Friday, October 31, 2014

The bridge

This post is for Deb.
I took my first walk across the historic Grafton Bridge this week. It has two decks with road traffic above and railway and pedestrian below. There is a lot of history and engineering in the bridge which you can read about here.
I enjoyed the experience of crossing the river, it's big and one of the reasons Grafton came to be, that and the timber that was first harvested from the area. I disturbed several pigeons on my walk, the bridge is home to hundreds? I'm guessing from their deposits. The textures of the bridge are great, rusted metal, weathered wood, and archways of red brick underneath at each end. The breeze of fresh air, watching water flowing strongly below railway lines and listening to rumble of unseen traffic above makes it an experience of senses.

Flowers and memory

I came to Grafton on my residency to look at the ecology and trees of this historic city, and think about how the community engages or relates to the environment around them. During my time here I have seen many connections to the flowers of the trees and of course most evident the Jacaranda Festival celebrations that are timed to coincide with its flowering.
During the week I headed to South Grafton to look at the Jacaranda Embroidery Group's Biennial Exhibition of needlework. What really caught my eye was the Remembrance display of needlework. The poppy flower displayed in crochet was very striking, but even more intriguing I found were the historic needlework with messages of luck, hope and celebration. They all feature natural elements in flowers, vegetation, birds and landscape. Flowers have so many cultural associations of remembrance, celebration, home, thanks and the simple pleasure of perfume and visual beauty. Plenty to think about while I am here.

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Open Gardens

As part of the Grafton Jacaranda Festival several local gardens are open to visitors, I headed out this morning to see the flowers. I have seen Grafton as a city of flowers as much as it is a city of trees. Bromeliads, hippeastrum, roses, succulents and annuals were all well represented, along with shade giving palms, water features and ornaments. I saw plenty of reused materials and creative hanging plants.

Jacaranda Festival weekend

There has been so much happening in town this weekend with the 80th Annual Grafton Jacaranda Festival. Saturday morning started with the parade of youth and banner competition. Led by the 22 piece Royal Australian Navy Band down Prince Street, I enjoyed the atmosphere and seeing the kids school banners celebrating the festival. Later in the evening I joined a large portion of the community to watch the Jacaranda Queen Crowning event. The dancing entertainment was great with 80 years of festival interpreted in 80 years of dance, seeing Abba followed by Michael Jackson was classic.
The whole evening had a lovely festive, community feel, I can't remember the last time I was at a country fair. The 2014 Jacaranda Queen was crowned amidst much tradition and ceremony, congratulations to Emily Causley.

In between events I spent the weekend working in the studio and meeting visitors to the gallery. It's nice to have an opportunity to share experiences of Grafton and to hear thoughts on the work developing.

Friday, October 24, 2014

Grafton ecology

Out and about on my walk this morning taking rubbings of trees and collecting fallen blooms. The studio collection of textures and various flora is growing steadily. I had great fun this week working with a large palm tree seed sprout to make marks on paper while 'thinking tree' and looking at some reference photos. It was the feel or experience of tree that I had in mind. The resulting marks have created a lovely tonal quality of organic and spontaneous energy.
This week I noticed a Mexican Tree Fern flowering at See Park and collected a number of fallen flower stems, I suspect birds have been doing their damage. The chartreuse stems and yellow open flowers were off-set with the dark black brown outer capsule of the closed flower buds, still to open.

Today I worked over a lot of my earlier coloured papers to develop a harmonious palette of Grafton. Hopefully when I look again tomorrow morning it will still gel together.

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

In the studio

It's the start of week two of my residency. Ideas are beginning to take shape in the studio space at Grafton Regional Gallery. Today I was keen to get some images on the wall and start cutting paper stencils. The ecology collection is gradually growing, will show more of this when further samples are gathered.
The branches in bottles came from under a large Cook Pine, which the lovely group at Clarence River Historical Society informed me is the oldest planted tree in Grafton.
Lots of streets still to walk and explore, will post more updates as the work progresses.

Grafton Garden Club

Last night I had a lovely evening at the Grafton Garden Club monthly meeting. The first thing I noticed when I entered the hall were the flowers. Each one brought from a members garden in a green bottle with roses, clematis, orchids, hibiscus, and natives. Later in the evening everyone present voted on groups of the flowers to select a favourite, with a special prize at the end of the year.
I asked members if any may be interested in volunteering their gardens for me to spend some time in, photographing and observing for some possible artwork, thanks to those who agreed.
Next weekend and through the following week, as part of the Jacaranda Festival, a number of gardens in and around Grafton are open to the public for viewing.
Thank you to Helen, Joy, Yvonne, Noelene, Kim, Rosie, Lyn, Mavis, and all the other members who made me feel welcome and for sharing your stories of Grafton. Looking forward to seeing the gardens!

Monday, October 20, 2014

Culture on the Clarence

Sunday awoke to another beautiful clear sunny sky in Grafton. I headed over to South Grafton for one of the Jacaranda festival's first events - Culture on the Clarence, a community fair celebrating local talent, musicians, indigenous heritage and community groups. It was a lovely mix of stalls and activity along the heritage shopping area of Skinner Street.
I photographed much of the lead lighting in older buildings and chatted with local artist, Rochelle Summerfield.
The town crier, in attendance with some of the Jacaranda Queen candidates, added jolly cheer to the atmosphere.
The river end of Skinner Street has tranquil views of Susan Island in the middle of the Clarence River and Grafton beyond. It was a lovely morning.

Flowering Street Trees - Grafton

Mid spring is a lovely time of year for seeing the flowering street trees of Grafton. Apart from the mauve haze of Jacaranda which the town is synonymous with, there are other bold splashes in yellow - Tabebuia and Silky Oak; Red - Flame tree and Tree Waratah; along with white jacaranda, pink clusters of white cedar and numerous others.


A poem by M. Beckman of Grafton:
Flower-laden spring
Arrayed in soft tones of green, purple and gold.
The City of Grafton is fair to behold;
And soon, now, her bright festive songs she will sing.
The year has again brought sweet flower-laden spring
And festival time to this city of flowers.
Whose petals fall soft like continuous showers.
Soon moonlight will gleam with her silvery light.
On Grafton at play, a fair, glamorous sight.

JADA 2014

Friday night was the opening of the 2014 Jacaranda Acquisitive Drawing Award. It was a lovely evening to meet artists and view the 50 finalists contemporary drawing works. This years judge, John McDonald, art critic for the Sydney Morning Herald, chose the work of Mullumbimby artist, Emma Walker, as the winner of the $20,000 award. You can read about John's selection process here.
Emma's work titled 'Keys bridge in flood' is full of energy and layering, bringing in and out of focus elements of the landscape.

Another $20,000 in acquisitions for the Grafton Regional Gallery's collection were also selected. In conjunction with JADA a two day Drawing Symposium was held over the weekend. With speakers, a drawing performance with Kellie O'Dempsey and several workshops; the event had a great vibe and lots of interesting conversations ensued.

JADA will be on exhibition from 17th October to 7th December, 2014 followed by a tour to seven regional and metropolitan galleries until mid 2016.

Friday, October 17, 2014

Jacaranda City

On Tuesday with the car packed and a clear sunny sky I headed on my way to Grafton for a residency at the Grafton Regional Gallery. The drive was scenic with cane fields and forest; ending with a crossing of the Clarence River historic bridge, negotiating its bends and then into the tree lined streets of town. This was my first visit to Grafton Regional Gallery, situated in Prentice House, built in 1880 by Alexander Fairweather. Surrounded by beautiful gardens, with a semi-enclosed rear courtyard shaded by tree; it will be a tranquil location for working in.
I unpacked materials in the studio space, a large room with views of the courtyard. Then headed to my accommodation with the usual logistics of unpacking, grocery shopping and a good nights sleep.
Looking forward to exploring the streets tomorrow, soaking up the trees and heritage.