Lesa Hepburn: upcoming artist-in-residence

Lesa Hepburn

Lesa Hepburn is a botanical fibre artist, based in Scarborough, Queensland. Working with handmade paper and plant fibres, she makes installations, prints and architectural commissions. Lesa has a Bachelor of Visual Arts from Queensland College of Art, over the past ten years she has exhibited widely throughout north-eastern Australia. Lesa's work is informed by her life traveling and living in the tropics. She was born in Batu Gajah, Perak, Malaya and grew up in Sarawak immersed in a world of jungles, Dayak handcrafts, tropic shores, Super 8 home movies, markets and frequent travel by ship and plane to and from Australia. 

Lesa Hepburn, Purely Bast, 2016, hibiscus timber and letterpress on hibiscus bast fibre 

Lesa’s interest in local materials, foraging, making do and sustainability is reflected in the way that she embraces naturally available plant fibres, low energy processing and hand working techniques. The plants that inhabit the sub-tropical coast, where Lesa lives, form the core element of her work as a botanical fibre artist. Lesa has developed techniques preparing fibres and carving timber from the Beach Cottonwood (hibiscus tiliaceous) - a widespread littoral species in the western pacific and south east Asia. She twines the fibres with fine wire to create expandable and scalable sculptures. Lesa also works in print with letterpress, blind embossing, hikikakegami (a Japanese fibre printing technique), digital print media, and using hibiscus fibres twined into string to create embossing  impressions on handmade paper. 

Lesa Hepburn, Recoil 1, 2016, hand coloured blind embossing on handmade cotton paper

During my residency at Gunyah I plan to watch the water change with tides and weather, sail in our small boat and begin new works. The phrase “a line in the water” has recently been circling in my thoughts as I prepare for the visit. I hope to explore the natural areas on the water and the land in the North Arm Cove and Port Stephens using my handmade string and found objects.

To see more of Lesa's work please go to her website lesahepburn.com

Lesa Hepburn, Blue line, 2015, hikikakegami print kenaf on watermarked banana fibre paper     

Dean Cross: artist-in-residence July 2016

It can be difficult to put into words the sense of quiet and calm one can achieve when the time and space allows it. Gunyah provided just that. The timber cladded home warms and welcomes you; the interior and exterior so of their place the home feels more like it grew than was built. Instantly one is reminded of the resonant power embedded into a timber structure which still exists amongst the trees that were present when the timber’s roots still stretched deep into the earth. Of course, as an artist in residence I was not there just to think about the architecture, and its connection to place, but to create and cleanse and recalibrate after a prolonged period of Sydney city hustle and bustle.

Dean Cross, Work in Progress - video still, 2016, Gunyah 

What a cliché. It is true though; the city wears you down in ways you do not even realise until you are away from it, and being raised outside of the city with nothing but horizons to contain my imagination the quivering sense of a city in flux still permeates through my body in ways I am not wholly comfortable with. More about Gunyah though. My first morning was an overcast one, the steel grey light gently drifting through cloud cover, dulling the subtle murmur of the numerous lorikeet’s, kookaburra’s and magpie’s who’s morning warbling was the alarm no iPhone could ever compete with. Not deterred by the conditions, I sat myself on the end of the jetty as high tide was turning and cast a line. I am a bit of an amateur angler, and with my bucket, tackle-box and packet of frozen prawns I was sure dinner was swimming somewhere nearby, blissfully unaware. Here I should stress how amateur I actually am, as a more experienced angler would have known that trying to bait prawns that are still rock solid from the freezer, in the rain, first thing in the morning is a near impossibility. Despite this minor setback however, my second cast of the day yielded a gorgeous sand whiting, who’s yellow fins and deep black eyes were darting through the water as I gently reeled him (or her) in. From that point on Gunyah felt like home. The rest of that morning was spent the same way, the only thing stopping the fish from finding themselves on the end of my line was the pod of dolphins which glided past my feet, their slender curves a triumph of evolution. To see these beautiful animals so close in such pristine surroundings was worth the disappearance of the fish and my dinner, besides there was always tomorrow.

Dean Cross, The Big Catch, July 2016, Gunyah

Of course, I was here to work, and that is what I did. The studio was set up and I allowed my impulses to guide my hand and my mind, weaving my way through the fog of ideas that followed me from the big smoke. With time and patience the fog lifts and one is able to better see, albeit in the distant recesses of one’s mind, the vague outlines of new ideas. Being a Worimi man, disconnected from my Country through displacement, abandonment and World Wars, I was deeply interested in creating work on Country and reconnecting with the old people long since past through creative communion. I found myself doing a lot of listening and looking. Watching the quivering leaves match the shifting tides, my mind floating like the pelican; at ease but with an acute attention to my surroundings, ready to pounce on a passing idea. I wanted to explore the blurry distinction between landscape and portraiture in Indigenous culture. To find the point where one can dissolve and become the trees and the wind and tides. I am not sure whether I got there, but the seed was planted, and will continue to grow like the flooded gums that reach resolutely upwards toward the sky. These ideas will continue to eddy and swirl around my mind until they decide they are ready to reach the surface.

Dean Cross, The view from here, July 2016, Gunyah

I found myself blindsided by other ideas also, which was a nice surprise and not wholly unexpected given the space one has to think. I did some early tests for a new series connecting hero narratives in Australian culture, but that’s as clear as it gets at the moment. Gunyah was a beautifully rich, grounding and restorative place. Blowing away cobwebs I wasn’t aware had gathered. I have my beautiful partner Bridgette to thank for this also, whose support and conversation were essential to my time and process, her adventurous spirit and willingness to explore with me absolutely crucial.
Thank you Gunyah for being you and doing what you do best.

Dean Cross
Gunyah residency report, July 2016

Dean Cross, We can be heroes - work in progress, July 2016, Gunyah

Bridget Kennedy: upcoming artist-in-residence

Bridget Kennedy in her workshop, 2016

Sydney based artist Bridget Kennedy has a background as a painter and contemporary jeweller. She works with diverse, non-precious and organic materials combined with traditionally precious materials. Her exhibition work is an ongoing enquiry into environmental fragility, impermanence, choice, social expectations and value. Bridget's emphasis on materials and exploration allows the physical act of making to partly drive the outcome. 

Bridget Kennedy, It’s as simple as…white, 2015, 
beeswax, pigments, handspung co0on cord

Bridget began studying painting in the 1980s, before diverting a corporate career and then returning to pursue her art practice full time in 2003, completing an Advanced Diploma in Jewellery and Object Design in 2005. The following year she was the inaugural recipient of the Enmore Design Centre's Jewellery and Object Design Award. In 2008 Bridget co-founded Studio 20/17, a contemporary jewellery gallery and workshop based in Waterloo, Sydney. She has been an active member of Jewellers and Metalsmiths Group of Australia (JMGA) over the past five years, holding various roles of treasurer and secretary. Last year Bridget co-ordinated the 2015 JMGA conference held at Sydney College of the Arts. She has been a finalist in the Toowoomba Contemporary Wearables Biennial Jewellery Award and was awarded first prize in Graduate Metal X. In 2010 she was artist-in-residence at Bundanoon Trust NSW and at Hill End NSW in 2015. Bridget has held numerous solo exhibitions and participated in group shows around Australia and in Thailand, New Zealand, USA, and Japan. In 2015 she completed her Masters in Studio Art at Sydney College of the Arts.

Bridget Kennedy, choice mate, 2015, beeswax, pigments, soil, found objects, 
gold leaf, fools gold and an ounce of gold

I am intrigued by the social interstice between audience and object and the potential of the participatory object to act as a mediating role in developing human relationships and social action, specifically in the area of social and environmental impacts of resource usage and sustainability. My practice aims to explore this through ideas of impermanence and materiality, the cultural and material value we attach to objects and the potential for the object to navigate both the public and private spheres. I am interested in using the residency to take these ideas further. My time at Gunyah would be spent reading various theoretical texts and consolidating the research areas that I’ve been exposed to recently. Time would be spent sitting quietly in the bush, listening and observing. I would use the time to explore the local environment and make silicone moulds of various flora in the local environment to be later used for creating beeswax elements of a larger work.

Bridget Kennedy, in memory of bees, 2012, beeswax, 18ct gold

To find out more about Bridget's practice and see more of her work please go to her website bridgetkennedy.com.au

Tracey Coutts: artist-in-residence June 2016

The Gunyah residency was a much needed time out and escape from the weekday school drop off/pick up, weekend extracurricular activity run arounds and the daily maintenance of accumulated mess that a family of four can too easily make.  A solo drive from Geelong to North Arm Cove was surprising easy, I found a café in Bargo that had great pies, the hills and trees around Sydney were a pleasing contrast to the flats around Melbourne and the craziness of Sydney drivers equally reflecting Melbournians on the approach to city turn offs, making me feel right at home.

Tracey Coutts, Gunyah jetty - looking out, June 2016

The first week of my Gunyah residency I had to myself, a very peaceful and clarifying experience.  My time coincided with the July 2, 2016 election battle in full swing, with an early submission I could switch off and focus, no TV or Wi-Fi distractions, not even FM radio.  I had with me a collection of five CDs loaded in the CD stacker, two albums in particular I hadn’t listened to much at home bring me back to the evening log fires relaxing after dinner in the lounge, there was no background noise to drown out the array of intricate instrumental sounds, you could hear the full, layered textures of the music.

Tracey Coutts, Surface tension, digital drawing,  June 2016

Set up in the studio downstairs I found it to be a very productive atmosphere, a light, open space.  The clouds rarely hung around for long, sweeping across the sky.  There were a couple of visits from wallabies in the back garden, the birds were particularly chirpy during the day, and the sunshine was a welcomed change to the drab grey that had set-in back home in southern Victoria. 

Tracey Coutts, Great inspiration, photograph, June 2016

The water in the bay caught most of my creative attention, more than I had expected.  Some days it was rather choppy with a few dolphin sightings that kept you looking out for more. Other days were calm and still but between these varying degrees when the tension on the water was only slight, I could see the idea of the tension affecting a gridded surface.  Pressures from the air pushing in one direction, the currents beneath stirring up in another.  

Tracey Coutts, Tension square series, digital drawing,  June 2016

With this idea I hit the studio pretty hard and focused on a range of five sequences that could ‘program’ a sea of change across a grid to varying degrees.  Using a smaller grid I had played with the pulling of nodes across connecting lines to instigate the push/pull action.  Spending a couple of solid days to nut out these ideas and arranging formats to use with additional software cleared a bit of time to spend with my partner and daughters during the last four days exploring the local area.  I am pleased to have visited Stockton beach which is the biggest beach I have ever seen, topped off with a nice coffee, ice cream and a bit of whale watching at the café there.  The work I have been able to achieve will continue, finalizing prints and expanding of the ideas further.  The Gunyah has been a great creative experience and a wonderful sight-seeing venture to a rather unique area of our coast.

Tracey Coutts
Gunyah residency report
 June 2016

To see more of Tracey's work please visit www.langford120.com.au

Dean Cross: upcoming artist-in-residence

Dean Cross, Repose (reclining man with sandwich), 2015, image credit Kai Wasikowski

Dean Cross is a descendant of the Worimi nation and currently based in Sydney studying a Bachelor of Visual Arts at Sydney College of the Arts. Dean's visual arts practice builds on his extensive international career as a contemporary dance choreographer and performer. Now his work encompasses video, performance, painting, print-making, photography and sculpture in the expanded field. Dean’s work looks to investigate, comprehend and critique the world we live in, addressing socio-political and cultural norms while reinvigorating them with contemporary understanding. His work often draws on his Indigenous ancestry to interrogate our post–colonial epoch, with a burning desire to understand what it means to be a 21st Century Australian. Last year Dean was a finalist in the Konica Minolta Redlands Art Prize, and his work Right Lands was awarded the 2015 Macquarie Group Highly Commended Emerging Artist Prize judged by the eminent Australian artist Joan Ross. This year Dean has been selected as a finalist in The Churchie National Emerging Art Prize.

Dean Cross, The things I’ll never do, and Structures and Sadness, 2015
Gouache, felt tip pen and stickers on archival cotton paper, 51x35.5cm each

During my residency at Gunyah I intend to create a series of mono-prints and gouache paintings which investigate and embody tidal rhythms. I will use time and tide as meta-motifs for the continually changing cultural and socio-political environments both locally and globally. Also, I will begin preparatory and explorative research into new video work examining my ancestral roots within the Worimi Nation. This will include drawing on my background in contemporary dance to create video-portraits where the distinction between country and person is erased, as is common within Indigenous culture. This residency will provide a unique opportunity for me to create on country, and begin to undo the trauma of displacement and disconnect. I will be able to re-connect with my deepest roots and, through art, commune with ancestors long since past.

Dean Cross, 18 Stanger’s and a Long Lost Aunty, 2014, HD video still, 18:34, view the full video here

See more of Dean's work on his website - deancross.com

Ollie Bown and Ben Carey: artists-in-residence June 2016

Ollie Bown and Ben Carey on the Gunyah jetty, June 2016
We arrived at Gunyah with winter setting in. Soon we had our makeshift digital music studio set up in the living room, facing out to the harbour: two laptops, a pair of studio monitors, a few mics, a small array of synths and Ben’s alto and tenor saxes. The winter-hideaway atmosphere of the wood cabin instantly announced its offering of creative juices — a roaring stove, bangers on the grill and a stock of wine and whiskey, a short descent to the jetty through the crisp winter air and crackling fallen leaves. Working into the first night we knocked up an array of raw material for our composition, and by the end of day two we had spread this out into a full 45 minute skeletal arrangement, puzzled at the possibility we might really produce 45 minutes of studio music in two weeks. This flow continued; essential ‘regular’ work during the day, dinner and intensive studio work into the night, some sax lines recorded against the warm acoustics of the timber cabin, a couple of essential work trips back down to Sydney, getting intimately familiar with the wrinkles of the M1 whilst making ‘field recordings’ of rumble strips, or listening to draft mixes of the track, to make best creative use of the time.

Ollie Bown and Ben Carey, Sound recording gear on the Gunyah jetty, June 2016

Our residency was punctuated by the 2016 East Coast superstorm. Plans for mind expanding winter hikes and kayaking during the weekend were replaced by an all out weather warning lock-down, nervously pondering the stability of nearby trees and the building’s very own foundations. We were reassured by the documentation of its construction by hardy bare chested Aussies of the 60s or 70s variety in faded photos on the kitchen wall. Another trip down the M1 was rescheduled to avoid the Sunday night brunt of the weather, the skies cleared, and lunches on the jetty were resumed. One moment of harbourside ultra-serenity, biting into a ham sandwich, was taken to perfection by the sudden splash of a dolphin fin, meters away, then a scattering of others at 20 second intervals drifting into the distance, all set against a backdrop of pelicans and a hovering eagle. We fumbled our phones and pondered the possibility of putting our land-based microphones into the water to capture dolphin talk, before settling for this as a perfect memory, like people used to do. At other times the extraordinary silence of this region provided a source of great spiritual refreshment. 

Ollie Bown and Ben Carey, North Arm Cove at low tide, June 2016

The track was carefully chiselled away in countless pass-throughs and we did indeed produce an LP-length work by the end of the residency. This is now going through continued listens and fine-combed edits before we book in a final mix. The piece develops through four quite diverse movements with the aim of maintaining a steady rhythm and seamless continuity. Pacey vibraphone and synth layers sit behind multi-track sax riffs, giving way to jittery breakbeats and plateauing in a prog-inspired modulating synth array. From this studio work our plan is to pull apart the composition and pitch it as a large-scale, long-form interactive performance piece combining instrumental musicians, digital interactive and mechanical elements, portraying vignettes of different industrial eras.

Ollie Bown and Ben Carey 
Gunyah residency report June 2016

Ollie Bown and Ben Carey, Working at Gunyah June 2016, video - link

To find out more about Ollie Bown's and Ben Carey's work see olliebown.com and bencarey.net