Reading Between the Lines
This basket was made in consultation with Marilyne Nicholls who has connections to Dja Dja Wurrung, Barrappa Barrappa, Yorta Yorta, Watti Watti, Latji Latji, Yulpagulp and Ngarrindjeri countries. I would like to thank and acknowledge Marilyne Nicholls as my weaving teacher.
Venus was in retrograde as I began to write for Writing in the Expanded Field and now Venus is direct. The planets station themselves within different locations of the cosmos continuously as a map of the universe. The ideas of the transcendent art object come often from that loveable space for looking into the cosmos, where talking, writing, waiting, daydreaming and life exist.
These prescribed ideas within the imagination begin with nothing strict and defined and manifest themselves into the world through archaic symbolism that extends from the cosmos, through the ages and into landforms, into architecture, music and the visual arts from ancient civilizations to now. Over time what is left are fragments of these histories left behind, as the viewer stands in awe, gazing at the lost worlds of the ancients, with one option left, to interpret these histories, to read between the lines.
I look to the cosmos to weave my research into a basket. I weave multiple histories together, beginning with Eva Rothschild’s references to Irish Celtic mythology, through to Egyptian history which influenced my own Maltese heritage, where I finally found myself, sleeping in a cave one day as a sleeping lady. I weave histories of Malta, their fishing traps woven, their basket weaving skills learnt from Egyptians and Romans, their Wicca skills, imported from Sicily. I weave histories of the archaic Venus statues found around the world, from the Venus of Willendorf , to Venuses of Malta. 1 1. Bradshaw Foundation, Date Unknown, The prehistoric Archaeology of the temples of Malta , Bradshaw Foundation Exploring our past informing our future. Viewed October 2018. bradshawfoundation.com/malta/saflieni.php
It is here in Australia, I look to the dreamtime and the Indigenous artists of this land called Oz. I was first taught to ‘coil’ weave at a workshop run by an amazing weaver and Indigenous elder, Marilyne. Marilyne Nicholls is a multiclan woman who has ancestral and cultural connections to fresh water and salt water country. Dja Dja Wurrung, Barrappa Barrappa, Yorta Yorta, Watti Watti, Latji Latji, Yulpagulp and Ngarrindjeri. I look to the ancient history of women, I begin to weave these narratives together into a basket, a basket which mirrors the cosmos. A space, where all transcendent works of art are timeless, where the histories of the world are united as one. It is here in this space, where the transcendent art object begins.
I view Eva Rothschild’s art exhibition titled Kosmos at the Australian centre of Contemporary Art (28 September – 25 November 2018). Eva Rothschild's exhibition Kosmos is figurative, similar to a series of small sculptural maquettes 2 2. Eva Rothschild, Kosmos , Exhibition Catalogue, Australian Centre of Contemporary Art, Melbourne, 2018. of an architectural model of an urbanised city scape. City scapes, public spaces and landscapes become a new garden within the art gallery, to sit and relax. Public seating is both in indoor and outdoor spaces now, I view the work Do-nut (2011) as a black and red mosaic churro with sprinkles as a new scenic backdrop.
I sit on Eva Rothschild’s Stool I read a book from Bahia, titled Sacred Art 3 3. H. Glassie, P. Shukla, Sacred Art, Catholic Saints and Candomble Gods in Modern Brazil , Indiana University Press, Bloomington, 2017. about the art form of carving religious saints. The age-old craft, made by hand is taught from the master to the apprentice. African slaves carved the catholic cathedrals in Brazil. When they were carving the saints, they carved their own deities into the cathedral, these deities are known as the seven Orixás (the divine forces of nature). 4 4. F. Merrell, Capoeira and Candomble, Conformity and Resistance through Afro-Brazilian Experience , Iberoamericana Vervuert, Germany 2005. This act was a secret of protest of the weaving of culture on top of other cultures, to prevent their African roots, becoming lost through dislocation to their mother land and language groups. Mother Mary had become Oshun, represented by the colour yellow. I signed my cross in awe of the Orixá Yemanja of the sea (her name meaning mother whose children are the fish) many times, before practicing the Afro-Brazilian dance of Capoeira. I exit through the gift shop, with a large coffee table book in hand, titled Eva Rothschild 5 5. M. Archer, L. Hoptman, E. Rothschild, Eva Rothschild , Koenig Books, London 2010. a photographic journey into her minimalist sculpture where the introduction to the narrative of titles begins. I read the essay at the back of the book, which frames Eva Rothschild’s world in perfect harmony, both visually and lyrically.
A moon hangs in the sky, above a lost highway, a road which seems to map the never ending feeling of time. A space continnum, a road that seems to continually reappear, reoccur and remains always untravelled, until one reaches their destination. To view the connection of the cosmos as an etherical knitting, a weaving, that hangs in the sky, and connects the stars to the land, the sun, the moon, the planets to the rivers and sea, and the night air to the lungs of the human, is to connect the dots in the cosmos. The connection to the inner human consciousness is a way of looking that mirrors a galaxy, a star system and the milky way.
Eva Rothschild discusses her art, as I tune into her artist in-conversation while I drive. 6 6. ACCA (Australian Centre of Contemporary Art) 2018. va Rothschild: In conversation, E ACCA, viewed September 2018. acca.melbourne/exhibition/eva-rothschild Rothschild talks about the symbolism of the art object as sacred. Rothschild discusses how language changes according to the way a word is interpreted by an individual. As the word ‘bird’ for some, might actually mean ‘stone’. 7 7. McGlynn.T, 2017. Art in Conversation, Eva Rothschild with Tom McGlynn, The Brooklyn Rail , web blog, viewed 6 November 2018, https://brooklynrail.org/2017/09/art/Eva-Rothschild-with-Tom-McGlynn Eva Rothschild’s sculpture titled Crystal Healing (2018) appears to be a representation of crystalline rocks ascending upwards, almost defying the laws of gravity. A song comes onto my car stereo, by Chris Isaak titled Wicked Game the saddest song that plays on the entire planet about a world that crucified their Venus.
Continental critical drift merges and sinks into different photographic seas. Swamps of ‘isms’ develop around reproductions of art, coral reefs of ‘form’ build up around Cezanne’s mountains, dunes of words are blown over the pictures of the Hudson River School, a current of concepts sweep across a nameless reproduction of sculpture, details of paintings stick out of intellectual lava flows. The topography of art in a magazine is faulted and rifted under the pressure of miles of reason, examination and study. In the valleys of enquiry traces of art appear and disappear in sandstorms of controversy. Aesthetic fatigue overcomes one in the critical desert. The asymmetrical distribution of `arts movements’ are apt to break up into floating islands on bottomless oceans. Precise mirages lead one to the end of colour, line and shape. 8 8. G.Allen, The Magazine Documents of Contemporary Art ,`Robert Smithson, Hidden Trails in Art’ (essay), MIT Press, 2016 p. 28
I drive down the highway of the cosmos of history. The solar eclipse speaks to the solar eclipse level. I see the solar and lunar eclipses, as a large snake, where the shedding and regrowing of skin takes place, similar to acts of painting, crafting and burning masks. Eva Rothschild references many cosmological themes such as the crystalline form, sacred geometries and the built environment from the beginning through to weaving and the religious symbolism of the snake. 9 9. ACCA (Australian Centre of Contemporary Art) 2018. Eva Rothschild: In conversation , ACCA, viewed September 2018. acca.melbourne/exhibition/eva-rothschild In Australia, this snake is called the rainbow serpent. It is here in my car, I continue to listen to her concepts through the speakers, as I gaze out to a never ending highway lost to the sea of the night sky, with rows of street lights mapping the way. To me, my colour is fine, where is the cosmos?
I drive my Mazda hatch down the road, I exit to the Western Ring Road highway, heading towards Sunshine. A road trip is in play, just like a Tarantino film, with a dash of the transcendent nature of David Lynch’s Wild at Heart (1990), both timeless masterpieces of the transformation of modern into post-modernist art. I look out the window, and I view the history of art in my rearview mirror. So many of the materials were inspired by Venus, from ancient figurines dug up in caves around the world, fat figures of fertility, to Botticelli’s The Birth of Venus (1485) through to Salvador Dali’s The Dream of Venus (1939). Dali’s A Mountain Lake (1938) invites the viewer to sit and look to a beach and stare at a telephone. Salvador Dali was transcendent, ahead of his time, as most people simply stare at a telephone these days.
I navigate this highway as the ‘hipster witch’ archetype. 10 10. K. Sears. 2015. Witches of Seattle tell us about the appeal of Magic. Vice. Viewed January 2019. vice.com/en_au/article/ppxqpn/witches-of-seattle-925 I see a western civilization standing on the horizon. I see the recent history of womankind in my lipstick case mirror-box, she has boxes of hairpins from world war two unused in her coat pocket. She rides along the horizon, on a white horse, a great studio 54 moment of her life in Vogue. I view this narrative of the cosmos as a storyline which is easy to miss if you just look at what’s going on this month. Beautiful points around image and appearance of what is presented, versus what is. Whether the external represents the internal. If you love Chanel bags and black leggings on broomsticks. 11 11. Oxford Union, Full Address Andre Leon Talley , 2013. youtube.com/watch?v=Dj8j-0vA0VU Bravo.
The problem with American painting had been a problem with subject matter. Painting kept getting entangled in the contradictions of America itself. We made portraits of ourselves when we had no idea who we were. We tried to find garden Landscapes, that we were destroying as fast as we could paint them. We painted Indian’s as fast as we could kill them, and during the greatest technological jump in history, we painted ourselves as a bunch of fiddling rustics. By the time we became social realist’s we knew that American themes were not going to lead to a great national art. Not only because the themes themselves were hopelessly duplicitous, but because the forms we used to embody them had become hopelessly obsolete. 12 12. E.D. Antonio, Painters Painting, 1973. youtube.com/watch?v=OCnvrNfrUGg
I tune into a podcast on my car stereo, by Andre Leon Talley, as I drive. The same way Marlene Dietrich was struggling to be an actress in the 20’s and 30’s, I decided, what do I do to reach the cosmos? I drive over the horizon line with my silk stockings and a small dog yapping. I get as close to the moon as I can. I say to my dog Toto: `Toto, there’s no place like home’ I wish I got the sunroof now. When in doubt fake it. Marlene Dietrich was dressed like she was going to dinner in the Ritz in Paris. She had a dead cockatoo on the side of her hat. It is listening to Andre Leon Talleys’s talk at the Oxford Union, I instantly fall in love with his narrative, he talks about how he met, Mrs Vreeland and how she gives you a narrative in her language, in her conversation she says, `Oh Cleopatra, she’s only a teenager, she’s a queen, but she’s a teenager, she lives in Egypt and all she wants to do is stand in her garden. 13 13.Oxford Union, Full Address Andre Leon Talley, 2013. youtube.com/watch?v=Dj8j-0vA0VU
I continue to drive down the road near my house, I look past Abstract Expressionism, into Minimalism, and into the future where the pragmatic reality of the transcendent art object exists. Symbols of traffic lights appear. A stop in the go of the industrialisation of urbanism for the viewer. Left at large, in the rather quaint, minimalist space, given a few seconds in time, courtesy of the moment, to sit and ponder the artist statement about the transcendent art object.
Eva Rothschild, gives an in-depth look into her ways of perceiving art. Rothschild’s titles unfold within her artist talk, titles like the ancient celtic language word for heaven or the name of an Egyptian queen Nefertiti, or the name of a TV show like Why Don’t You which translates to ‘why don’t you turn off your television and do something less boring instead?’ Other titles are references to ancient mythologies, Venus and Bigfoot is a totem pole, Us Women, a stack of beaded heads, reaching towards the ceiling in the gallery space. These titles are sometimes explained by Rothschild herself, and often left open to interpretation by the viewer, where a space for looking further engages the audience beyond the minimal formalist nature of the sculptural works, through to the creation of a new underlying narrative.
A list of Rothschild’s titles are as follows; Arts and Crafts, Broomstick, Natural Beauty, Women of the World, Phoenix, Meltdown, Nefertiti, Supernature, Us Women, Satellite, Yr Inner Child, Hot-Touch, The Perimeter, Riches, Burning Tyre, Basket, Goodness and Goodness, Bad Hat, N.G.O, Free Jazz, Nature and Ability, The Wooden Eye, Within You, Without You Too, Midnight, Incensce, Early Learning, You and Me, Actualization, Disappear, Town and Country, Mass Mind, Silly Games, Second Sun, Little Cloud, `Higher Love, Ashes, The Inside of your Head, Diamonoid, Living Spring, Bambi, Valley of the King, Locust, Diamond Day, Corn of Plenty, Tombstones, and Tirna Nog.
Along with actualization it reflects my ideas of contemporary spirituality, psychedelia and, transcendence and religion, which is something that goes through alongside sort of sculpture and minimalism, throughout most of my work…Where the handmade is copying the mass produced. The rings are woven, weaving has placed a large role in my practice where I was weaving leather because the weaving is so present, and so immediate and so much of the hand. There’s no sort of mechanics involved in that…The snake came into my work by the woven pieces that are ropes or snakes but they’re not specifically pictorial. In terms of my own religion and spiritual belief, the snake occupies a privileged work in an under privileged position, in terms of the mythology we create about it, in a lot of religious traditions. 15 15. Contemporary Art Society, Eva Rothschild , 2015. youtube.com/watch?v=8gImfa8O3vw
A link to Eva Rothschild’s artwork is with weaving and tapestry, which has a close relationship to ancient women of the past. 16 16. Jones.K.M. 2007. Eva Rothschild , Frieze. Viewed October 2018. frieze.com/article/eva-rothschild I turn the dial on my stereo, I tune out of that channel and into another. On this channel, an Indigenous narrative crackles in through the coat hanger antenna of my bonnet. I look out the window of my car, and see a kangaroo grazing on long grass on the side of the road.
Indigenous beliefs are based on a spirituality linked to the land, the landscape, the fauna and flora that refers to the dawn of the creation of the world. Many Aboriginal groups believe that in the early days the Earth was the scene of cosmological events in which ancestors created landscapes, men, clan divisions, rituals and land management. According to the beliefs of the Aborigines, rocks, hills, lakes bear the imprint left by the creative minds of cosmological ancestors. 17 17. M. Birnberg, What is Aboriginal Art? , J.B. Publishing, Australia 2011.
I reach into the glovebox, while I keep my eyes on the road, I find the keys to my house, there is a small picture on the keyring, of a campfire, by the river. A small group of Indigenous women sit here, and weave, weave their cosmologies together. There is an orange fire, with an eagle hovering above the smoke. An Eagle in invisible spirit form. Words begin to flood my ears, words in native tongues. I place the keys with their miniature, painted narrative onto the passenger seat beside me as I continue to listen to my car stereo.
The history of each creator ancestor is part of a geographical itinerary that may intersect with others. This religious philosophy is reflected in the "Dream Time". The ritual ceremonies of the aborigines, songs, dances and body paintings, maintain the link between the world of the living and that of the ancestors: it is a question of perpetuating the creative episodes and transmitting them to the young adults. 18 18. ibid.
There are many similarities between Indigenous Australian cultures through to Afro Brazilian cultures and other cultures around the world, with an emphasis placed on four fundamental elements, such as storytelling, music, dance and art. Dances like capoeira and the samba were translated through the people, as being a way to connect to ancient ancestors. There is a moment in time where one can reconnect to their spiritual roots of the past, into the present and the future, at the same time, whilst practicing these ancient art forms. A connection is made to ancient cultures that still exist around the world today.
A unified field theory exists, which continuously connects all ancient ways of storytelling around the world to now. The same way layers of history can be read in the composition of an ancient rock form which date back millions of years, so to can the layers of history be read about Indigenous cultures, and the histories of women as ancient weavers of the past to the present society today. Aboriginal women over time have utilised a range of bags, baskets and containers to carry food and other items. String bags or dilly bags have been made from woven bush string, stiff baskets made from strips of palm fronds or strips of cane. These baskets are often made using a coiled technique, items which are still widely used in our society today, and are still being made traditionally by hand. 19 19. A. West, Aboriginal String Bags, Nets and Cordage , Melbourne Museum of Victoria, 1999.
In the Canoe Project, stories from the collection of the Koorie Heritage Trust, Marilyne Nicholl’s talks about a generational connection to the land. She is an Indigenous woman, who was taught weaving by her grandmother and mother, using pine needles with a coil weaving technique, cedar grasses with a herringbone stitch. These traditions were passed down to her, through a journey of women as master weavers, where the tradition still carries on today.
Marilyne’s grandmother and mother are weavers, to keep the generation of weaving going, they were practicing their tradition, without realizing that there was an underlying silent story happening that was within them as aboriginal women. They spent time, harvesting plants, yacking and sharing time together, and supplying food for their families. There was the hidden silence of culture that was still there. It carries a cultural integrity in who they were as women to who they are now. There are a lot of Indigenous weaving artefacts which carry cultural storylines in woven baskets which are silent ones, about the inner and outer journey of being an Indigenous woman. 20 20. R.Hely, Koorie Heritage Trust, The Canoe Project, Stories from the collection, Marilyne Nicholls, (Wadi Wadi, Yorta Yorta, Dja Dja Wurrung, Ngarringdjeri, Latji Latji, Yulpagulp, Barrappa Barrappa) Pine Needle Weaving . 2018
I exit off the lost highway of history, and drive my car into my street, I drive into the driveway of my apartment. I see through the cityscape. I see signs which are on black and white posts, motorway works are striped red entrances to other dimensions of time and space, and the iconic pigeon houses loom. The spray paint and the hard surface meet in the city. The viewer is forced to interact with both. The black spills through the external city walls, into the internal gallery walls. The chaotic energy of the city’s two faces veils itself, in the work of art. In the aftermath of the exit from the neoclassical galleries, the embodied object is something that really interests me and says a lot about how we look at the material world. 21 21.Eva Rothschild, Kosmos , Exhibition Catalogue, Australian Centre of Contemporary Art, Melbourne, 2018.
To look beyond the summer solstice celebration of Hathor, the smoke and mirrors of the postmodern debate to the structure of the nothingness held within Zen. To read between the lines of the chaotic peril of the 21 st century themes of hell feels like imprisonment captured in the rise of the modern world. It is to simply look to the long distance past as still being right here on our doorstep. An expansion of the cosmos into the unified field theory, where everything is entwined into the law of one.
In the ancient way of being, the earth not only creates, feeds, and protects life but, like a mother, whispers through natural signs and images the secret knowledge of how body, mind, emotions, and spirit work upon each other in an intricate, invisible weaving. From this weaving aboriginal people were able to blend deep psychic powers with human societal law and with all the energies embedded in the creations and creatures of nature. 22 22. J. Lambert, Wise Women of the Dreamtime Aboriginal Tales of the Ancestral Powers , Inner Traditions International, Rochester, Vermont. 1993.
I step outside my car, with my car keys jingling in hand, into my new garden, outside of my new house. I see something red. Red Boots lie beneath my house, sticking out from underneath it. Red plastic boots inspired by Mick Jagger. 23 23. Oxford Union, Full Address Andre Leon Talley , 2013. youtube.com/watch?v=Dj8j-0vA0VU I put these boots on, they look amazing. They remind me of the film, The Wizard of Oz . I open the door, and I walk inside my new house. I unpack the box with the Apple TV, to try to find a documentary about Robert Smithson on YouTube. I regret throwing out Disney’s Frozen before I moved house. I find things in the box, DVDs including Basquiat’s Downtown 81, Buena Vista Social Club by Wim Wenders among others.The rest of the contents in the box are as follows; A Hathor bookmark, my mother gave me from The Egyptian Mummies, Exploring Ancient Lives show at the Queensland Museum, I find a small pink book titled year of fortunes (without the cookies) Love and Romance , and a really bad love poem from last year's failed romance.
I find a small polaroid photo of myself, with a note on the back which reads. Here I am in my red crocodile coat, it reminds me of Sailor from Wild at Heart , a quote reads, ‘This is a snakeskin jacket! And for me it's a symbol of my individuality, and my belief... in personal freedom. Here I am playing tennis, notice my accessories, notice the towel’. 24 24. ibid. What is the relevance of standing in your gallery of contemporary art? Just follow the giant unwinding serpent, a lost highway as far as it goes.
Every researched Indigenous culture makes reference to the primary polarities or complementations of opposites that are evident in the natural world, such as night/day, moist/dry, expansion/contraction. These have been variously named All mother/All father, Moon/Sun, Earth/Sky, and Yin/Yang. The philosophical and linguistic structure has been absorbed into our traditional philosophies- greek mythology, European Alchemy, and the teachings of Pythagoras. The opposites have also been dominant in Hindu metaphysics as Prakit/Purusha and in Egyptian cosmology as Isis/Osiris. In all these age-old traditions, certain characteristics are allotted to each of the achetypal polarities, which are considered the Universal Masculine and Universal Feminine. 25 25. ibid.
A light Is shed on this world, a journey into the metaphor of the transcendent art object. A saving grace, likened to the goddess on a mountain top, burning like a silver flame, the summit of beauty and love. Where multiple narratives are weaved together to alter the course of genre. The transcendent art object is often expanding, it is newer than the Hubble space telescope and older than the 2018 Bohemian Rhapsody film that just came out about Queen. Newer than the Bananarama song titled I’m your Venus and banana tea, and older than the other banana reference in David Lynch’s film titled Wild at Heart .
The transcendent art object is both old and new, now and then, present and future. Therefore it has no age. The object as a continuum of space time. There is no beginning, no middle no end. The transcendent object is like a Quentin Tarantino film put simply From Dusk Till Dawn. It started with a road trip, and shifted into a vampire movie in the present. The future can begin in the middle, forget the beginning, watch the end, then remember the beginning again, and before you know it, you find yourself in the future of the transcendent art object. It is the future, now where we still try to grasp the mysteries of the ancients.
The people of South Western Europe during the Ice Age are famous for their abundant cave art. Painted caves seemed to have served as temples. For thousands of years, people returned to the caves to repaint the sacred images. Rituals were certainly performed and besides animals there were numerous abstract symbols in the caves. During the last decade evidence has been brought forth that many of the paintings correspond with astronomical constellations. That they were mappings of the night sky, used for counting time… And that the caves, their entrances and their halls, were in fact aligned with the summer solstice. Pointing to a sophistication of mind that defies the image of the “savage” ancestors. At summer equinox, the sunlight at dawn would illuminate the passage leading into a sacred hall, in the cave of Lascaux. 26 26. A Lady of The Labyrinth Video, Venus Figurines of the Eurasian Ice Age , 2011, youtube.com/watch?v=IHsc1EIVY1Y
I sit in my lounge room weaving the texts of histories together, uniting them as one. A montage, a collage of text in the web of the cosmos. What is the division between the tangible, between the visible, visceral world and more spheres of being `bird’? What is the division between the visceral world and making in this way, leaving the endpoint of a piece open? It’s edges that the elements are not definitive and may be subject this way. 27 27. McGlynn.T, 2017. Art in Conversation, Eva Rothschild with Tom McGlynn, The Brooklyn Rail, web blog, viewed 6 November 2018, I listen to a song titled Disparate Youth by Santigold on my stereo, she sings, `Don’t look ahead there’s stormy weather, another roadblock in the way, if we go we go together, our hands are tied here if we stay.’ Santigold dreams of Venus in a bed filled with snow. I think of Dante’s Inferno right now as a metaphor of the state of the human condition, I think of my love for having a non-historical arts background, and Blu-Tack on the wall by Martin Creed. Images associated with their beliefs. I write in fragments. I do not want to empty art and belief and the possibilities of transformative communication. The suggestion of endlessness being implicit, 28 28. ibid. is something I constantly return to. A song by U-God titled Fire comes onto my stereo as I finish my basket, a depiction of the cosmos: ‘The gods said to put the fire on it’. `One match, we set the world on fire.’ Time and space are no longer separate. Just one. Artistic pursuits.