I have been developing this idea of the birds for about 10 years. I don’t think I do so in a way that is repetitive; they are constantly changing as I push my thoughts and myself further. When I first began with this idea of smashed together birds it was (and is) because I felt compelled to make them, over the years I am constantly assessing myself through them. Whilst they are deeply personal I feel that they have a humanistic quality that the viewer responds to –that is the goal of my art, to arouse a reaction from the viewer. I believe that beauty is an important catalyst for the more difficult imagery or ideas they present. I went to a lecture by Warwick Brown, who wrote Seen This Century, where he stated that Rita Angus’ paintings were less important than Hotere’s as they are beautiful. I struggle with statements like that, I feel that is a very male driven perspective.
Judith Schaechter’s stained glass panels are awe inspiring, the work always beautiful and often uncomfortable. Her mastery of skill is crucial. In her June 2013 lecture and essay “Kill Skill” published in her blog ‘Late Breaking Noose’ she wrote “To make something deliberately difficult and with passion and reverence towards process reveals the true nature of creativity. We create for one reason and one reason only: because we love it so much we can’t bear to live without it.” She goes on to say “The point is to make a sacrifice in the name of love.” When I am really involved in an artwork I cannot function well in anything but in making, everything else I am supposed to do is a distraction. I stay up late at night assessing details, translating my thoughts into something visual and tactile. Schaechter talks of the artist sacrificing themselves to their work: “It implies devotion, piety, worship and loss. Sacrifice is the very crux of what makes art beautiful, meaningful, poignant and worthy.” When an artist makes her work with her head and her hands the work takes on a life of it’s own, the brain telling the hands what to do and visa versa, there is a flip, the hands take over and instruct the brain, mechanical intelligence, learning from doing. I went about this body of work with this in mind. With the Jeff Koons retrospective on this year at the Whitney Museum I have been thinking about the male dominated world of the “blue chip” artist, the ideas man who has an army of artists and artisans at his beck and call to create anything that comes to mind, and Gagosian galleries gagging for it. I feel that being an artist who makes, who devotes herself to making is almost an anarchist act, to work in a decorative medium is oddly revolutionary, or at least contrary to the wide movement in art now and it’s arrangements of readymade objects. I make something out of nothing, I give birth to my own work, not just plant the seed. I can feel my work, the birds, inside of me; they swell in my belly.
I came across an image last year from a medieval book of hours of the mouth of Hell. In my mind the seething demons became birds and the mouth a birth canal, slick birds sliding out. My female body became a passage, the place where the birds transformed into visible tangible objects, birthed from my head and my hands. Black birds have an important place in many different mythologies around the world, they often represent a transition between worlds, perhaps because they sing both day and into the night and spend much of their time on the ground. This plays with the idea of duality and balance in the mandala, African duality symbols and the ideas of Carl Jung.
Sky Heaven Day Heaven
Earth Hell Night Hell
Jung felt that birds represented the inner spirit of a person, so in that respect the birds are coming through a transitory journey from inside to outside. I have an image in my mind of a woman whose womb is full of birds and they are birthing, coming forth from her, emerging. This body of work is playing with the idea of the female sex. To begin each sculpture I started with a word and a colour I chose to relate to that word. The idea is admissions, an unwilling (uncomfortable) agreement of truth. I wanted to talk about female sexuality, emissions from our bodies. The words are all words meaning birth or come forth: discharge, flow, issue, rise, exude, spurt, come, commencement, and blood. I chose colours and mediums that I felt best suited the word at hand. Bronze and glass have a certain life to them. Bronze is warm and porous and changes overtime with oxidization, glass can be a cold, sterile material but can take on it’s own life with form and colour and light. Portraying volume became important to whilst making this work. Overtime as I worked, first on the bronze and than on the glass forms, the bodies of the birds and truly being birds became less important. I sent the waxes to the foundry and left for a wedding in Sydney. When I came back I was inspired to create ‘Blood’, I thought of a pinprick and the blob of blood that would rise up –the birds oozed forth from a liquid pool. After blood I thought more of slickness as they rose out of the otherness. Their bodies became more reminiscent of human appendages, pressed together. This all really came together in Spurt (Venus) originally conceived as a wall-mounted sculpture. The long curves took on a particularly human form where the bird bodies come to form a ball and curve around to form a bum. This gives the illusion that the sculpture itself is a pelvis, the genitals something “other”, with protruding wings and inward curves it is neither male nor female, it is a liquid sex explosion.