Thursday, December 20, 2018

Art Studio Construction

An artist’s studio is a sacred space that houses the sacred process of creation.
When I completed my artist’s residency at Dunmoochin the question I has asked 
so many times before had circled back into my world once again. 
“Where am I going to created now?”

For over 20 years, since leaving art school, I found myself painting in all 
manner of spaces. From back sheds in share-houses, shared garages with other 
artists, cottages in the bush, and unused rental shed at the rear of a 
healing centre and to when in desperate need, setting up an easel in 
my own bedroom.

In every dwelling, I surrounded myself with the perfect recipe of materials, 
inspirational books, images and music to invite creativity into the space. 
To feel safe, aligned and in tune enough to allow the invisible to manifest 
through the artistic process.

circular carport studio

Before Dunmoochin I had painted in circular mud brick carport that was the 
first building completed while my parents built their new home. This beautiful 
space was large enough to house five cars, had a domed roof and lots of 
skylights to allow natural light into the space. I recall feeling incredibly 
‘held’ in this circular, womb-like space. To be completely surrounded by a 
circular cave of earth appeared to enable me to delve more deeply into my 
own inner world and to then emerge with new creative inspiration to express. 
Creating in this studio felt still, centred, magical and powerful.

In 2012 dad had finished building the stunning new mudbrick home that was 
to later feature in newspapers, magazines and on national TV. Dad was ready 
for a new project…. and work towards my new studio began.

I’d like to extend an enormous thank you to both of my parents, Helen and 
Wayne who supported this construction, particularly dad who utalised his 
architectural and project management skills – in addition to 
‘hands-on hard-yakka’. Thank you also to Mark Phillips and his apprentice 
Ryder for their incredibly skilled work building the studio. Thanks to 
Chris and his daughter Gypsy for the roofing and Stewie and his son for 
the electrical work. Thanks too to Marcus, Shane and other friends who 
chipped in to make this dream a reality 

One Sunday evening at Henry Hursts pizza shop, the concept was born. 
Roughly scrawled on a serviette, the initial concept which pictured three circles and was reworked into two. One larger circle was the proposed working and exhibiting space and the smaller was to accomodate a storage area with a sink for clean-up and a small room allocated for a composting toilet. The ‘smaller’ circle was indeed smaller in diameter but was designed to be ‘double-storey’ with half of the circle covered over with a mezzanine which was proposed to store paintings. These two circles were drawn to be connected by a ‘link’. That serviette which was crumpled and wine stained became the precious blueprint that birthed this unique art studio from a dream into reality.

The next step was to visit the actual site and decide on an optimum location where all existing trees could be spared.  We walked around the site until we came to a clearing which was reasonably level before sloping away into the gully below.  A few white pegs were then replaced by a spray marker painting the two circles on the ground.  

Having successfully used a simplified form of fast track construction known as ‘ferro concrete’ or ‘ferrocement’ on two smaller, circular out buildings on the property (a potting shed and a wood shed) I was confident that this was the most effective method to use.

Dad invited local builder Mark Phillips to visit the site and asked for his involvement on this project.
As per the ferrocement building method, walls were to comprise of large cylinders of reinforcing steel which would be tied together and covered on each side by sheets of expanded stainless steel mesh. Once all of the windows and doors had been positioned within the two cylinders, the mesh walls would then be rendered, both inside and out with two coats of cement.

After a local contractor levelled the site with his bulldozer, we commenced without a budget and ordered the 20 x 20cm Cypress Pine posts. Cypress pine is termite resistant and the bases of the perimeter posts were also coated in a bituminous solution to repel insect attack.

Posts were located at the ends of intersecting timber roof trusses so that they would bear the roof load rather than any structural load be imposed on the 3.5cm thick walls.  

As there is no electricity available in the vicinity of the studio, a 250 metre extension lead was installed and linked with the main house. The initial power switch to the building site was attached to a gumtree. (pictured below)

A huge advantage of this form of construction is that no concrete foundations are required.  The reinforced concrete walls form a strong, circular ‘drum’ similar to a reinforced concrete tank.  Without the render the ‘drum’ appeared like a cage.  

In preparing the base for the walls we found a consistent shale  and also areas of dense reef rock which had to be removed by jack hammer. Some of these large boulders were later used as steps in the link between the two levels.

We decided to use recycled timber glazed doors and windows which were fortunately located through Ebay in Panton Hill! The installation of the doors and the windows was the next step in the construction process. They were secured to the Cypress poles. 

The next step was to erect the large ‘cages’ of reinforced steel and then to cover the cage in a layer of expanded mesh. 

At this point we hired a mini mixer to fill a reinforced concrete slab to both buildings. I placed paint brushes and other meaningful items into the footings as a ritual to laying the energetic foundation of the studio space.  A team of helpers pitched in with trowelling the concrete slab.  Later the slabs were coated with a water and dust proofing paint.

Dad decided to introduce a highly efficient thin ‘Kingspan Insulbreak’ foil wall for insulation just inside the internal expanded mesh which would later be rendered.  Once the internal wall insulation was placed, another layer of expanded mesh covered it and was pinned into place with handmade clips that hooked through to the eternal mesh. 

Finally Mark Phillips applied two coats of render to both the inside and outside. This cement was mixed using a blend of naturally coloured sands.

Mark Philips and Ryder Lockwood framed up the rooves over the two ferrocement ‘drums’.  A local master roofer, Chris Powell and his daughter Gypsy constructed the distinctive colourbond, octagonal shaped, steel rooves.

To line the roof I introduced a highly efficient ‘King Aircell’ insulation with reflective foil  over the roof battens.  In the major area clear skylights were introduced with grey tint skylights in the roof over the smaller storage building.

Two important items Nerina was able to source on Ebay were (i) - A pull down timber attic ladder to gain access to the storage mezzanine and (ii) – An LP gas (space?) heater to (?) the main painting/exhibiting area.

A system of spot display lights has been installed along the intersecting roof trusses with warm white fluorescent lighting on top of the lower chord of the trusses.
To set the correct colour rendition the interior walls have been coated with neutral Grimes & Sons ‘colorcoat’ paint.

All seem to agree that this building blends so well with the surrounding bushland.

Using ferro concrete construction was the principle key to the success of this studio in that it could proceed without foundations over just a few weeks – rather than typically taking several months.  The extensive experience of Mark Phillips in this form of construction, and his being also skilled in timber framing allowed the project to flow naturally together with an excellent roof which was constructed in 2 days by Chris Powell and his daughter Gypsy.

The use of recycled glazed windows and doors, an attic ladder and LP Gas heater all assisted in containing costs.

The expertise of Stuart Adcock in devising lighting systems of spot lights and warm fluorescent uplighting on one meagre 8 amp lighting circuit was quite remarkable.

Friday, June 8, 2018

"Legacy" - An Exhibition of 'Dunmoochin' inspired work

The Dunmoochin Foundation is located in 200 acres of protected bushland in Cottles Bridge, north-east of Melbourne. Within the bushland setting, the Foundation offers rented studios and residences for artists, writers and researchers. Established by the eminent Australian artist, Clifton Pugh AO, three times winner of the Archibald prize, the Dunmoochin Foundation is now managed by a voluntary Board of Directors.

Since its establishment in 1989, many Australian and overseas artists have had the opportunity to develop their artistic skills and experience a connection with nature. The Dunmoochin Foundation offers a place of retreat for successful applicants to experience six to twelve months in this natural setting. Over 29 years, the Dunmoochin Foundation has offered residencies to visual artists, musicians, composers, sculptors, poets, writers, dancers, puppeteers, craftspeople, video producers, film makers, researchers and environmentalists. (read more)

Legacy - Exhibition

Visitors to the exhibition (photo credit - Kristin Walker)

'Legacy', a group show featuring work from 11 artists who have spent time as artists-in-residence at Dunmoochin.  Lyn Ashby, Mirranda Burton, Jole Di Florio, Heja Jung, Lisa Nolan, Simon Pierse, Sue Robertson, Jodi Stewart, Matt Stonehouse, Mark Wotherspoon and yours truly, Nerina Lascelles, showcase work on the rustic mudbrick walls of the Eltham Library Community Gallery until July 2nd, 2018.

Dunmoochin is an incredible place steeped in rich cultural history. It seems that every artist who has had the fortune to undertake a residency has been influenced by the beauty of the surrounding bushland. 

I have three paintings on display in 'Legacy' and while I don't have any paintings that I created while actually in residence, as they've all sold :), I have had a delightful time in the studio revisiting the influences that inspired me so greatly 

It was back in 2010 that I went to live as an artist in residence at Dunmoochin for around two years.  It was during this chapter that the motif of the 'Redbox' leaf originated; and it continues to appear in my paintings. This iconic circular-shaped leaf reflects this area of dry bushland on the outskirts of Melbourne. 

Below are some the process details and finals of the paintings showing ......


“Today's studio quest has been to relay the incredible stillness and silence of a foggy morning here in the gorgeous Red Box forest in Panton Hill. Not quite there but enjoying the process :)” – Instagram April 8th 2018.

Red Box Mist | 122cm x 122cm | 2018

The two other paintings in the exhibition - and their working details are pictured below.....

"In celebration of this beautiful full moon that continues to light up the cold, clear nights here in the bush, this painting is now completed and on display in “Legacy” - an exhibition featuring the work of 11 artists who have spent time in residency at Dunmoochin." May 31. 2018 - Instagram

Red Box Forest Moon | 132cm x 132cm | 2018


Red Box Bush | 76cm x 152cm | 2018

Today, on this cold, wet and wintery Melbourne day I am also enjoying revisiting some of the paintings that I did created while at Dunmoochin.  
This painting (below) features the 'Long Leafed Box', which is another indigenous eucalypt growing in the dry bush forest in Cottles Bridge. This painting was inspired by the beautiful Japanese folding screens (or byobu) that were used as room dividers and as a means of reflecting light into Japanese houses prior to the access to electricity in Japan.
Just as an aside, this painting won the 'People's Choice Award' at the Nillumbik Art Prize back in 2011 :)

Long Leaf Box Collage, 152cm x 122cm, 2011

Here's is another painting created at Dunmoochin that features the circular 'Red Box' leaves. I recall being always so fascinated with the wide variety of colours in the leaves. Mostly of course they're a lovely pale misty green but as they age, they turn pink and even a rusty-red colour. Some individual leaves contain all of the colours on the one leaf. 
When it rains the shiny leaves reflect the grey skies above and the hue of the red box foliage seems to soften into an even paler green..... the raindrops becoming sparkling, silvery jewels.

Red Box Collage | 122cm x 122cm | Mixed Media on Canvas | 2011

To continue with a feature of some of the paintings that were created at Dunmoochin, another 'throwback' from my Dunmoochin residency that again features the Red Box leaves is this work. (below) The title of this painting is a Haiku poem written by the Japanese master, Seibi. 

"Lying down on my back
the Spring sunshine
filled my mouth" - Seibi

While revisiting the influences during my 'Dunmoochin' chapter, I found this photo of me at work in my studio. Clifton Pugh built this 'hanger-like' building when he began to create larger paintings.
While I utterly cringe to look at myself and my work from seeming lifetimes ago, this was such a magical and important chapter for me, both artistically and personally.

And to continue with a few more paintings from my two year Dunmoochin residency featuring Red Box gum leaves, the title of this work is a haiku poem by the Japanese master Kobayashi Issa (1763 - 1827)

"Under shady trees
Resting with a butterfly - 
this too, is karma" - Issa

While still strolling down memory lane - reflecting on some of the work that I created at Dunmoochin during my residency, I also found this one. This is one of my largest paintings measuring 152cm x 152cm, painted in 2012.
As with my previous post, the title is a haiku poem from the Japanese master, Yosa Buson (1716 - 1784)

"From far and near, 
Hearing the sounds of Waterfalls,
Young Leaves", Buson

...And for the last post from the rainy day reverie, another painting featuring the Redbox created at Dunmoochin back in 2012. Living at Dunmoochin enables one to connect with the landscape in all seasons, in a weather conditions and all times of the day. Nights with a full moon shining down through the redbox forest were extra special. This painting was the hero image of a solo exhibition I had at Montsalvat titled, 'Seizui - Essence'.
The title for this painting is one of my very favourite Haiku poems by Matsuo Basho.


"Clouds veil the moon, 
now and again, 
giving rest to it's beholders" - BASHO

I really hope you've enjoyed browsing through this small collection of paintings from my 'Dunmoochin' chapter - just as much as I have in revisiting them. 

'Legacy' an exhibition features  work from such a talented bunch of fellow artists who have also experienced a deep connection with Dunmoochin.

Here's hoping you are able make it down to the exhibition to have a look. Updates about the gos are posted regularly on our Facebook Page.

Also, if you're interested in commencing an artist residency at Dunmoochin, please apply via the website at