

“Even without a shared language, I have found that art can enable exchange and break down any cross-cultural barriers.”

    ——-

    Liz is a communications professional and freelance writer from Melbourne. Inspired by the city’s artistic endeavours she likes taking photographs, exploring the design world and has developed a great interest in all things art. Passionate about documenting and sharing the unique projects, people and possibilities in the creative community, Liz is excited by what lies ahead. Liz’s own blog will be launched soon…In the meantime, she’s happy being a twit.

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    Posted by: liz
    Categories: regular columns, women in art | Comments Off