Cloth: From Seeds to Bloom – A Touring Exhibition

Something that consistently surprises me is how often I wander through an exhibition which on the surface seems to have little to interest me, yet manages to captivate me anyway. The current exhibition at the Blue Mountains Cultural Centre featuring the work of renowned textile artist Julie Paterson is an example of this. It is a touring exhibition from the Australian Design Centre, running through to January 28.

For over 20 years, Paterson has been creating contemporary designs which are brought to life on fabrics produced locally by hand using natural fabrics. She is a painter, printmaker and textile designer, and the exhibition includes a number of set pieces, displaying various collections with accompanying text describing inspiration and process. On one wall there is a selection of swathes of fabrics showing the scope of the design range.

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Some of the collections on display

The insights provided throughout the exhibition on Paterson’s creative process stood out for me. This included background on the source of inspiration for some of the collections, some of her notebooks and even a replica studio where visitors have the opportunity to watch the artist at work.

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A replica of the Blue Mountains studio

Regardless of the output of the creative process, it is interesting to know how other creative-types approach their work, what provides inspiration, the challenges they face and how they overcome them. This exhibition offers a valuable insight on a number of these points from the outside looking in. The exhibition ties in with a book published in 2015 called ClothBound, which outlines the daily practice which underlies Paterson’s creative process and traces the journey through various fabric collections.

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Some of Paterson’s notebooks on display

A particular favourite of mine is the Imperfect Manifesto, an acknowledgement that every day provides the opportunity to be creative. It is also about an approach to living a genuine, creative and meaningful life, which is something to aspire to. You can read the manifesto here on Paterson’s website.

When was the last time you were surprised by something out of the ordinary?

[Photo: some of the natural inspirations for Paterson’s work]

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Into the Blue: Blue Mountains World Heritage Centre

Located in the Blue Mountains Cultural Centre is the immersive exhibition space called Into the Blue. Entry is included with the ticketed entry to the art gallery, and although I have been trotting along to the gallery to check out exhibitions for a while now, it has taken me longer to discover this space.

The welcoming entrance includes a snapshot of the World Heritage area, capturing the essence of the wilderness contained within. This includes 90 varieties of eucalyptus at the time of classification across 26 villages and a population of about 70,000 people. The sheer scope of the area is significant: it includes seven national parks and intersects six Aboriginal language groups.

A taste of the stunning scenery is depicted with gradual changes on four wide screens displayed across two walls with accompanying sounds. This included the vivid portrayal of bushfire, the lick and surge of flames. The screens show aspects of similar views offering different perspectives. A curved large screen overhead draws the eye upwards. It offers a glimpse of the panoramic splendour of the area, from sunsets to starry skies, mountain streams to birdsong and the soft descent of water dripping in caves. The splendour of the scenery is contrasted by the satellite image of the mountains and surrounding areas underfoot.

There are interactive displays on various themes. This includes the role of the mountains as a place for healing and inspiration as well as its popularity as a place for exploration and relaxation. Fauna and flora are also featured along with indigenous heritage.

The sensual experience of living here is captured in a voice-recorded interview with Elisabeth Bastian: the scent of the bush, the beauty of life here, the view offering a bird’s-eye view of the world along with a sense of escape. She spoke of the timelessness of the environment, the sense of space and of looking back into history. This is one of several interviews providing insight into what the area means to people from various backgrounds.

A selection of quotes about the area capture different aspects of what the mountains mean to people, including Charles Darwin, Eleanor Dark, Deb Westbury, Delia Falconer and Mark Tredinnick. One of my favourites is from Myles Dunphy as quoted in the Katoomba Daily on 24 August, 1934:

All the glory of the canyons, caves and rolling plateau of our great blue mountains is not nearly so much a commercial asset as it is nature’s heritage for legitimate enjoyment, and our own gift to posterity. 

There is a link showing the design behind the exhibition here.

[Photo: Blue Mountains Cultural Centre, Katoomba]