Fremantle Arts Centre Residency - notes from the studio continued.

    The following post is a continued summary of the ideas I developed during my residency with Fremantle Arts Centre between January 18th and February 8th 2015. Since Completing this my residency with FAC I have relocated to my new home in Melbourne, Australia, hence the short period of radio silence.

    The days following my last post saw the production of more 'Autonomy of Peripheral Clocks' and 'Circadian Concerto' sketches (a selection of which are below).

    From my 'Autonomy of Peripheral Clocks' and 'Forced Desynchrony' sketches I develop several gouache studies inspired by the internal organs which harbour the potential for autonomous time zones. I focus specifically on organs which have been referenced in the scientific literature on circadian desynchrony (such as the liver and heart) as well as organs that revealed themselves to be most 'vocal' in my own physical experience of desynchrony (such as the brain, digestive system and bladder).

    I trial colour pallets, compositions and technical methods of paint application. Over the following days I continue to explore how manipulations of media and representations of subject matter can combine to produce a visual equivalent for the bodily sensations of phenomena I wish to communicate in my work.

    As I work with different techniques I return to a more linear 'drawing style' of painting, combining paints in a manner which causes them to blend and separate out at different points along a line (see below). I enjoy the simple, physical and literal description of synchrony/desynchrony that is achieved through this process.

    Over the next couple of days I return to the idea of layering and combining different visual languages as a significant visual device for this body of work. I return to several earlier studies to build layered compositions.

    As part of my investigations into visualising desynchrony I have become interested melatonin as a subject and object. Melatonin plays a significant role in the maintenance of a healthy circadian rhythm, increasing in the brain during the evening and night with darkness and promoting somnolence then decreasing in the early morning as the body wakes, allowing (in combination with an increasing cortisol at this time) the return of cognitive alertness for the day.

    The production and inhibition of melatonin is very strongly controlled to the body's relationship to light exposure and darkness and can easily become desynchronised during abnormal sleep wake routines and light/dark cycles. I make some studies exploring the ways I might begin to visualise the event of desynchronous melatonin production and it's effect on the brain and over all bodily experience (see below).

    Walking into my studio on one of my last days I see all my gouache studies laid out beside one another and I realise what I have is a collection of disparate entities, a piece by piece catalogue of different body parts and perspectives on individual sensations.

    I take some time to hang them on the studio wall and study the effect of displaying these works together where the eye can take them all in as a single body or narrative on the body.

    As my work progresses want to address more of the abstract but vital sensations associated with circadian desynchrony, such as temperature change, thirst, stress and alertness and more extensive investigations into how the body responds to visually restricted environments.

    The work I have made and ideas I have trialed during this residency with FAC have opened the door to new ways of approaching one small area of interest that has come as a result of my work in Finland with the Finnish Bioart Society.

    I hope to be posting many more advances and creations over the course of 2015 and beyond.



    With such a short time available to begin digesting the wealth of experiences I had in the Arctic I am somewhat relieved that I can't help but return to the theme of forced desynchrony. If nothing else this thematic obsession saves me from becoming overwhelmed with too many subjects. There's time for that later but for now I spend my day revisiting some of the original research which informed my project.

    One article of particular significance comes from The Scientific American TIME edition (January 2012) titled 'Time of our Lives' by Karen Wright. Wright sites various studies and quotes from researchers which describe the 'orchestra-like' composure of our circadian systems as well as the recent discovery that every cell in the body has the potential to run on it's own circadian rhythm depending on various external inputs (food/light/excercise etc.) Eg. studies of forced desynchrony or arrhythmic life styles, like shift work, can seemingly set different parts of the body to different time zones.

    When I first begun to read about this concept I was bombarded by mental images- drawings and paintings I'd like to make of this phenomena. On revisiting the same articles and research- post Polar Night Study, I now have the hindsight of my own physical and mental experiences in the Arctic to begin to articulate my drawn expressions much more clearly.

    I spend most of my day reading, writing and sketching. Finishing with two very simple drawings that I'm pleased enough with as points of departure for my next developments on the theme.



    I return to the forced desynchrony work I begun a couple of days ago, this time with a focus on visualising the internal sensations of different bodily functions being out of synch with one another. The experience of being an outsider to my own body was one that reoccurred throughout my Ars Bioarctica Residency. I mention it early in the project's blog and return to draw and describe it in journals through over the course of the month.

    In the studio I begin to explore visualising these experiences, starting with the subject of digestion and the motifs of the stomach, intestines and colon. Working wet-into-wet, as a juxtaposition to previous the thick opaque skeletal structures, I lay down flesh coloured co-ordinates and layers of gouache inspired by my accounts of digestive desynchrony on a 28 hour day.

    I consider the juxtaposition between the paint opacities in this washy approach and in my earlier thick skeletal figures. I'd like to see what comes of combining the two effects on one plane, with a plan to work in layers of both until I establish a dialogue that communicates the sensation of desynchrony as I see it. I begin with setting pencil sketches of skeletal forms against back drops of repetitive fleshy gouache viscera- stomach/intestines/colon.



    Today I have a break from my forced-desynchrony focus and spend the day re-reading the journals I kept during my Ars Bioarctica residency in search of the entries about the bodily experience of missing the sun. I remembered writing a lot of these though I realised today that they only occur in the second half of the project (2 weeks in).

    One particular entry describes a vision I had for a painting where my body is black, matt, colourless and greedily consuming a pulpy kind of blend of mottled greens and yellows (based on how I'd remembered the colours of grass in the sunlight).

    In other entries I describe, in poetic detail, the sensation of craving sunlight, or more accurately how the constant dark causes a profound dull discomfort in the body, particularly the eyes and head. I find several individual descriptions of the perceived weight and pressure of the darkness in various capacities. Thinking around how these descriptions might inform my technical decision making I finish the day with a few swatches exploring how different opacities, hues and blends of blue/yellow/green and black gouache interact on paper and how this might comunicate my Polar Night based lust for daylight.



    Following on from the previous blood pumping studies I begin my second day at FAC with few gouache explorations of other bodily experiences based on drawings made during my time in the Arctic as an Ars Bioarctica resident .

    The drawings I select to work from are 4 x 'bodily sensation' sketches made in response to the circadian misalignment I experienced due to the 'forced desynchrony' component of my Ars Bioarctica project.

    (1)Pencil on paper 'insomnia study'

    (2) Pencil on paper 'the weight of sleep'

    (3) Pencil on paper 'heart beat'

    (4) Pencil on paper 'forced desynchrony study'

    Each drawing documents my visual interpretation of the following specific sensations/experiences: 1. The discomfort of the insomniacs body after hours in bed ('insomnia study') 2. the weight of desire for sleep in the head of the insomniac ('the weight of sleep') 3.the sounds of the body as amplified by ear-plugs ('heart beat') 4. the sensation of my own body's internal cycles being out of synch with one another ('forced desynchrony study).

    By adopting an exploratory approach to the act of painting I combine the visceral nature of the gouache medium with the body-based memory of each experience (as guided by the original drawing) in order to add gravity and dimension to each theme. The physical act of painting inspires new technical and conceptual approaches to the subjects which I bounce around over the course of the day.

    While 3 of the 4 drawings I originally selected revolved around the theme of insomnia it is the 'forced desynchrony study' that I return to most often to re-work throughout the day. My approach to visualising the sensation of 'forced desynchrony' focuses on a series of warped, fragmented accounts of the human skeleton. As I paint I engage in a play between the fluidity and viscosity of the gouache media, a recurring interest of mine which earlier last year directed the approach to a body of work exhibited in 'Home Body' at Christchurch's City Art Gallery.



    Pencil drawing: 'Brown fat'

    What is the Polar Night Study?

    Visit the Polar Night Blog

    As I trawl through the copious, sane and insane, notes and drawings I produced as a resident with Ars Bioartctica in Finland I re-discover what a foundational role the documentation of my bodily experiences played in navigating the peculiar spaces and situations which defined my Polar Night Study project with Ars Bioarctica.

    The body, usually my own, seems more-often-than-not to be the point of departure for my practice. And so I begin processing my Ars Bioartctica experience from this intuitive and familiar place on my first day in the studio at Fremantle Arts Centre, starting with a small series of drawings which explore the way the body responds to and copes with sub-zero temperatures. I begin with a focus on the subject of 'brown fat', then move towards a more comsuming attempt to draw the sensation of trying to get blood pumping to your extremities in -15degC.

    Pencil on paper Pumping Blood (solo) i

    Drawing from (sensation based) memory and a series of journal entries I want to make work which can communicate the kind of desperate physicality of this 'blood pumping' action and how it speaks to the fragility of the human body the extreme cold climate environment. In particular my experience in the Arctic brought a new dimension to the conceptual weight of water based media as a metaphor for the body in it's ability to register and respond to the sub zero temperatures in such a dramatic and catastrophic way. For this reason I'd like to eventually expand this account of bodily experience into a series of mixed media works with a focus on water based media such as gouache.

    Pencil on paper Pumping blood action study (solo) i

    As I work I see my gravitation again towards this kind of scrappy annotated diagramatic style that I became quite obsessed with near the end of last year when working on the 'Blue Prints for Structural Hygiene' series for TRACE at Mundaring Arts Centre.

    Above: Pencil on paper Action study pumping blood while holding hands (two person)i

    Below:  Pencil on paper Action study pumping blood while holding hands (two person)i 



    First day in studio 1, Fremantle Arts Centre, WA

    On the heels of my month long 'A Polar Night Study' residency in the Arctic Circle with Ars Bioarctica I have returned to Western Australia as an artist in residence with the Fremantle Arts Centre (FAC) for two weeks to develop a collection of new work in response to my experience of the polar night and Arctic environment. This blog will provide periodic updates from the studio as my work develops during my time with FAC.

    A summary of my residency activities with Ars Bioarctica can be found here and a detailed account of the Polar Night Project can be found here.