A friend once said to me, “I’ve never had a bad meal in Ubud,” and I would have to agree. Ubud is a foodies paradise.
This is the first of a few blogs I am going to write about my linocut workshop in Ubud about the extra details of the workshop that make it such an all encompassing special event.
The Balinese are great cooks, I don’t know if its because they make everything from scratch, or because the produce is so
fresh, but the food is consistently very good wherever you go.
The workshop includes breakfast every day, lunch on workshop days (5 lunches) and the welcome dinner for people to get to know each other on the first night. The Arma resort where we stay and run the workshop has 2 restaurants and a cafe. These are
open, picturesque, beautiful Bali architecture. The Head chef Ibu Pusaka is an outstanding and experienced chef of international quality, as comfortable creating an authentic tirimasu as she is making traditional Balinese favourites.
After the classes finish at 4pm your time is your own, so you can choose wherever you like to have dinner. The town is a two minute shuttlebus from the hotel, and there is plenty of shopping there too. Fine dining can be had in Ubud for under $30 Australian Dollars right down to a tiny warung (family owned restaurant) with more humble surroundings, but with food that is still outstanding for $5 Australian. Most places you will find are somewhere in between, but suffice to say I haven’t had a bad meal in Ubud in the 4 times Ive been there. Many restaurants have western style meals as well, beautifully cooked fish and vegetarian options are available. Its a foodies paradise.
The Between the Sheets Artists’ Book exhibition at Australain Galleries in Melbourne has now concluded. I feel priviliaged to have been part of this outstanding show.
The opening was attended by 100+, and I am reliably informedthere was a constant stream of people viewing the work. The floor talk given by Janis Nedela co owner of Gallery East and an artist and exhibiter in the show was well attended and the exhibition gained many plaudits for the quality of the work and the excellence of its installation and rightly so.
My perception is that book arts are gaining in popularity, I have found that when I talk about artists’ books I am less likely to be met with a blank stare than I was in the past. I am glad because I will be continuing to make them, there is something very physical and tangible about a book as compare to an artwork on the wall. Dont get me wrong I love 2D work as well, but books have a very different quality; sculptural and tacktile.
Thanks to David and Janis from Gallery East for their interest in Artists Books and Australian Galleries for taking it on. I only wish I could have gone to Melbourne with my work.
If you would like to see more of Previous books I have made please see this You Tube Video.
I first made this Artists book a few years ago, it is currently on Display at the Artspace Collective Exhibition Beyond the Guilded Cage, and I have just printed a second copy for Monash Universities Rare Book Collection. It is editioned to 3, and is very time consuming to print and make.
This book is made up of 5 linocut images and 5 pages of text. Each page is A3 in size, so it is quite large when spread out and I discovered, quite difficult to photograph, . The text reads:-
Maybe keep a bird… Always keep your word…
Always keep your word… Maybe keep a bird…
Try to keep a bird… Try to keep your word…
Never keep a bird…
I looked at reproducing the text on a computer or even with stamps in the end I decides the hand carved text had a rustic imperfection which worked well with the meaning of the work.
Each piece of text has a linocut image to go with it. The text is adapted from a Japanese pop song I heard on a radio national program about robotics. When I heard the line “Maybe keep a bird, always keep your word…” It intrigued me and I wrote it down in my sketch book. After the linocuts were made I googled the song by Yoko Kanno and discovered I had not remebered the words accurately, the words had morphed in my head over time.
The line of text seemed to slot in with ideas I had been thinking about, and I started planning this book.
It was only after I started this artwork and was researching images of peacocks I discovered that they could fly. And it was just the perfect last page of the book presenting itself to me.
More about the symbology…
The book is a symbolic narrative and here are some of my personal associations with the symbolism I have chosen for the images.
I chose a peacock for the bird because of the connotations of beauty and pride. I have a strong memory of the first time I saw a real peacock as a young child at the zoo, you could get up really close to it, I remember looking deeply into the bight blue feathers of the body. I couldn’t believe a bird this beautiful could be real. There is a kind of historical connection with keeping a bird for its beauty. The first English colonials to arrive in India must have felt the same way I did about this beautiful bird.
I have always found the idea of keeping birds for their beauty problematic. The bird is an archetypal symbol of freedom but keeping it necessitates a cage. By caging a bird you have taken away its ability to fly, the essence of what it is, for selfish reasons. Often humans do things which they later regret, when I was about 13 I wanted a sulphur crested cockatoo as a pet, something I wouldn’t dream of doing now, luckily my mother wouldn’t let me have one.
Similarly we try to “keep your word” but don’t always. Here I was particularly interested in catch 22 type situations where to keep your word solves one problem but creates others. Most of us try to do the right thing based on our experience but none of us manages it 100% of the time. Just as English colonists of the 19th century saw nothing wrong with their actions to humans and animals alike, it is looking back with the benefit of hindsite that we see the mistakes. Interestingly, I later discovered that the song I took the words from was called “Be Human” and in the end that is what my artists book is about – being human.
For this work I chose a Victorian looking cage for the historical significance, the idea of collecting specimens of beauty. In my artwork the bird has a human eye. This is partly to indicate that the artwork is metaphorical, it is not real and I don’t expect people to take it literally. Secondly it puts the bird and the woman on an equal footing. It makes the bird seem more human. In the image where the bird and the woman look at each other eye to eye, one wonders if perhaps the peacock is not the more intelligent of the two.
Please feel free to comment or ask me any questions about this work, Now in the Monash University Collection (well it will be shortly I posted it to them today.)
Cages have been a reoccurring theme in my work for sometime so I readily accepted the invitation to exhibit in this show Beyond the Gilded Cage at the Artspace Collective until the 25th of August. See their website for opening times https://theartspacecollective.com/exhibitions/
Humans love to cage things not just birds or animals but themselves, constricting and limiting themselves sometimes out of fear, sometimes doubt in their own abilities. I have tried to illuminate this visually. Perhaps it can open the door so that some people can see more of their own potential, as I have recently done myself,by making this work.
“Some birds are not meant to be caged, that’s all. Their feathers are too bright, their songs too sweet and wild. So you let them go, or when you open the cage to feed them they somehow fly out past you. And the part of you that knows it was wrong to imprison them in the first place rejoices, but still, the place where you live is that much more drab and empty for their departure”. Steven King the Shawshank Redemption
I am very happy to be part of this exhibition which has now travelled to Melbourne. This is a great show, which challenges the notion of what a book is. Artists’ books have always done this and while my previous books have been a lot more bookish, I decided to think outside of the square – literally with this work. (See previous books here http://shanajames.com/artists-books/I recently had two of my books purchased by Monash University.)
My work is titled “Ourself Behind Ourself Concealed” the title is taken from a line in an Emily Dickerson poem.
If you are in Melbourne have a look at the show there is some beautiful work. The Between the Sheets Exhibition will be on at Australian Galleries, 35 Derby Street Collingwood until 2nd July 2017. Here is a link to their website http://australiangalleries.com.au/exhibitions/
Thank you to everyone who came to my talk, it went very well and I had some really interesting conversations afterwards. Really enjoyed this residency. Now working full on a piece for the Fremantle Print Award. watch this space….
Recently I have been printing up more of my Understanding Alice Edition for Monash University who requested a full set (17 Linocuts see them here http://shanajames.com/understanding-alice-images-2/) and two artists, books for their rare book collection one of these is a one-off book where the images are original mixed media drawings and the other is a linocut book editioned to only 3 (both shown here).
If you have been to my website you will know the book as the making of it is on the banner of the homepage. I am very glad to be part of the Monash University Rare Books collection.
Here is a video showing the Printing of the Understanding Alice Linocuts you can see the individual images on the website they are $220 unframed each, shipping is free if you buy more than one. http://shanajames.com/understanding-alice-images-2/
Thank you to everyone who went and saw the Between the Sheets Exhibition curated by Gallery East. The exhibition is now being packed up and sent to Australian Galleries in Collingwood, opening on the 13th June 2017, which I am very excited about. Some people have asked me about the ideas behind the work so here is the artists’ statement:
This work is derived from both: the paper dolls I used to make as a child by cutting a figure into concertina folded paper and the paper dolls that came in a kit with stylish paper clothes to dress your doll in. This work is inspired by the free-flowing creativity of children at play, and my wish to reconnect to that self.
The human condition is to strive for change, to want more in the physical world, through this external striving. Do we find the self concealed within? or is this busy work distracting us from our true purpose?
I chose for this work the format of female form, but this is not just for a female audience, it is a representation of all humanity, transcending gender and culture. It is a work that speaks to our humanity. The paper clothes have been replaced by the transparent openness of the internal tree. The tree is vividly coloured, reminding us of our potential brilliance and potential growth. It is the capacity to tap into this state of flow that allows us to evolve.
The title is taken from a line in a Poem by Emily Dickinson. While I found that line to be perfect as the title of this piece, the rest of the poem which traversed the dark corridors of the mind and does not really relate to this work except in that it offers an alternative way of looking at the self, perhaps deeper than the mind. The self concealed within.
The Between the Sheets Exhibition will be on at Australian Galleries ,35 Derby Street Collingwood 3066 from 13th June to 2nd July 2017