Glorious Descent

Glorious Descent
Acrylic on canvas 60 x 40cm

Monday, September 19, 2016

San Clemente Artist Residency September 2016

San Clemente sketch 2016 Watercolour and pastel on paper 20x30cm
This September I was an artist in residence at San Clemente Catholic High School in Mayfield. The premise of the residency was to engage with the students and share my experiences as a professional artist, whilst developing new works in response to the school. My time at San Clemente however, far exceeded these expectations, as I lead art classes, interacted with a whole hearted community of students and staff and advanced my own creative and professional practice.

What first attracted my attention at San Clemente was its location: Situated on a hill in Mayfield East, surrounded by a grid of ramshackle suburbia with views to Newcastle's working industrial port. It was a gritty landscape and one that I could see influencing a new series of paintings, not dissimilar to previous works. So, for the initial few days of the residency I worked from the second story veranda that had a glorious view overlooking rooftops, coal loaders, ocean and sky.


On one of these days I was joined by the year ten art class, who were studying the unit Where We Live. Together we made sketches, in pastel, watercolour, charcoal and graphite, as I cracked the artist whip, encouraging students to work fast and create numerous impressions of the landscape. Some found the task challenging and complained  ''It's not my fault I can't finish Miss, the cranes keep moving !"

Later in the residency, these field sketches (finished and un finished) formed the basis of a collage project that I directed in the classroom. Some what nervously the students cut up their sketches and reconfigured the shapes so as to develop unique perspectives of the landscape.

Toward the end of my first week rain kept me indoors, where my attention turned to the interior style and architectural features of the historic main building. I became captivated by the archways, religious iconography and repeated patterns throughout the school's gardens, brickwork, leadlights and architraves. The archways and date palms reminded me of Matisse and so I took to making cut outs of the shapes that I saw. With an array of shapes to choose from I then set about developing an autonomous symbol, one that represented my experience at the school and could be repeated in a series of works.

In addition to my own project and working with the year ten class, I also had the opportunity to direct a project for the year nine art class, that would complement their unit of study in portraiture. Digging through my archives I decided to share with them my experience of painting animals and lead a drawing and painting activity focused on bull portraiture. Standing in front of a classroom of teenagers giving a drawing demonstration was defiantly a challenging experience as was breaking down my painting technique into an instructional form. However, it did give me a renewed sense of confidence in my own abilities and as I watched the students apply my directions in their work, I must admit I was really proud !

Despite following a certain procedure in this project the portraits that the students drew and painted in this activity lacked no individuality or flair and I was really inspired by the unique marks and sensitive palette chosen by the students. Despite many being quiet or shy during class their personalities shone through in the work and it was such a pleasure and a privilege to be able to communicate with them through the means of art.

By the end of week one my studio / staff tea room, resembled more of a paper nest, with collage pieces and cut outs spread everywhere. I had decided to combine the interior and the exterior space of San Clemente by producing a series of collages based on the surrounding landscape and layering a cut out symbol over the surface of each. Throughout this process teachers and staff would pop into the studio, either to make a cup of tea or to say hi, and witnessed the evolution of the work. We exchanged ideas and experiences and the studio became a meeting place that enhanced my appreciation and involvement with the community of San Clemente.

The finished work is a gift to San Clemente and is a selection of collage tiles that feature many environmental viewpoints with a repeated rhythm of pattern. The sequence echoes the diversity of the school united by the strong community. The colour and brightness of the piece also demonstrates the connectivity that the work has with the people of San Clemente, who were an integral part of my positive experience whilst on residency and who ultimately make the school what it is.

San Clemente 2016 (detail) watercolour collage on Indian rag 25x15cm 

San Clemente 2016 (detail) watercolour collage on Indian rag 25x15cm

San Clemente 2016 (detail) watercolour collage on Indian rag 25x15cm

San Clemente 2016 (detail) watercolour collage on Indian rag 25x15cm