Tides and Seasons

Every day since I got here, the skies have been cloudless and bright. It gets to -2 at night but as soon as the sun rises, it warms your skin and the air quickly until it’s 20 – 25 degrees and perfect suntanning weather.


Last weekend though, we had rain.


Dark clouds came in, and misty swirls of damp draped themselves over the shoulders of the mountains. It immediately felt cold and the roads (which are untarmaced sand) almost instantly became unpassable.


I spent a weekend sitting in my donga. Luckily, I had some great company. Not just my normal mates - Bronwnie and Red Dog, two dingo cross camp dogs who love hanging out, and in Brownies case is quite persistent and demanding in her desire for cuddles.


No, this weekend I was lucky enough to be stranded with a fantastic resin artists from Melbourne, called Kate Rohde and her tour manager for their outback trip, Emily McCulloch. What can be better than sitting around a donga, surrounded by camp dogs, learning how to make jewellery, talking art and cooking feasts with friends? (OK, so glasses of wine would have been good but it’s a small price to ay for the calm of a dry community) I re-emerged after the weekend with three wax rings that I will get cast in silver back in Sydney, and feeling refreshed and happy.


The smell of the earth after the rain was amazing – rich and ferrous. Red ochre puddles reflecting a clear sky again. It felt colder in the mornings – icy almost - and the earth felt hard under foot. I began to appreciate what the intense aridity of this place (apparently it’s the second most arid place on earth after … where was it now? The antarctic I think…) does to the temperatures. Even if it does play havoc with my hair!


On Monday a local Anangu woman came in with some ininti (seed) necklaces. They are beautiful, made from dried red and white seeds the size of your baby fingernail and quandong seeds – all wrinkly and round. The seeds are dried and then stuck through with a red hot poker and strung in intricate patters, and sometimes in double lines that are sort of knitted together. Some women can even make mats and vests out of them. The necklaces are used in ceremonies, but these necklaces and bracelets are for selling.


We oohed and ahhed a bit over them, and over the next few days more and more appeared, each day a new person coming in with another amazing piece of jewellery. It was a bit like Christmas. And the reason – that rain, it brought the seeds out and ready to use.


We also had some fantastic Tjanpi animals bought in – an emu and a lizard. Tjanpi is a kind of dried grass. In this case woven into animals then stitched with boldly coloured wool.


I love the way being in rural or remote areas – in any country - brings me closer to the seasons and tides of nature. I feel like it recalibrates me.


As I walk around the Community, I have been amused by the random items I come across. Pushchairs in particular seem to get stranded. The kids race about the football pitch pushing their smaller friends around in them. Last week I saw a toddler pushing a tiny puppy around in one (unbearably cute, the pair of them). Later I see a pushchairs abandoned in the dry sandy creek, a pair of brand new kid’s boots in a puddle, a teddy bear, fully functioning soccer ball, a T Shirt squashed on the road like a corpse. Only to discover the next day that the abandoned item has vanished. It’s like they are carried around on tides, washed up beside a road, then swept away again.


And sadly, like this debris, I have to follow the seasons and next week is my last week before I’m swept back to Sydney.


Dead Ted

Paint, beanies and weddings

I'm very excited to report that I am in the swarming metropolis Big Smoke of Alice Springs (you know you are in the proper outback when Alice Springs feels like a city). Full of amazing things like Woolworths, markets, proper coffee and .. a hospital. 

Ah, yes. remember that hand I hurt when I unceremoniously fell over within seconds of being here? It's still not working properly (who knew you needed a left hand to unscrew jar lids and open doors?) So I have managed to wangle a lift into town and a trip to A&E for an Xray. All good, not broken. Meanwhile I get to enjoy all the fun of Alice, which has just had the Annual Beanie Festival. The world reknowned festival of all things wooly and hat-like at the Araluen Arts Centre. It is amazing what people can do with some wool, felt and imagination! It was great fun - we tried on hats and checked out which communities had contributed and bought one or two.

But, I promised you news of my daily life in Ikuntji. The community is surprisingly easy and comfortable for me. I live in a thing which is a cross between a demountable house and a shipping container, called a 'donga' (could you get a more Australian sounding word?). It's amazingly comfy mainly because it has heating, electricity, a cooker, and bed and I've added a few female touches. On the downside it has no windows. My neighbours are a bunch of builders who are building a new store. Occasionally government workers come through and share my space - people from Premier and Cabinet Office (which now controls all Aboriginal Affairs except art), Centrelink, Education etc. It's great to meet people as they come through. 

By day I work at the Ikuntji Artists which is a 1 minute walk from my place. There I help the artists by preparing canvases, mixing paints, putting mats down for them to sit on and making cups of tea (especially for the older ladies). Some of the women who paint here are in their 80's and some even recall their first encounters with whitefellas. There are also men painting here, and of course, younger generations. I'd really recommend you check out the Ikuntji Artists website where you can see the artworks, and check out the biographies of all the artists, and buy a piece! I love how each artist here has their own style and way of expressing their story. 

One of my favourite passtimes here is watching people paint. When I was in the UK I copied the masters' works I admired. I can't do that here.. but the good news is I can talk to the artists instead. I feel very privileged and it's amazing to experience being able to talk art across cultures. It's inspiring for me, although I still have no idea how the work and being exposed so closely to it's production will affect my work. I'm trying not to worry about that and instead I'm just absorbing as much of the experience as possible.

The artists and the community here in general are incredibly welcoming and friendly. From past experiences I was not expecting big conversation, eye-contact or much interaction (I'm a stranger, and have no place/kinship within the social structure). However, I have been welcomed with incredible warmth by everyone. 

We've also been doing a massive stocktake and going through all the paintings and works on paper. This has been a real blessing for me as it means I've looked at virtually every work here, and been through all the old records. Occasionally someone will walk by and spot an old painting, instantly telling me the story and who painted it, and how they are related. It's awesome!

By evening I've been writing, painting and watching The Wire on my laptop. I've also been helping Darby and Emily make decorations and prepare for their wedding - which happened at the weekend. It was the most beautiful event. The whole town came (a poster announcing it was put on the Rec Hall door). The little Church was packed to overflowing, people dressed up, came from overseas and locally, and everyone played their part including those on the door who in the main kept the dogs out. Emily looked incredible and Darby couldn't stop smiling. Then we all piled down to the Creek for fires, a huge feed and a live band. A fabulous, and dry, night was had by all.

I've also managed a few trips out around the area, which is so beautiful and inspiring. The days are bright and cloudless with endless blue skies and a hot sun (around 20 degrees most days) At night it drops to freezing or just below. Because there is no light pollution, the night skies are just mindblowing. I'm tempted to sleep out in my swag just because it's so beautiful (but the lure of the heating drives me back inside!)

It's hard to sum this all up in so few words, but it's absolutely inspiring. Thanks NAS for sending me!!

Open Studios, 1st and 2nd March 2014

I'm very happy to say I have moved into my new studio at 111, Lennox Street. Thanks to Malcolm and Steve who kindly give a One-Year Residency to a NAS student each year. I feel very privileged to have received this honour.  And I'm loving the space and the community!!

The Lennox Street studios are open this weekend as part of Art Month. We are throwing open the doors and welcome everyone to come and see how we work. Check out the Marrickville Open Studio (MOST) website for more details.

The Intimate Whole

I'm really proud to say I am part of a group show at The Corner Co-operative from 6th Feb to 18th Feb.

The Intimate Whole - Closer than you thought is  a group collaboration showcasing the emerging talent of recent National Art School graduates. The encompassing theme is that of the chaotic, unintended and the solitary. 

The show will be a mix of large & small-scale mixed-media paintings, drawings and sculptural ceramic busts. Our work is aimed at exposing the connections between the emotional inner turmoil of the psyche and the physical volatility of chemistry and nature. 

The creators behind the works have graduated with majors in Ceramics, Drawing, Painting and Photography with cross-disciplinary artistic practices and interests. 

Alongside my new work there will be work from Rachael McCallum, Louise Morgan, Meaghan Potter and Thomas Quayle.

Join us for a drink at the opening on 6th Feb.

Graduation Party and Awards

Thanks to everyone who came to our Graduation Show. Wow! What an amazing night it was!  Congratulations to everyone who graduated, won something or showed. Thanks to NAS and the Saatchi team we had an amazing turnout of over 2,000 people. 

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I was delighted to be awarded not just one but two prizes. I was proud to accept the Lennox Street Residency - a one year tenancy at the fabulous Lennox Street Studios in funky Newtown, plus a show there. I am so pleased to have an awesome space, and great artists to work with for the next 12 months.

I was also awarded the National Art School Aboriginal Art Centre Internship. Thanks to Sharon Toffler and Mark Tedeschi QC who are supporting me to go to the famous Ikuntji Art Centre, 230 kms West of Alice Springs and deep in a rich cultural heritage. I cannot wait and am sure the experience will be life changing. I am very honoured to be accepted.

Finally, I also sold 7 out of the 9 painting shown. I am delighted that people responded so well to my work, and even more pleased that the work will be viewed and appreciated. The support from everyone has bowled me over, and left me quite breathless. Thank you so much for appreciating my work, and supporting me.

If this is 2013... I can't wait for 2014. Wishing everyone a brilliant New Year and thanks.

- Emma

NAS Graduation Show

Emma is incredibly proud to be in the 2013 NAS Graduation Show on 28th November 2013. 

The show highlights the cream of the crop of new emerging artists from Australia's most renowned art institution.  The opening is from 6pm to 8pm on 28th November at NAS on cnr. Forbes and Burton streets, Darlinghurst.  Come along for a glass of wine and a peruse. There will be the cream of the crop from painting, printmaking, sculpture, ceramics and photography.

Vagina Dialogues

Emma will be presenting her video piece "What a Load of Pollocks" at the controversial  new show Vagina Dialogues.

Opening: Tuesday 18th June 2013 at Stairwell Gallery, NAS Library. Show runs for 4 weeks.

The show, curated by Georgia Saxelby brings Third Year female National Art School students together and explores female imaging of the female body. The aim is to visually celebrate a subject that is still largely taboo and to foster an understanding and re-integration of it within our culture and our visual imagery.  Our overarching, albeit optimistic, aim is to contribute to women feeling better about themselves as women by putting forward our artistic responses to the one thing all women have in common. 

In Grid We Trust

“The idea of a grid has been used by artists for centuries to wok out the spatial relationships between objects in nature. By placing a grid over the seemingly chaotic, undulating shapes of nature we can make a linear sense from it. To me this feels like a modern, machinist logic imposed on an organic, irregular beauty. Perhaps you could say a masculine logic placed over feminine intuition.

My work assumes that nature has it’s own, seemingly non-sensical or overwhleming order that is in fact as ordered as the grid but perhaps just more complex.

These organic forms are created by the ink working within the acrylic as it’s material nature dictates. Whilst each tile is made by the same method, each one is unique, just as humans are. “

-Emma Kirby

I liked their Early Stuff

Wow! What a night. I had my very first art show on Tues night and it was a blast! Between us Kym and I had about 70 people come through, and we got throug heaps of wine and sold 5 pictues between us. What a great success.

I have to say that selling my artwork has had a huge impact on me. One of my images could have sold about 6 times over! Its very exciting.

On the right here you see the wonderful Geoff Cassidy – Director of Artbank no less – who very generously spoke for us and encouraged all to buy. Gawd bless him!!!

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