23rd September – 23rd October 2009
Artist-in-resident with Kate Moore at Birrarung, Laughing Waters
Artworks of quiet observation - Kath Fries
One morning we were bush walking and noticed the ground cover of yellow flowers had closed up. At first we thought they had died off, but then realised that they were waiting for the sun to rise higher in the sky before opening their petals to the new day. Crouching down close to them we waited and gradually began to develop a new sense of patience. We peered intently at the small flora, which was balancing on the precipice between slumber and moment of awakening.
Needless to say the flowers’ movements were very gradual, almost to the point of being invisible. My only prior recollection of watching flowers bloom, is from nature documentaries - always presented in fast motion. The experience identified a very different sense of time to our usual days spent in the city rat-race.
During our month long residency at Birrarung, Laughing Waters, Kate and I spent significant periods of time being contentedly quiet and still, listening and watching the natural sounds and sights of the local flora and fauna of the surrounding bush.
I was drawn to reusing two materials familiar in my art practice, embroidery threads and mirrors, in notably site-sensitive manner. Each work aimed to focus on a particular moment of time and sense of light. My thread installations seemed to naturally grow to echo the complex structure of the spider webs found in the buildings and outside in the rocks and plants. The tension, dangling and tying of the threads formed a strong sense of interdependency suggesting metaphors of human relations going far beyond my initial concept of three-dimensional drawing in space.
Birrarung’s landscaped ponds threatened to overflow during heavy continuous rain, but between these downfalls the surface of the water would lie still and flat creating perfect reflections of the surrounding trees, rocks and sky. The possibilities of simple reflections have become a constant in my artwork, lying square glass mirrors flat on the ground facing upwards to engage the viewer in looking down to see a section of the roof or window above. Positioned outside, like holes in the ground that somehow look up into the sky, the mirrors inverted the viewer’s usual vertical sense of gravitational reality to create a more cyclic unity between the elements of ground, growth and air. In other installations the mirrors were angled so their duplicitous reflections were lost in the bushland’s surrounding complexity. The hard flat physicality of the unnatural mirrors became illusive and camouflaged as their double images vanished amongst the setting’s abundant detail.