Final Melting Pot of 2020

Looking towards the New Year #maskon

my mask for the session was an all-seeing horned tweety – straight from the zoom art room

Here’s me with my result from the final Melting Pot session for the year, Episode no.7. Unlike the masks we’ve all been wearing over the past months, this one doesn’t have any antimicrobial properties at all. Perhaps even less than the spooky looking Plague doctors’ masks from the 17th, 18th, and 19th Centuries. These had beak-like structures that were filled with straw, herbs, essential oils of cloves, myrrh and other precious plants, to stave off ‘miasma‘. If I was to wear this down to my next cafe or supermarket trip, it might draw some disapproving looks. The mask (the medical version) has become a part of our social and personal policing – the dash back to the house to get a forgotten mask; the curious or even incredulous looks at people not wearing them in public places.

Copper engraving of Doctor Schnabel [i.e Dr. Beak], a plague doctor in seventeenth-century Rome, with a satirical macaronic poem (‘Vos Creditis, als eine Fabel, / quod scribitur vom Doctor Schnabel’) in octosyllabic rhyming couplets.

The Zoom Art Room has provided a good place to connect for socialising and creativity. While we’re weren’t able to meet in real life, we could feel the warmth of togetherness in the act of making. Our conversations are varied. Sometimes we’ve talked about isolation and loneliness. We’ve investigated the brain origins of creativity. We’ve considered how this withdrawal from society has consequences for our confidence.

Art making (or art practice) has the capacity to be a practical companion to our psyche. This active companion comes alongside the lives we live, allowing access to different forms of expression.

2021 beckons, are we brave enough to wade into it? I have nine large blank canvases waiting for the brushes – more painting is definitely on my resolutions list! Similarly, there are nine more, as-yet-unknown projects to evolve within the Live WELL-COME Share project that I’ve created, funded by VicHealth, and supported and managed by Baw Baw Shire Council. One day at a time…

Happy New Year!

The Melting Pot – Episode One, Green

Green pot, now having emptied its contents around a few homes.

The first ‘Melting Pot‘ was fun. A little scary, too – the internet vanished for a few minutes dropping me out of the virtual room. Then my laptop’s resident engines decided to be contrary. I think I maybe talked too fast. BUT so fun, nevertheless.

les Fauves colours

The theme was ‘green’, beginning with the iconic work of Henri Matisse and les Fauves (1905-1908). Translated as ‘wild dogs’ (French) they dared to introduce wild colours into the serious work of the painted arts. While the Fauvist movement only lasted for a short while, many artists have since been liberated from strict colour palettes. Yes, you can see a reflected buttercup on her chin, so paint that patch a bright buttery yellow.

Emotional colour?

Then we had a look at how to portray a face using these wild colours, based on how humans ‘read’ the emotions of facial expression. It’s a curious science, but these patches represent where a viewer’s eye gaze rested most often when looking at photographs of emotional people. We look around the mouth, under the eyes, the shape of the brows, the upward or downward tilt of the lips.

Graphs to the right of each face show how often the viewer’s eye gaze rested on the sections of the face represented by the colour code.

Then, with textas or pastels in hand, we feverishly coloured our way around some faces, as quick as we could. Working fast is the best way to stimulate the creative parts of the brain (click here to investigate the science behind this). If you’re working slooooowly and carefully, your analytic, rational brain is working. Speed up, no matter the consequence. There is no eraser here.

Then we cut out our faces and it was so fun to see people in the ‘Zoom Room’ holding them up! I wish I had taken a screen shot, but I was also conscious that I hadn’t asked anyone’s permission first. However, it would be really fun to see some further little films made of all the faces – they just looked fantastic.

this guy showing a bit of side-eye – a quick Stop Motion of one of the characters

Global gallery and art tour

While everyone was still creating, we had a closer look at a couple of things happening out in the wider, global art-world. Firstly, the current UK hunt for the Portrait Artist of the Year. Then a current art exhibition in Seattle, of two artists: Hiroshi Sato, whose realism is slightly abstracted using geometric forms, and Lisa Snow Lady, who uses lots of greens in landscape works with extremes of light and dark.

We also looked at the work of Carlos Monteiro; big, bright canvases that would dominate a room, with fauvist colours as wild as any by les Fauves. This virtual ‘tour’ online gives you a real ability to almost ‘walk around’ the gallery space, using a gamer’s toggle on the top left of the YouTube screen. It’s ingenious!

Who’s inside on a bright Spring day?

I was very conscious that the day outside was so bright and beautiful, it seemed almost a crime to be inside. We finished early. A couple of participants stayed to learn the little film smartphone App, Stop Motion Studio (click here for Android, and here for Apple).

In Victoria, we have just had the announcements made about a very gradual return to social contact. Now in ones and twos, and then in small groups of ten, then eventually fifty people can meet outdoors. I think we will need to gradually get used to more of this ‘virtual’ group meeting as the new normal. I think there will need to be ‘fun’ meetings as well as the necessary ones. Maybe I’m wrong in thinking that; but I do believe that the first Melting Pot was fun enough to have another one, in two weeks – Sunday 20th September.

Media, method, and theme still to be dreamed up 💭

You might think that I’m going to advise you not to be afraid to fail. I’m not. Be afraid. Speaking from considerable experience, failing stinks. Just don’t be undone by it. Failure is no more a permanent condition than is success.

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