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  • Writer's pictureSuzy Costello, workbooks

Art Studio, Week 4 10-14 August

Art making, Technical workshop on photography for documentation, Flat earthers painting artists talk and one-on-ones with Richard and Shannon, plus COVID level 2 lockdown!!


i) Installation Using yellow thread, cloth tape, gold leaf and cicada shells, I created an installation using the grid pattern employed last year i.e two 4x4 grids placed on the wall and two on the floor and threads joined between these grids to create an area of intersection where cicada and gold leaf were scattered. The result was a feeling of the cicadas being delicately suspended in space which spoke to the fragility of their moulting process which begins by climbing high up tree trunks in the darkness of the night. Unlike the last work which was placed on the floor, this work brings the cicada shells into the vertical and at eye level. I will install this version in T24 along with Izzy and Brenna's work for the crit session on Friday. Its title is Summer skin.


A great session with Jane Wilcox who demonstrated how to use photographic equipment and techniques to capture images for both 2-d and 3-d for documentation purposes. Jane took some photographs of the cicada and adjusted the RAW files in Abridge software. These photos were remarkable, allowing a view of the cicada anatomy better then the naked eye. I was blown away by the clarity and am inspired to try and take some photos of the cicadas that I can use to print large photos. A really beneficial workshop.

Photos of cicada by Jane Wilcox

This is a video of a cicada molting, something they have been doing for a long time as they've lived on earth for over 40 million years (there is an Australian species that is 240m years old). It is said the dinosaurs heard their song and Cicada have enriched human mythology for thousands of years. To the Egyptians, the golden beetle (a scarab or dung beetle) was a "symbol of their sun god rolling the sun across the sky" while for Chinese and other cultures the cicada "represented resurrection and the soul as they emerged from the ground and flew away" (Journal news). Small carved cicada jade pieces were placed in the mouths of the deceased to aid they transition.

An ancient Greek tale of Eunomos and the cicada tells of "Eunomos, an accomplished cithara player and singer, performing in a competition when one of the cithara strings snaps. A cicada as offering, alights on his cithara, sustaining the note of the broken string. Eunomos, thereby attributed accolade, and wins the competition" (Wikipedia).

In another story, "the Greek philosopher Socrates is sitting under a tree with a friend on a lovely day with cicadas singing. He tells his friend that they must not fall asleep, but must have an intelligent discussion because the cicadas were listening and would report back to the Muses, the goddesses of the arts and sciences. He explained that cicadas had once been human, but they became so in love with music that they forgot to eat or drink and their bodies wasted away. The Muses turned them into cicadas and gave them the job of watching humans and reporting how the humans honoured the Muses" (Journal news).


Raewyn Martin interviewed American artist Carris Adam and Massey alumni Ben Buchanan in their art studios via Zoom. The discussion explored how the artists are responding to John Lake's To The Ends of The (Flat) Earth provocation and their works in progress for the 2021 show in the Engine Room at Massey.

Carris's work explores signage and language as it points to race and class, with particular reference to the word "plantation" and its historical reference of black enslavement. Her artwork is a collection of prints of white on white, layered with the word "plantation" to create an illegibility and mysteriousness. Answering Raewyn's question about painting and misinformation, Carris discussed how she was no longer beholden to "the truth" in her works but rather operated in the middle space of illegibility, inspired by Marlon James' novel Black Leopard Red Wolf" which explores 3 different personal versions of a true event. In answer to Raewyn's question of how she uses painting and the language of painting, Carris discussed how she employs colour to flatten (white) and conceal (black) and allows the marks of her screenprinting wipe to remain in her work. The image is a work from her series on Pleasure and sourced from her website.

Ben's response to John Lake's provocation offers a kiwi perspective spiced with our unique brand of laconic humour. Discussing how artists have to believe in the impossible and the idea that truth is veiled from us, he blamed climate change on the canonisation of Colin McCahon through the art institution that canonisies dead artists in order to maintain power. While he was playing with the notion of conspiracy theorists, there was an underlying truth to his narrative. Ben is interested in truth-telling in the "post-truth era" and feels it is important "to point to the truth even while making things up". His work tries "to upset the narrative, throwing humor and shade at the same time" e.g. emojis and cubism, fact and hyperbole, pattern making and extractions. His currents works for the 2021 exhibition are more lyrical illustrations. The image above is one of Ben's vinyl works exhibited at The Dowse.


No studio feedback sadly.


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