Sunday, January 16, 2011

The ArtyFarty, Soulful Sian Adnam

There’s a third artist involved in Art-Is-Tree, Sian Adnam.  Sian has a career as an artist, and art and design educator that spans over 30 years.  Melbourne born and bred, she and her family moved to Phillip Island in 2000, where she now is the owner and resident artist of Arty Farty Sculpture and Ceramics Studio at Cape Woolamai.  She offers classes in painting, sculpture, mixed media, mosaics and hand-built ceramics, and with the additional bonus of the accommodation she has attached, even offers the option of a weekend away with a private workshop … if you book of course.

I’ve actually only had the pleasure of meeting Sian only once so far, early last year, when Angie took me to meet her.  We chatted for a while over drinks and then she gave us a tour of the studio.  I must admit I got quite excited, because as I’ve said in my blog before, I enjoyed pottery as a child … and this was before my more recent efforts … and her studio is very well set up and scattered with examples of her work.  Her work is perfectly suited to the exhibition theme of Art-Is-Tree with her works being inspired by the environment around her. 

Ocean Road

Her pieces (well what I saw of them) include ceramics, mosaics, mixed media and found objects.  I truly loved them, and I have to admit I may have to take her up on the workshop she offered at the time … I could learn a lot from her … plus it’s location, location, location … in it’s own relaxed island life way, with it’s close proximity to the ocean. 
One of the things that really made an impression on me was Sian’s zest for life, and how much she packs into her life.  Not only is she an art educator at a local college as well as in her own studio, an exhibiting and commissioning artist, she’s also one half of a dynamic duo (with festival co-director Maria Reed who is also a photographer and publisher of Coast Magazine) who run Phillip Island’s Art and Soul Festival which is about to have it’s fifth innings.

Catering for all ages, this event will this year move to larger premises to the 82-acre property of Newhaven College, which has views over Western Port Bay.  The festival features over 50 art stalls as well as Rhythm, Soul and Blues music, workshops, children’s entertainment, and local produce to sample.  This year it will also feature a live chainsaw sculpting display by Angela Polglaze and some friends.
Yes, it’s all connected … like branches on a tree … Art-Is-Tree and the Art and Soul Festival … like life really … and art is the tree of life.

Sunday, January 9, 2011

Chainsaw Master - Angela Polglaze

I’ve probably known Angie for about ten years now.  We met through a vibrant and very social community that formed via a pub, a croquet club, an artists’ studio and close proximity in the inner western suburbs.  After a number of social gatherings of our diverse network of “Seddonites” (well that’s what we called ourselves) I started to get to know my new "westie" friends.  We ranged from comedians, to print-makers, metal sculptors and workers, a community radio station salesperson, a vet, to students and a chainsaw carver!  Angie is the chainsaw carver … or the chainsaw chick or a power carver … or more simply a sculptor who uses chainsaws!  I have a deep respect for power tools and their abilities …. Including the ability to injure especially since first year Industrial Design when the lab technicians gave a series of grizzly accident stories to highlight the importance of health and safety in the workshop …. For that reason and many more I’ve always admire the guts Angie has had and still has to tackle such a field, particularly as an Australian.
Various Angie pieces.

Chainsaw Carving isn’t particularly known as an art form in Australia in comparison to countries such as America were there’s a thriving community of chainsaw carvers and a variety of events for them to display there talents.  According to Wikipedia the art form started in the 1950’s and has only in the last 3 decades expanded to become a worldwide phenomenon particularly the last decade due to the internet.  It’s nice to see Angie mentioned here actually as I’ve seen her work particularly hard to establish herself in this field in the time I’ve known her.
Chainsaw carving is more than just sculpting.  An element of the community being a performance element with quick carves often being involved in chainsaw carving events.   It’s performance art with a sculpture at the end!
Angie putting final touches on a mural.
When I first knew Angie she was relatively new to the field but her discovery of the international carving circuit has seen her travel all over the world participating in numerous events and receiving a multitude of awards.   It’s sounds like a story of riches and glamour, but trust me it’s been more a hard slog covered in sawdust and smelling like petrol, and I admire her courage.   
Although she is well known within carving circles (the internet is dotted with articles and mentions of her), I think the hardest thing she has tackled is the Australian artists market.  We not a particularly largely populated country … Bill Bryson compares Australia’s economic scale to that off the state of Illinois in the US in his book “Down Under” and I’ve always like that as example of how small the market-place here really is.  As an artist whether is be music, fine arts, contemporary art, crafts …  well most of the creative industries really, it can be tough.   It’s competitive to get attention and the Australian “tall poppies” syndrome doesn’t help. 
I found an article on Tall Poppy syndrome that discusses Pro Hart – Australia’s most commercially successful painter who also suffered a huge amount of public criticism was a victim of the syndrome.  He wasn’t celebrated, held up high as he would have been in other communities and countries, and I only hope now that he has passed away that there is some more appreciation for his art.  It is in this environment Angie has worked to establish herself as an artist.  She’s renowned and celebrated through – out the world but sometimes I think she could do with some more recognition from home!  
Classic Aussie culture also tends to favour the males … a culture of sheilas in the kitchen, and although it’s not still the 1950s I’m afraid we’re still a bit of a sexist society.  A woman branding a chainsaw is like something out of a fantasy … Lara Croft perhaps (scroll down on the link to see what I mean)?
I’m not saying that she hasn’t been appreciated … examples of her work are scattered throughout Victoria and the world … she has a number of public commission art pieces:
Albert Park , Arnsberg (Germany), Balwyn North, Carlton, Coburg, Corindhap (Vic), Guernsey Island (UK), Hastings, Horsham, Keilor, Lake Vyrnwy, Wales (UK), Moonee Ponds, Pakenham, Peak National Park (UK), Port Fairy, Richmond, Rye, Surry Hills, Warburton, Welshpool (UK), Winchester Bay, Oregon (USA), and Wonthaggi.  Not quite A –Z but then I know there’s some I’ve missed … I know for a start that there’s also a crocodile in German kindergarten that she made. But I guess you get the idea.
Dragon as part of an all-abilities playground, Packard St Reserve, Keilor Downs.

She’s the Aussie battler … artist style … sticking to her guns … I mean art, and producing what she wants (most of the time – she does do commissions remember).  This includes her “Cheesy Chicks” as she calls them.  Cheeky chicks are probably more like it to other people.  If you’re offended by sculptures of scantily clad women … then cover your eyes!  Seriously, if she’s not carving from nature, or an abstract, then it’s likely to be a cheesy chick.  They are cheeky, but then they’re meant to be.  I’ve heard them once compared to Robert Crumb’s cartoon women … and they do tend to be buxom … and she’s not afraid to expose a nipple or two!

Bug Girl and Helga check out the crowds at the Yarraville Festival

She has been travelling the world since 2001 and won numerous awards for her carving. Including being the first woman to take first in the Carve Carrbridge event in Scotland and many other top placings at other major chainsaw events.  She’s a member of Masters of the Chainsaw and Chainsaw Chix (the women’s division), two performance based groups of professional chainsaw sculptors. 
Some of Angie carvings under the watchful eyes of an admirer.

Angie has been particularly busy of late carving pieces for the exhibition in March.
Saraghi Art Space is a great area for her sculpture with the gallery being just off the garden courtyard for Café Lugano, and she will be exhibiting through out the courtyard and café as well.  I really can’t wait to see what she produces …

Sunday, January 2, 2011

art·ist·ry becomes art-is-tree ...

art·ist·ry –noun 1. artistic workmanship, effect, or quality.  2. artistic ability. 

"artistry." Unabridged. Random House, Inc. 01 Jan. 2011.;

Art-Is- Tree is also a series of events in 2011, one of which I am involved in. I mentioned in my last post that I will exhibit soon ... that will be part of Art-Is-Tree.

The exhibition will be held in a great little art space called Saraghi Art Space at Cafe Lugano in Cowes on Phillip Island.  Phillip Island is best known by Melbournites (depending on yours interests) for it's little penguins, amazing surf beaches, and the Motorcycle Grand Prix.  It's an island to approximately 7,000 people, which booms to something like 50,000 people in summer ... 

And there's little surprise it does, with it being only 90 mins from Melbourne down the Monash Freeway and South Gippsland Highway.  It's a gorgeous little slice of Victoria, at the mouth of Western Port Bay with sandy beaches, wetlands, wildlife experiences, art and cultural events, a mirage of accommodation options, local produce to taste and markets to visits.  I've mentioned my love for urban exploring before ... well this is rural exploring and I'm not necessarily talking about the "tourist" things here ...  

Front Row Seats - Phillip Island, 2010

You can go and see little penguins, seals at the Nobbies, Koalas, feed pelicans in San Remo (just over the bridge to mainland) and if that doesn't satisfy your need to get up close and personal to our furry or feathered friends there a number of wildlife sanctuaries on the island and in the Bass Coast region. 

If history is your thing, then there is Churchill Island, which is accessed by bridge from Phillip Island.  The island is the site of Victoria's first European agricultural pursuits and has been farmed since 1850 and is still a working farm.  There are of course various other options around, both on and off the island, including the Wonthaggi State Mine, the National Vietnam Veterans Museum and Dinosaur Diggings nearby on the Bunurong Coast near Inverloch.

Rock Pools near the dinosaur diggings, Bunurong Coast.

If the great outdoors pulls your heartstrings, then Phillip Island and the Bass Coast will leave your singing with joy.  There are a number of beaches to choose from for swimming, surfing or just exploring.  Phillip Island has a number beaches for surfing including the renowned Woolamai surf beach (warning - Woolamai beach is renowned because of it's strong rips and currents, which I witnessed years ago when an inexperienced swimmer got swept out to sea - he got saved luckily).  If you need assistance on tackling the riding of waves you can even get lessons via Island Surfboards who have been on the island since 1969.

There are also various walking tracks around the island where you can view the coastline, wetlands and native reserves.  If you like history, bird watching, walks and gardens then head for the aforementioned Churchill Island ... and while you're at it ... look out for a fancy wooden carved park bench with a peacock carved into one end, and a boat at the other.   The sculptor, Angie Polglaze ... who is also behind Art-Is-Tree, carved this bench.    I'll tell you more about her very soon.

Phillip Island is also great for those whose taste buds dominate.  For a start there are a number of wineries on the island and on the Bass Coast who run cellar doors.  There's also a great choice of restaurants, cafes and pubs to taste some of the local produce or if you'd rather get closer to the source the area hosts a number of Farmer's markets where you can meet the farmer.  I'm particularly fond of the Kongwak Market in South Gippsland (about 45 mins from the Island), which is held every Sunday.  The hills around this area are stunning and a drive through the countryside around here is highly recommended.

More direct to the island is the highly dangerous Phillip Island Chocolate Factory ... dangerous to sweet tooth's waistlines ... mmmmm.  Very dangerous.  Another special local produce delight for me is the seafood.  I'm not particularly into the idea of going out and sourcing it, but if you are there are plenty of options and I wouldn't say no to helping you consume the catch! I have fond memories of San Remo fish and chips as a child!

If none of that really appeals to you then you are probably someone who's more attracted to some of the events held down here ... like the Motorcycle Grand Prix, World Championship Superbikes and Australian Touring Car Championships ... if you have a need for speed!  You can even do a circuit of the track.
There's also events of a more musical nature if roaring engines isn't music to your ears ... like the Pyramid Rock Festival (which is held every New Year's Eve) or the forthcoming Art and Soul Festival, which coincidentally is also related to Art-Is-Tree ... but again I'll tell you more about that as well!!

The Bass Coast region is also home to a number of artists ... and the area has various galleries and studios to visit.  Not surprising to me, since I have been quite "inspired" particularly photographically by the island and the coastline around it.  In fact I need to go back there again ... real soon.  And I hope I've inspired some people to come and visit our exhibition in March. 

Art-Is-Tree will be launched at 2.30pm on Saturday 5th March
Saraghi Art Space
at Cafe Lugano
71 Thompson Avenue
Phillip Island

The space is open daily from 9am - 3pm  and you have all of March to view it, it will feature sculptures by Angie Polglaze, ceramics by Sian Adnam and photos by Vanessa Brady (me!).

The Art and Soul Festival will be held on Saturday 19th March where you can also see Angie Polglaze sculpt.  But as I said ... more about her soon.

Early Morning views on Phillip Island, 2010