It’s time …

bundeena_xmas… for a change!

Being on leave from my day job (in educational design) – so that I can focus on my creative life in a way that I haven’t been able to for some years – has inspired me to begin building a new website after seven years with WordPress.com. But, I still love WordPress, and now have my own hosted site at http://belindaallen.com.au/

I’ll be posting all updates there, and posts from this site have already been migrated, so for all my art and exhibition updates and latest news, please head over to the new site.
Thanks to all!

A pilgrimage

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Taylor’s Lake, Grampians, Victoria.

In late November I reluctantly abandoned my convalescing husband, and travelled to Adelaide to visit my Mum and rest of the family in commemoration of my late sister Kate’s 40th birthday. Mum and I enjoyed a long-planned trip to visit the Grampians in Victoria – staying in Mt. Zero, a location where she and Kate had stayed many years ago. In spite of some wild and windy weather we had a poignant time revisiting the places she had been with Kate. Here is a record of the trip, including some images taken in another of Kate’s favourite places, the Belair National Park.

We visited several lakes in the area – Lake Lonsdale, Lake Natimuk, and Taylor’s Lake. The last was the only one with any water, in spite of the promises of tourism websites. The last day of our stay had wild 35º winds and dust storms, and the effect of prolonged drought upon agricultural (wheat cultivation) areas such as the Wimmera was clear. Water management and environmental conservation is a critical issue in Australia, particularly for regional areas, yet it does not often appear in the headlines of our media.

I love to get into rural Australia and get a feeling of the ‘real’ country, away from our comfortable urban fringe. Here’s a gorgeous country store in Dimboola, selling all kinds of crafts, cakes, jams, plants, second-hand books and remaindered stock of toiletries – a school fete all in one shop 🙂

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Mum is buying a cake for our dinner; check out the guy in top hat and steampunk goggles 🙂

Pagan prayer rug

Pagan prayer rug Hand knotted woollen rug, 220 x 150 cm (Manufactured by Bespoke Rugs, design and specifications by Belinda Allen) 

Pagan prayer rug
Hand knotted woollen rug, 220 x 150 cm
(Manufactured by Bespoke Rugs, design and specifications by Belinda Allen)

This is a plan I have had for years – to have one of my tree mandalas made into a bespoke rug. It is not an inexpensive exercise, but finally, after much to-ing and fro-ing regarding design and colours, I ordered my rug to be made. Five months later here it is – in hand knotted NZ wool. The result somewhat surprised me – it has lost some fine detail, and the colours overall slightly lighter than I anticipated, but most of all – it looks handmade. I love that from a perfectly symmetrical digital image, the effects of human interpretation and fabrication have emerged. It is luxuriously soft and comfortable to lie on, and, as it is in our bedroom, it is the first thing I see in the morning and the last thing I see at night.
I have dubbed it my Pagan prayer rug, and some rules on how to use the rug are emerging:

Instructions for use:

  1. Take off shoes, stand on rug.
  2. Dance on rug.
  3. Take off clothes, lie on rug.
  4. Make love on rug.

Preferably locate the rug in a natural environment: garden or forest.

OK, I haven’t done #4 yet.

Blast from the past

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Belinda Allen, Manifesto/Self-portrait, 1981, hand-coloured silver-gelatin print, 50 x 60 cm.

The internet is amazing! While holidaying on lovely Magnetic Island in July I received an email from Sally Northfield, an organiser for the AS IF Festival, celebrating the Women’s Art Register based in Melbourne. She had dug up on old (I mean oooold!) picture of mine and wanted to use it on the website. How amazing that she was able to find my image, find my email address and contact me while I was holidaying 2000 kilometres away! The festival is on now with events until November 7 – here’s the website, and here’s my pic, promoting the Art+Feminism Wikipedia Edit-a-thon on October 31 🙂

Domestic therapy

Aprons: Possums, Crocodiles, Fairy penguins, Birds and flowers

Embarking on a much anticipated leave from work, with the intention of reviving my creative life, I have instead been plunged into the reality of supporting my husband through surgery for cancer. Coincidentally I had promised to do some work for ‘The Great Apron Show’ planned by Carol Ruff at Gallery East, and had procured a new (old) sewing machine that I was keen to try out (an ancient Bernina!). Having not sewn anything from scratch for many years, this has been a therapeutic exercise, replete with dusting off old embroidery skills (ok, not that skilful!). For the aprons I used vintage tea towels and other old fabric scraps sourced in op shops, and added some pithy and flippant feminist quotes.

my new (old) darling

The idea of women’s domestic work as Art seems a dated feminist trope for those like me who went to art school in the seventies. The development of women’s voices was a distinct movement in the 70s and 80s in Australia, with Vivienne Binns as matriarch. I recall that in 1974, my first year at art school, I made patchwork clothes as an artwork on the theme of ‘the space where I live’. The patchwork fabric used pieces of curtains and other soft furnishings, made into items that I could wear (skirt and jacket). Goodness knows how my mother felt about me taking scissors to my bedroom furnishings, but at art school they felt that the work was terribly mundane and it was not approved. In retrospect my problem was that at 18 I did not have the words or the confidence to describe my intentions, but my feelings about the importance and invisibility of women’s work were central. I can’t help thinking that a few years later they may have seen the work differently.

Working on my aprons has been wonderfully therapeutic – keeping my hands and mind busy without the pressure of producing ‘serious’ art. Also reviving some erstwhile skills – in the 70s and 80s I made many of my own clothes, as girls did back before the days of cheap Bangladeshi labour. It is heartening to see ‘handmade’ touted as a key value for the young and hip, and I’m really looking forward to seeing the great apron show!

As for conflating my stitching with Chris’s very painful stitches … No, I won’t go there.

Chris and Murray River

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So thrilled to have one of my portraits again selected for the 2015 Olive Cotton Award. This time it’s Chris and Murray River.

Friends and family will know that I and my artist husband, Chris Lawrie, have done many inland camping trips in recent years, and the mighty but much-degraded Murray River has been the focus of several of those. For Chris, whose Scottish ancestors were among the first settlers in South Australia, travelling around the country they settled back in the 1830s and 40s is poignant. European settlement, as well as crucial stock droving routes, depended heavily on this river. And so did local indigenous people. This portrait ponders what constitutes ‘belonging’ to land, a question that continues to resonate.

My exhibition “Too much ask …” back in 2011 was based on both the landscapes around the Murray River in Victoria, NSW and South Australia, and the journals of early explorers and pioneers in the region.

Art on paper

The Timeless Land - Wentworth redgum

The Art on Paper Award at Hazelhurst Regional Gallery is a biennial prize awarded for art created on or with paper. For me it’s a lovely exhibition to be selected for as it’s a beautiful space, and on my ‘home ground’. So happy that one of the works from my series The Timeless Land was selected, along with another piece from the Recovering Roots exhibition: The Futurist’s Dilemma series by Chris Lawrie. It’s opening tonight! The show will be on daily until July 26.

Read more about The Timeless Land series | See The Timeless Land images

Coast 2014

Marlo - Snowy River mouth

Marlo – Snowy River mouth – dawn

In December 2014 we travelled along the NSW-Victorian coast, to:
Myer House – Bithry Inlet, Mimosa Rocks NP – a restored holiday house owned by Kenneth Myer and Roy Grounds, and donated to NPWS, now available for public rental.
Geelong and Melbourne visiting friends and galleries.
Camping along the coast from Port Albert via Marlo, Ben Boyd NP, Mimosa Rocks NP, and Murramarang NP.

Inspired by a workshop with the fabulous Shona Wilson, along the way I began to create some ‘ephemeral’ natural art images. Shona completed ephemeral art works one-a-day for a whole year, and I began to realise what a challenge this is. The ephemeral images I created are extremely simple, just rearranging a few items, or occasionally selecting a natural arrangement.

My favourite piece is this floating twig/cloud triptych from the lagoon at Marlo, at the mouth of the Snowy River.

Floating twig/cloud triptych - Marlo, Victoria

Floating twig/cloud triptych – Marlo, Victoria

Gunyah mandalas

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In 2006 I experimented with video using the technique I had already been using to create photographic nature mandalas. Gunyah mandalas videos were shot down at my local beach, and composed in Adobe After Effects. I expect that it’s all much easier now in iMovie etc 😉

This set was exhibited in the Blake Prize in 2006. After all this time I’ve finally put these online, in anticipation of having creative time over this summer to revisit video play 🙂

exploring ephemeral

Embellished tree trunk – coal and eucalyptus leaves

On November 1 I joined a cluster of creative women at Coledale, to participate in a ‘Collaborations with Nature’ ephemeral art workshop presented by Shona Wilson. It was a day of play, also of intense and tiring problem solving as we worked out how to work with the landscape, using no tools but our own bodies (and occasional sharp twigs!). My afternoon work was this embellished tree trunk, and I hope to explore ephemeral art further over the next year, following in Shona’s footsteps with her ‘One a day’ project. The purpose of this is to connect daily with nature in a meditative way, as a spiritual as well as a creative practice. Of course, I can’t mention ephemeral art without referring to the guru – Andy Goldsworthy, long may he reign 🙂