Saturday, January 29, 2011

A magical Window into the world of the Chough

The ‘White Winged Chough’ is truly symonomous with Dunmoochin. So many of the artists who have spent time here have experienced sense of connection with the local chough families. This bird has been the inspitration for paintings, prints, sculptures, songs and stories over many decades. The choughs fly through the bush squarking with a spine tingling, echoing, prehistoric call - which invokes within me a sense of awe and respect.

I have been incredibly fortunate to have also formed a connection with these majestic creatures. Upon first glance the chough initially apprears like a crow or a raven, yet they travel in families of several birds – a community – which look out for, preen, feed and protect each other. They have distinctive red eyes and flashes of white on their wings as they fly.

Since moving to Dunmoochin, the choughs come close to my cottage each morning waiting for the possible share of my museli or a handful of wild birdseed. I am absolutely honoured to have become so close to this particular cough community that I can recognise some of the individual personalities, but even more so to witness their sense of community, family and ‘working as a team’. I reflect on my own life as a human and experience a distant longing to return to the stability , simplicity and sense of belonging to tribal human community.

Shane Pugh, Clif’s son who has lived in the area since childhood, tells stories of watching one chough digging a shallow pit in the dust to lie in. Then one by one the rest of the choughs would take it in turns to jump on the buried chough – thus teasing out its feathers; using their claws to enhance a dust bath and preening. Truly remarkable!

About six weeks ago I noticed a nest high in a gum tree in the bush below my cottage. A pair of chough chicks could be seen over the edge of the mud nest rim. Initially I suspected that the chough I saw with the two chicks must have been their mother – but shortly after, another, then another, then another chough came to the nest to feed the chicks. They were ALL collecting food to take back to the nest!!!

This endered me to these beautiful birds even more deeply and I watched the commited chough family feed the two chicks continually. Over time the babies grew large enough to leave the nest.

Yesterday was that very day!!

I was witness to a small window of the miracle of nature….. in the wild. What an absolute treasure to have been privy to such a miracle. Observing this allowed me to imagine both the enormousness and the sense of vulnerability that these baby birds may have experienced on this monumental day. Watching the beautiful, patient cycles of nature reminded me of my connection to the very same cycles and source of life.

One can get so very lost in the fast paced hustle-bustle of modern society. Fear, impatience, disconnection, isolation, a need to control and a lack of trust in life are qualities that one sees on a daily basis within human society. All of these mundane concerns fade into the background when nature offers such beautiful gifts. When sitting observing this miraculous moment of nature, nothing else mattered. A conscious clarity was awakened.

A bit more about these beautiful creatures:

“White winged Choughs” are native to Australia and are one of just two surviving members of the family Corcoracidae, the Australian mud-nest builders, and the only member of the genus Corcorax. Choughs are large, black birds — at about 45 cm only a little smaller than a raven or a little larger than a Magpie — but have red eyes and a finer, slightly down-curved beak. In flight, the large white eye-patches in the wings are immediately obvious.

They were once common through the drier woodlands and open forests of south-eastern Australia, from near the South Australia - Western Australia border as far north as Townsville. Although still common in patches where good habitat survives, Choughs are weak flyers and do not cope well with habitat fragmentation, so many surviving populations are isolated and thus vulnerable.

Choughs are territorial and highly social, living in flocks of from about 4 up to about 20 birds, usually all the offspring of a single pair.

Nesting and breeding is communal, all members of the family helping to raise the young — a process that takes several years, as young birds must learn the art of finding food in the dry Australian bush.

The mud nest will be re-rendered to be used again the following season.

White-winged Choughs can often be seen on the fringes of urban areas if natural bush survives nearby. They can become quite tame and will venture into gardens regularly if conditions are suitable: they need trees for shelter nearby, leaf-litter to search for food in, and protection from domestic pets.

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

November 2010 - Artist's Open Studios

The last two weekends in November were the Artist's Opens Studios in this, the Nillumbik region. Again, what a marvelous opportunity to open the doors of my studio to meet the general public.

"Within Victoria, Nillumbik is undoubtedly a special place with a unique quality of life. The natural beauty of the area has attracted and nurtured creativity in a vibrant community which continues to thrive. Our Open Studios Program offers a fabulous opportunity to experience this first hand, as artists open their doors to you. Talk with our artists and see them at work. 34 artists in 24 studios... there's something for everyone. Disciplines include painting, drawing, sculpture, printmaking, ceramics, jewellery, textiles and photography.

Inspire yourself. You know you want to!"

(Blurb from rear of Open Studios booklet)

Click to view Open Studios Website

Having lived in the Nillumbik Shire for most of my life, it is a great honour to be a part of the program. As a 'new kid on the block', I experienced tremendous excitement in setting up and preparing to open my doors. Being an artist tucked away in my studio is generally a secluded experience... but here was an opportunity for me to energetically connect with the artistic community of the region. Having been to Bali over 20 times in the past, I would marvel at their sense of all pulling together to prepare for a ritual or celebration. Here.... I felt a similar sense of connecting with other local artists to prepare a showcase to offer back to society. Putting balloons up on the sign posts along the roadside was likened to decorating bamboo poles along the Balinese roads before a ceremony.

I have heard in the past that some people feel quite intimidated by artists... and therefore labelling them weird or eccentric, and even though this is sometimes the case, I thoroughly enjoyed welcoming each guest with a big smile to dissolve any preconceptions.

Dunmoochin is really a place of great intrigue within our community also. As Dunmoochin is closed to the general public throughout most of the year, people were drawn to explore the grounds and imagine the life that Cliff Pugh and many other artists lived in days gone by.

(Click image to read online article)

On each of the four days of the November Open Studios an average of 80 people passed through the Dunmoochin Studios where Liz Vercoe and myself showed our paintings and Jeanette Dyke her handcrafted gold and silver jewellery. Singer-songwriter Rachael Byrnes, who is also an artist in residence here at Dunmoochin positioned a bell on a podium below her first story window. When visitors rang the bell, she would appear on her balcony and sing a song. Andrew Garton, a musician and filmmaker who is another artist in residence, put on a spectacular evening where he screened his latest documentary, 'Sarawak Gone' and performed with several other musicians.

My Studio

The Long Gallery

Rachael Byrnes - Singing from her balcony!

November 2010 - "SONZAI - Existence", East and West Art Gallery

In November 2010, I had another solo exhibition at ‘East and West’ Art Gallery in Kew, Victoria.

The title of this exhibition is “Sonzai” which is Japanese for ‘Existence’

In the Western thought, existence is the world we are aware of through our senses. Materialism holds that the only thing that exists is matter that all things are composed of material, and all phenomena are the result of material interactions. In other words, matter is the only substance.

In Eastern philosophy, on the other hand, "impermanence" describes existence. In reality there is no thing that ultimately ceases to exist; only the appearance of a thing ceases as it changes from one form to another. The philosophical meaning of the Sanskrit word 'Satya' is "unchangeable", “that which is beyond distinctions of time, space, and person" and "that which pervades the universe in all its constancy". Existence is the vast space or stillness from which all forms arise and in time dissolve.

Click on invitation above to view the paintings from 'Sonzai' on my website

This exhibition of new works depicts a variety of landscapes in which the elements of both form or matter and space or stillness coexist. The landscapes in this exhibition are not completely identified with physical form, but not entirely of spirit either. They represent a middle ground between form and the formless. Figures and objects in the paintings are easily defined by the mind but perhaps not as easily comprehended, yet equally as important are the areas of space, which suggest a magical, mythical dimension beyond form.


October 2010 - Local Recall

For four months, from July to October 2010, members of "Artlinks", a Creative Art Therapy Group that I facilitate, developed an exhibition of paintings and drawings inspired by local history and personal reflections on life in the local area. It has been a great honour to sit with these mostly elderly participants... to listen to their stories of the region and to assist them in representing their stories.

Billboard sign for the Exhibition

“Take a step back into yesteryear at Manningham Gallery from 6-23 October with Local Recall, an exhibition of paintings and drawings inspired by local history and personal reflections of life in Manningham.
Contributed by local creative art therapy group, Artlinks, exhibiting artists have recognised the value in relaying their memories to the community and some artworks tell the story of residents who have lived in the area for more than 50 years.
Local Recall includes depictions of everyday life, from harvesting on the orchards, taking a horse and cart to school at Doncaster, a day at the Templestowe Hill Climb to living by the Yarra River at Warrandyte.

Exhibition Invitation (front)

The exhibition also showcases historic icons in the Manningham area, such as the Doncaster Electric Tram, Doncaster Tower and the mines in Warrandyte.
As an organisation dedicated to providing opportunities for the whole of the community to participate in art and craft projects, Artlinks, facilitated by Artist and Art Therapist Nerina Lascelles, operates through the Manningham Community Health Services Limited and is based at the Senior Citizens Centre in Warrandyte.

Local Recall - The Paintings

Manningham Mayor, Cr Charles Pick said, “We are delighted to present this exhibition by the members of Artlinks. These amazing depictions of personal and historical stories evoke a sense of nostalgia and are of great cultural significance to Manningham residents”.

Local Recall Opening

Display Window

Exhibition Installation

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

August 2010 - "Shinzui - Essence" - Yering Station

During August and September I had a solo exhibition at Yering Station, Victoria’s first vineyard.  This exhibition comprised of 44 paintings and prints displayed in both the Cellar Door Gallery and Matt’s Bar Gallery.

Please click on image above to view the paintings from this exhibition in the 'Shinzui Gallery' on my website.

The title ‘Shinzui’ (Japanese for ‘Essence’) speaks of a space or stillness which existed before or beyond the realm of matter. It contains an understanding of Zen Buddhism and suggests a magical, ‘alive’ dimension beyond the 3D form that we, as humans so heavily identify with. The word ‘Essence’ has been used to describe the aspect of ourselves which is connected to all life or our true nature.

My work has been inspired by the sacred arts of a number of Asian cultures. Be it a painting on a shrine wall, a monk’s calligraphy koan or a beautifully woven kimono, these ancient objects of beauty seem to ‘point to’ the essence of all life. Over time, dust, dirt and decay appear to conceal the treasure beneath - but the essence that inspired the creation originally can never be marred or destroyed with time.

Similarly, the understanding of our true essence and connection to ‘the whole’ is sensed deep within ourselves - beneath the layers of mind, emotions and form. This essence is also a beautiful treasure which is always present, just beneath the surface.

The paintings are material objects that depict an image which arose from the essence and which, at their highest function, will offer the viewer a window to their own invisible essence within.

(Click on image to see online article)

June 2010 - The Living Wall Project

Over the past 6 months I have been involved in a very exciting project at the ‘Living Room’ in Hosier Lane in the CBD. The Living Room is a health – ‘drop-in’ service for marginalised individuals who are either homeless or dealing with drug addictions.

Funded under the Arts Victoria Community Partnerships Program, the ‘Living Wall’ is a project which has allowed the Living Room clients to artistically express themselves and to discover and develop new meanings in life. Some clients have experienced great break throughs and deep transformation in their life.

I’ve been conducting Art Therapy sessions where I’ve been inviting the clients to think of a meaningful symbol which would represent them. Workshops also assisted the clients in making stencils of their symbols with the help of a stencil artist. After collating over 20 symbols, a mural design was born and a stencil artist, graffiti artist and Living Room Guests, brought the mural design to life on the front of the building.

Situated right in the heart of Melbourne's street art scene, the “Living Wall’ communicated with hundreds of Melbournians and tourists alike who frequent this lane way everyday and promoted a greater sense of understanding and empathy in our community. In addition, the Living Wall gave the marginalised community a creative voice and a sense of inclusion.

It has been a rich and rewarding experience.

The Living Room Wall Before

The Living Room Wall - After

The Living Room Door - Before

Living Room Door - After

On Tuesday 22nd June, the wall was officially opened at a launch.  Over 100 people attended to hear speeches from some of the clients, the Living Room manager and myself.
Living Wall Launch

Living Wall Project Slide show

May 2010 - Open Studios

In May 2010, over 30 Artists in the area surrounding Dunmoochin open their studios to the general public.  The ‘Nillumbik Open Artists Studios” happens twice a year.

This was a wonderful opportunity to meet face to face with those who have either been following my artistic career over the years, as well as those who hadn’t yet seen my work. 

People seemed interested to come into my studio space looking through the boxes of collage papers and materials and intriguingly questioned me about my practical and creative process. 

 This was a wonderful exchange….. the whole ‘other side’ of the sometimes stark, formal exhibition spaces which show paintings at their most polished.

March - April 2010 - "MIST" Singapore

In March and April of 2010, I had a solo exhibition of paintings in the Atrium Gallery, Australian High Commission in Singapore.

"MIST" - Atrium Gallery, Australian High Commission, Singapore

The exhibition was opened by the High Commissioner Doug Chester and was well really received by the expat community in Singapore.

The Australian High Commissioner in Singapore, Mr Doug Chester and wife with Nerina Lascelles

This body of work was inspired by a fifteen year study of a number of Asian cultures which may offer both Eastern and Western cultures a glimpse of a different and perhaps more honourable and balanced way of being. Singapore has been viewed as a meeting place and ‘melting pot’ between the East and the West and for this reason I was enthusiastic to display art works which also reflect the positive and unifying aspects of our world cultures.

Nerina with Singapore's Minister of State for MCYS, Mrs Yu-Foo Yee Shoon

If you are interested in seeing the paintings from the show, they can be viewed on my website at:

While in Singapore, I was fortunate to acquire representation through “Collector’s Contemporary” where I am absolutely honoured to be hanging among names such as Banksy, Jean-Michel Basquait, Damian Hirst and Warhol – to name but a few!

The link to Contemporary Collectors is:

February 2010 - Moving to Dunmoochin

On 26th February, 2010 I moved to Dunmoochin to become an artist in residency.
Dunmoochin is a series of studios and living spaces nestled among Australian bushland in Cottlesbridge, Victoria.
 It is such an honour to be living and painting here…. Upon the soil where so many artists have created before me. With over 6 practicing artists, writers, musicians and filmmakers living in studios scattered through the trees here at Dunmoochin, a great sense of community & support has enabled me to delve even more deeply into my artistic expression.
At  the end of this my first year in residency, I feel inspired to reflect upon all of the exhibitions and projects completed this year and also the wonderful opportunity to both work and reside in this little piece of paradise.