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    Category Archives: women in art

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    Women in Art: Marina Abramovic

    women-in-art-marina-abramovic_jasmine-mansbridge_creative-womens-circle

    By Jasmine Mansbridge

    One very well documented relationship between two artists is that of the Yugoslavian born Marina Abramovic and the German born Ulay (Frank Uwe Laysiepen). Marina and Ulay’s relationship was both the subject of and the basis of most of the inspiration behind their art making. The couple shared a birthday, the 30th of November and upon meeting felt they had an immediate connection. They later said that destiny had brought them together. Theirs was a relationship which Ulay himself describes as having “a degree of symbiotic equality far from commonplace”.

    Marina Abramovic is a woman with a significant place in the history of modern art. She is often referred to as the “grandmother of performance art”. Her work titled “Rhythm O” (1974) helped earn her a reputation as a fearless performer. A year after this piece was made Marina met Ulay, and she has said of their meeting that, “he was a blessing and in a way he saved me, as those performances would have destroyed my body”. Prior to working with Ulay, Marina’s work had been largely self destructive, involving both pain and danger.

    So the two began performing together, using their bodies as a both a medium and a tool. Marina and Ulay examined the many aspects which make up a domestic relationship, exploring issues like gender, trust, intimacy, ego and artistic identity. They often dressed as twins and their aim was to completely absorb one another. They pushed many boundaries to try and to morph into one “being’ as much as possible. Marina has said that together they were like a “third identity”. They lived solely from a van for five years, in which they travelled across Europe, their Manifesto at that time being: no fixed living place, permanent movement.

    Marina and Ulay made approximately ninety art pieces together. To give you an idea of what these performances actually looked like, here are some of the actions that some of their pieces entailed:

    • with mouth upon mouth, they breathed in and out shared air until they both eventually lost consciousness.
    • running into and colliding repeatedly into each other, (whilst naked).
    • standing naked opposite each other in a doorway, the audience having to walk between them to enter the room.
    • sitting back to back for seventeen hours with their hair intwined.
    • holding a bow and arrow between them, increasing the tension over time, Marina was at the arrow end.

    The above gives you an brief idea of the lengths that Marina and Ulay went to test the limits of their oneness, through the medium of performance. (If you are interested, a search on YouTube reveals video clips of most of the above performance pieces.)

    The intensity with which they conducted their relationship took it’s toll, however, and Marina and Ulay have said that they began to feel the “tightness of their ideologies begin to unravel”. Marina has said that it was almost like the better their performances became, the worse their personal relationship became – that in private, they started to lose their oneness. Their relationship broke down and was eventually no longer monogamous. Finally, after twelve years together, they decided to go their separate ways. They had lived and worked in what can only be described as the most deliberate of relationships. So as a way of celebrating, commemorating and honouring their relationship, they decided to do one last “performance” together. In 1988, they each began walking from opposite ends, the approximately 2,000 miles of the Great Wall of China. Marina starting from the sea and Ulay from the desert. They met in the middle and symbolically separated from that point. Ending an epic partnership. Ulay married a new partner not long after the walk’s conclusion, cutting off any future possibility of an easy reunion.

    Marina talks openly of her struggles after her relationship with Ulay ended. She has said she felt “fat and forty”, and empty after losing both her partner and her work, the two having been intertwined for so long. She said she needed to find her femininity and her place again. Ulay and her had had traditional roles within their relationship, him being responsible for the money, applying for grants etc, while she washed and cooked. Marina says that it took her some time to get her head around financial and business related matters when their relationship ended. She talks of the suffering of that time and how eventually it all had made her stronger.

    This now iconic photograph was taken on the opening night of a retrospective Marina held at MoMa in 2010, titled, “The Artist is present”.

    For three month,s Marina sat at at a table in MoMa, looking across at strangers as they took the time to sit opposite her. This photograph captures Marina’s deeply moving reaction to Ulay when he arrived unexpectedly at her performance. She breaks protocol and reaches out to him across the table between them. This image, taken years after their relationship ended, says much about the strength of the bond they once shared. Marina says of this, “The moment he sat – everyone got very sentimental about it, because they were projecting their own relationships on to us – but it was so incredibly difficult. It was the only time I broke the rules.”

    Although Marina has said that meeting Ulay “was a blessing”, and they achieved much during their time together, in her artist manifesto she states (more than once) that, “an artist should avoid falling in love with another artist”. Marina has based this statement on her own life experience, (she recently divorced an Italian artist). When asked about relationships in a recent interview with the Guardian , this was her answer:

    “No. Of course, I dream to have this perfect man, who does not want to change me. And I’m so not marriage material, it’s terrible. But my dream is to have those Sunday mornings, where you’re eating breakfast and reading newspapers with somebody. I’m so old fashioned in real life, and I’m so not old fashioned in art. But I believe in true love, so perhaps it will happen. Right now, no, I have no space. But life has been good to me. Lots of pain. But it’s OK.”

    Marina Abramovic is an all-round fascinating person and the more I have learnt about her, the more curious I have become. Her work has a timeless quality as it deals with many things – the unchanging aspects of human consciousness and the relationship between body and mind being recurring themes. After almost forty years she continues to make relevant, groundbreaking, thought-provoking works. I must say I feel encouraged by her long term dedication to her art. Some days, when I feel like I am not progressing in my own work at the pace I would like, an artist like Marina reminds me of the fact that I have plenty of years yet to make my best art.

    In 2014, there was a documentary made on Marina’s life and work so far. As I said when I started writing this post, the subject which is Marina Abramovic is a well documented one and there truly is a plethora of information out there if you want to know more about her.

    Australian readers might be interested to know that Kaldor Public Arts and MONA (David Walsh), are bringing Marina to our shores. She is performing in Sydney and at MONA in Tasmania in June/July this year. No doubt this will be a unique, possibly once in a lifetime opportunity to see the artist in action.

    I do hope you have found something to ponder on in this article. I think Marina and Ulay were very brave to use their relationship in such a way and I am not surprised that eventually they went their separate ways. For me my relationship is kind of like my ticket in and out of normality, almost like the hinge I hang off. I can’t imagine the intensity of being in a relationship that is both the subject of and the canvas of my creativity.

    I am, as always, very interested to hear your thoughts on all things art and relationships and what works and what doesn’t.

    ————-

    Jasmine Mansbridge is a painter and mum to 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 in art | Comments Off
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    Women from history: Hilla Becher

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    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
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    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
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    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