Experimenting with Oils and Found Object Assemblage
Nancy Lane describes creating joint works with Pat Duncan
Part of the funding for the Creativity Cluster project, Melbourne: Our Creative Heart, was for experimentation across mediums. Pat Duncan and I were interested in working with each other. However, with the Covid pandemic still rampant, we were hesitant about taking public transport or spending time with each other.
Instead, we decided to work together but asynchronously. We each used our own medium, and then arranged to trade our partly finished works with each other when we ‘crossed trails’. This we did either when we needed to deliver works for exhibition or attend a group meeting.
We found this an interesting way to work. We were cooperating, yet we were not influencing each other directly in what we decided to do.
Pat started with a small piece of found weathered timber that she painted blue and yellow. When I gazed at it, I thought ‘ocean bay’.
I scanned my found objects for ‘ships’ on a small scale and tried many options. The most successful were bent aluminium poptops as the hulls and triangular corners of sheet metal for the sails.
Pat’s next offering was a long, thin piece of very weathered board painted in shades of blue. It reminded me of when I lived in Honolulu and could catch a glimpse of the sea between the high-rise buildings.
This was a chance to use some of my myriad screws. However, they are very difficult to glue unless the heads can overlap edges and adhere both from the shaft and the underside of the head. There’s always problem-solving when it comes to gluing!
Finding the right-shaped ships was another matter. After lots of searching, I ended up using a zipper pull, plus two other metal pieces of unknown origin. The larger one, a ‘cruise ship’, is the one closest to the city.
Pat also gave me another small board that she had painted as an ocean sunset, hadn’t like the colours, then had painted over in a grey-blue tone. I interpreted her effort not as a failed sunset, but as a misty sunrise.
Finding a piece of rusted sheet metal to suggest a shoreline, I then sorted through my box of small thin metal bits for suitable ‘skyscrapers’. I love playing around, finding a pattern of height and heft that is satisfying aesthetically, rather than based on any real-life city skyline.
Then it was my turn to start
But it wasn’t only Pat who started the works. I also started one with an amazing piece of bent wire I found in the gutter when I got off a tram in Malvern. It looked a bit like a flower and a bit like an umbrella. I also had some boards, which I gave to Pat, with the words: “Over to you.”
Pat interpreted the wire as a flower, and on the board painted a lovely pink hydrangea with a long stem. She then handed all the bits back to me for gluing the wire and adding more bits and bobs. I found a long green piece of wood that I added to the stem, but was less certain about filling the rest of the space.
I tried three options and let Pat decide. She chose the pink petals drifting to the ground where they lay littered – all created with found hair clips in various shades of pink.
We decided this was something we wanted to include in the Melbourne: Our Creative Heart exhibition. To us, it suggests the parks and gardens that inspire our creativity and for which Melbourne is justly famous. However, for the exhibition, our group had agreed that the works should be framed.
Serendipitous as well as asynchronous!
Serendipitously, at River Studios where I work, someone had thrown an old screen-printing screen into the skip – an old black picture frame with a pinkly-inked screen. Unfortunately, however, the screen was attached very securely by staples to the wrong side of the screen for our purposes. Therefore, for several nights during the news, one by one I laboriously removed the staples.
On a subsequent visit to Bunnings for another project, I got a piece of MDF board cut the right size so I could wrap it with the screen and mount the board with the painted hydrangea within the frame. My current plan is to include it on the lower-right of a series of works grouped around a very large picture of the Arts Centre spire.
When I finished our first work, I Saw Three Ships, I included it in an exhibition themed with reusing old materials in new ways. This work sold quickly – someone purchased it as a birthday gift in less than a day!
Although all four of our joint works were created asynchronously as experiments, we were pleased with the results – and particularly with our first one that sold so quickly! That we should be so lucky with all of them!