Monday 7 February 2022

Walking the coast...Cataraqui Monument, Seal Rocks

The last few days I have been walking areas of the coast and spending afternoons in the studio mostly. The opportunity to spend time walking and looking as an end in itself is a luxury! Slowing down and allowing myself to just spend time in a place is an important part of how I engage with a new environment. Immersive experience allows me to get a sense of place beyond what I am visually observing.


When thinking about drawing as a process we most commonly think of the dominant visual aspect of it, but when working in the field and using drawing as a means of exchange with a place the entire bodily sensory experience of drawing becomes very apparent. Architect Juhani Pallasmaa speaks of this corporeal aspect, 

The senses are not merely passive receptors of stimuli, and the body is not only a point of viewing the world from a central perspective. Neither is the head the sole locus of cognitive thinking, as our senses and entire bodily being directly structure, produce and store silent existential knowledge. The human body is a knowing entity. Our entire being in the world is a sensuous and embodied mode of being, and this very sense of being is the ground of existential knowledge (Pallasmaa 2009, p. 13).

Rockpool where I went snorkelling. An immersive experience
 engaging the entire body and all senses.

I too, am most interested in drawing-based methodologies which prioritise experiential knowledge gained through direct tactile engagement. This type of understanding is developed through the act of making a drawing and also through the act of immersing oneself in an environment physically - where the body as a performative agent becomes a drawing tool and conduit for experience simultaneously.

Philosopher Alva Noe writes about embodied cognition, and in relation to drawing, describes the act,

During the drawing process, the continuous interaction between seeing (evaluating from a distance) and drawing (being at one with the drawing) creates a rhythmic shift in the artist’s focus of attention, alternating between proximity - his or her inner world - and distance - the outer world.” (Noe 2004, p.11).

The body as a conduit within the drawing process occurs within not only a physical context, but also a social and cultural context. With the walks I am undertaking, some are solo and others have been in company. Both are proving to be valuable in helping me come to understand this place. I joined the King Island Field Naturalist Club for a day walk at Seal Rocks in the south of the island. This walk took us through melaleuca forest, out into coastal heath, through Shearwater rookeries and past some very dramatic rocky cliffs and drops into the aqua and ultramarine sea below. Walking and talking with people who are familiar with this environment means that I am offered a unique insight into island life. 

Many I walked with at Seal Rocks were born here or have lived here for decades. Others have come from much further afield. One lady grew up in the Orkneys in Scotland and we talked of the similarities of island life across the globe. The uniqueness of islands, the flora and fauna, geology and physical geography were key talking points. With that, there were also frequent discussions about the community aspect of islands. Self-reliance, resilience, worldly and cloistered thinking, generational attitudes, disconnection through isolation and differing perceptions of time.

These are all aspects I am familiar with and resonate with my own experience of growing up in an island community. The shared familiarity has brought about a sense of connection with this place and the people I have met here. The differences have likewise presented a useful contrast to re-examine my own attitudes, opinions and preconceptions about the influence of environment upon my world view. Interestingly, this process of framing, re-framing and adjusting has made me increasingly aware of scale - how the microcosm environment of a remote island can allow for an expansive 'looking out' at the world through introspection and reflection. 

The island is becoming another type of body and conduit for experience, performing a simultaneously inward and outward exchange between self and world.


Noe, A 2006, Action in Perception, MIT Press, Cambridge/London.

Pallasmaa, J 2009 The Thinking Hand: Existential and Embodied Wisdom in Architecture, Chichester, Wiley.

Thursday 3 February 2022

Wrecks, Rocks and March Flies

I've been here on King Island for a week now walking, talking and drawing, among other things! Walking, talking and drawing is the premise of my residency - to engage with this place and community through a process of exchange realised through drawing-based methodologies. 

If you think of drawing as a form of conversation and exchange then many activities can be thought of as forms of drawing. As we participate in the process of connecting our interior and exterior worlds through mark making - whether that be with sound, such as the spoken word, movement, like walking, or through inscribing marks upon a surface we are engaging with drawing based processes.

Humans are, above all, fundamentally mark makers and drawers. It is how we make sense of ourselves in the world. Through this process of negotiation we enact ourselves in relation - to other human and non-human entities - drawing as wayfinding - as a means of situating oneself in the world socially, culturally, conceptually and physically.

Frottage on site near Currie harbour

This approach to drawing is what informs my practice and my investigation of place. While I am here on King Island my intention is to spend time with the community walking, drawing and talking to learn more about this place from those who live here. What is living on this island like?

My residency will explore how ideas of separation and connection define islander experience and will place emphasis on the unique perspectives that island environments and communities possess. I am interested in exploring coastal environments - the meeting point between land and sea - to investigate how ideas of separation and connection might be literally and metaphorically manifest in the environment. 

So far it's a process of listening, observing and noticing. Spending time with people and place is integral to making some kind of sense of this community and environment, and with that myself, situated here in this place.

These are just some of the highlights from my noticing so far...


Tuesday 1 February 2022

King Island Residency

British Admiral beach

I have arrived! It's been a few days getting settled, exploring and beginning to work in the studio. I am here on King Island, in Bass Strait for the next 5 weeks as an artist in residence on invitation of the King Island Council.

The Council provide accommodation, a work space and a vehicle for getting round the island. The studio is located at Currie harbour, looking out over the jetty and lighthouse. It's pretty speccy!

King Island Arts & Cultural Centre is located in the old Marine Board building at Currie wharf

I received a warm welcome from the community at the Arts & Cultural Centre a couple days after arriving and had the chance to meet several people which was great. I'll be tagging along with the King Island Field Naturalists Club in a couple week's time - we'll be going for a walk at Seal Rocks on the south of the island. I am looking forward to walking and talking and learning more about the island, it's flora, fauna and people.

I have begun exploring around Currie on foot including checking out the lighthouse, Netherby Rocks, British Admiral Beach and the Currie foreshore. I also had a full day out in the car, heading north to Cape Wickham to see Australia's tallest lighthouse - standing at 48m high. I had a great time here scrambling over the rocks beneath the lighthouse, slowly making my way round to Victoria Cove where they used to bring all the lighthouse supplies ashore before road transport took over. The light was manned until 1989, when it became a fully automated service.

I then headed north east round the coast to Disappointment Bay where I walked round to Rocky Point until the March flies became too bad and I decided to head back. They are in plague proportions at present and as soon as you get out of the wind they descend with ferocity. Trying to sit and draw is an impossibility! Even walking and moving along, they can still be annoyingly persistent. From a distance it must look like I'm doing some strange kind of tai chi, yoga-like kung fu trying to fend them off!

One of the local ladies called in to the studio and gave me a herbal home brew repellent spray to try - let's hope that works.