– a collection of works in reclaimed metal and wire, ceramic and silver exploring the significance of birds on the relationship between man and the natural world.
Avis Gardner and Liz Walker
February 15 to March 17
opening Saturday February 16 at 2 pm
Bolin Bolin Gallery
Bulleen Art and Garden
6 Manningham Rd West, Bulleen
ph: 8850 3030
Gallery hours : Mon – Wed 9 – 5 , Tues – Sun 9 – 5.30 pm
Nest, reclaimed wire, salt, 10 x 10 x 8 cm,2013
Artist statements below
Birds of a Feather Liz Walker
Birds are perhaps the most consistently visible of all natural species and I cannot imagine a single day passing without siting a bird or at least acknowledging the sound of bird song in the distance. Whether a city or country dweller, birds are a constant presence, distraction and sometimes frustration while reminding us of our own earthly existence and tragic inability to fly.
Avis Gardner and I both share a love of the natural world and frequently explore environmental concerns within our individual art practices. Our materials, although very different, are typically sourced from the ground and are manipulated to make works which create a sympathetic visual language based on natural patinas and the aesthetic of decay and the passage of time.
When considering possible ideas around the overarching theme of this exhibition I decided to reflect on my own observations, experiences and attachments to birds as a child, a young girl and as an adult.
I have many memories associated with birds as a child. Fly away Peter was made in response to perhaps my very first memory of birds when I was playing with 3 fledging Budgies and put them to bed in my brothers train carriage. Sadly they are still sleeping. I was three years old.
As a five or six year old I used to cut up my dolls pretend food with a feather and stick in place of knife and fork. Some feathers have always reminded me of kitchen knives and Make lunch not war was inspired by this memory but is a work with a serious message around the futility of needless violence and the possibility of resolving issues through communication.
The series Feathers harks back to our school and family displays of all manner of found natural things on the nature table, or carefully placed and hidden in clear plastic fronted shirt boxes under the bed. We were all great readers in our house and the visual spectacle of live blackbirds flying out of a steaming pie always worried and confounded me in Sing a song of sixpence. Four and twenty reflects on the horror and improbability cited in that nursery rhyme.
As a girl I constantly envied the freedom born to those who could fly. I imagined all my troubles would be over if only I could take to the sky and I used to dream of flying into the trees where nothing and no-one could hurt me. Window to the world depicts the threshold between land and sky, restraint and freedom.
My love of birds has only increased over the years but is now also coupled with an awareness of depleting natural habitats for all manner of living things. The unfettered urban sprawl is depriving birds of places to rest and breed- forcing them into the cities and other areas not appropriate for their type. The vanished explores just such ideas of loss and change. While the series of hand stitched and framed nest rims in Birds eye take a playful look at the nests of birds observed in my own Brunswick backyard, even if it was only a onetime visit from Butcherbird on my birthday last year.
Much of the work for this exhibition was conceived and constructed while spending two peaceful and productive weeks in the country in January this year. Paradise Point, on the outskirts of Jamison, is a breathtakingly beautiful place and a bird watchers haven. Last year, however, a radical transformation took place as the near empty Lake Eildon filled for the first time in many years, blanketing rivers and valleys in the process. The water brought boats and people but more importantly it brought a far greater diversity of birds to the area.
With the birds came feathers and nests and I spent hours walking around the edge of the lake, looking at driftwood, birds and nests and marvelling at the materials and techniques used to construct them. The edge of the lake, Lakes edge, Sticks and stones, The hidden, Imprint and a number of the Nest series were the result of my time there.
BIRDS OF A FEATHER…….AVIS GARDNER
My particular love of birds is life long, childhood stories describing Robins nesting in all kinds of household objects and English Magpies stealing sparkly objects for their nests, captured and held my imagination. My desire to find and see inside nests continues! The first call of the Cuckoo caused great excitement, it was a sure sign of Spring and I loved to think of this bird having been in exotic Africa but then had mixed feelings of admiration and disapproval at it’s habit of laying eggs in another much smaller birds’ nest!
Wherever I have lived I have always familiarised myself with the birds in my locality and encouraged them into my garden by providing habitat and some food. Relocating to Australia brought a whole new population of birds to learn about and enjoy, here too there is invariably is a bird that welcomes a bit of support like our rescued budgie and resident Magpie with a bad leg who sings his wonderful song in return. There is something indescribable when a wild bird tilts his head and looks you in the eye and begins to trust you.
This fascination that Liz and I have with our feathered friends is shared the world over. Historically, birds have had an impact on many cultures and meaning bestowed into their beings, behaviour and habits, far more so than any other species.
For this exhibition I have focused on elements of the symbology of birds and their habits, never trying to reproduce an actual species but purely decoratively from memory and imagination. They provide us with the often unnoticed theme music of our lives, some living symbiotically with us, others out of sight and we peer through binoculars to catch a fleeting glimpse, with just their feathers on the ground giving, a clue to their identity. My feather,fossil,fragments acknowledge these carefully collected portents, symbolic of the soul..as light as a feather and so regularly worn as adornment.
The Phoenix symbolizes the key elements of my practice. Fire and transformation depict
my love of experimentation with the dynamic chemistry between media and techniques and the unpredictability of technical processes which is really the key to my affinity with them.
The series of totems are hopeful that we are acknowledging there is a need for us to shift to new levels of awareness in order to protect the Earth. The snake represents the Earth’s wisdom and the bird, spiritual wisdom and forces of nature. Cassandra was given the gift by the snake to understand the language of the birds, whose ability to fly gave rise to the belief that they were able to pass between heaven and earth, bringing messages from God and aiding us on our spiritual journeys even after death..
Beautiful Pea Green Boat takes the Owl and the Pussy Cat as a personal expression of my love of both cats and birds, and how disbelieving visitors would be amazed at seeing my cats asleep alongside the birds in my garden. It also reminds me that seemingly incongruous partnerships can bring unpredictable gifts.
I have always been able to fly in my dreams and for moments on waking still feel I can, understanding the saying, Free as a Bird and Bird’s Eye view.
Mateship with Birds, a book by A.H.Chisholm with photographs of children close to birds in their nests in the1950’s inspired this piece. It is hard to imagine these days, where loss of their habitat is rarely considered in our continual pursuit of “development” and the list of endangered species is growing at an alarming rate.
We marvel at the habit of nest building, it is a topic warranting a study of it’s own with some so intricately woven, as Liz’s wire nests are while others are just a few twigs seemingly propped together or balanced precariously on rocks, as in my Seabirds, one wonders how the species ever survives.
Feathering the Nest includes flower stems from the Flame tree in our local park which only flowers every 5 years.
Pot Luck is a direct reference to the Robin’s nest, having never found one, I have made my own!
I had to leave my nest collection in England so was very pleased to have been given a friend’s collection when she left the country and these are included in my photographs, Ilse’s gift.
The nest itself protects the eggs, which in the past were prized collections as my brother had in a glass top box. These delicate precious jewels of life are therefore often replicated in a highly decorative fashion. In Safekeeping, my small nests each contain what I consider to be jewels of life….love, the seed of life and the spiral of nature.