Snacks and Ladders: Hannah vs Nature

...That is to say I didn’t mind walking into town the first time. The second time was less enjoyable. Now the hike back up the mountain with shopping completely negates the joys of appreciating the scenery on my wander down. I have come to understand this journey as a game I have been condemned to play against the forces of nature. I call it Snacks and Ladders.

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Kunstner Aksjonen

Where there are two or more artists gathered there shall be solidarity against funding cuts for the arts. Even if thou don’t understandeth, thou shalt protest loudly alongside thy comrades. “Down with funding cuts. Yes to Art”.

This commandment is how I found myself standing in a sleety blizzard in an unpopulated village square, holding a banner for 3 hours and pondering the difference between artistic protest/political art/protest as accidental art/aesthetic politics and a bunch of artists looking like they may have a mental illness and calling the whole thing art. But first

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A Gothic Tale of Fear and Imagination

.... These are the thickets from whence grim tales were born, where innocence is stolen, quests fail, good ideas are slain and unforeseen obstacles arise. Legend says that when the branches and undergrowth become impenetrable, and day cannot be distinguished from night and a river has erased the path you followed into the woods, you will find a hidden thing. This thing is called Panic. You are to pick this thing up and put it in your pocket, it will be your constants companion if you dare to go deeper into the Forest of the Unknown.

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Watching grass grow and the art of conversation

I just half-listened to an almost unbearable edition of "This American Life" in which a mother suggested that there are 7 topics you should never discuss, not because they are taboo but because they are boring and nobody cares. They are: Your health, the route you took to get somewhere, how you slept last night, what you dreamed about, your period, any diet and/or food allergies, and money. After enduring the hour long show in which they try to prove her wrong with stories on each topic, I am converted - Let us never speak of such things again. Minor aliments, slight mishaps, and first world complaints are only fractionally interesting to those who love/endure you. It's the old world version of 'Don't text when you're drunk' and 'Don't Instagram your dinner or Facebook your dog/cat". I am so deeply convicted about this that despite the fact that each of these 7 topics have featured largely in my first week in Norway I will refrain from discussing such things.

Lets talk about grass growing instead. 

OK you go first. No?

OK I'll go first.

But my story isn't completely about grass, it's more about moss and more specifically how to paint with moss and then let it grow, so I'm fairly sure this is outside the perimeters of boring topics of conversation and you my dear reader will be riveted. It started about 10 years ago when I tried to grow mould patterns on a sheet of paper using yogurt. It was unsuccessful and most likely too far ahead of its time ideologically and the technology just wasn't there to support it. Now, however, there are recipes on both gardening and graffiti websites for growing your own moss. I'm still interested in growing mould but we will get to that later, for now I need to understand practice and dominate the process of making and growing moss paint.

DAY ONE

Collect moss

Sort nice green bits from soil  

Chop moss finely 

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Add yogurt, sugar and beer 

Add yogurt, sugar and beer 

Mix 

Mix 

Test on porous surfaces 

Test on porous surfaces 

P.S The bit where it says 'mix' on most websites it says 'blend' but I had to go the cheap route and chop by hand cause I didn't want to spend $40 on a blender. Think I just broke a boring rule and I think I'm going to need that blender.

Thinking by doing.

I found this phrase in my notebook (unreferenced!!). Seemed at least like a place to begin.

Start with a seed

Accept what comes

Repeat

 

Started with a mandala print then spent the day expanding it. 

Started with a mandala print then spent the day expanding it. 

And then I thought... now what?

And then I thought... now what?

Monkeys vs Meditation

The screeching scrambling monkey troupe that operates many functions of my thinking and the ‘I’ that defers frequently to their yelps, are silent partners. Mostly the troupe leaps and lurches through thinking amidst a persistent erratic chatter and heralds this activity as a condition of the postmodern person –busymultitaskingbeingdoingdododododotryingmoremoremoreheretherewhatnowplusthatthingyouforgot, or it protests persuasively that its frantic itchy scratchy presence is a symptom of the artist who is always searching, questioning, turning things upside down and leaping of tall buildings of expectation. I am its silent partner because I occasionally ask it to please keep quite. This week our negotiations went like this…

ME         “Hello monkey mind, its me Hannah. I know you have been spectacularly busy so you may not have noticed that we are in Norway now. May I suggest you all go into hibernation given that this is not your natural habitat. Take a vacation. Lie on a beach.”

MONKEY’S

“But look at that floor you could sand it and make and dust carpet or you could take all those old tables and sand them and make dust patterns or see those windows that are grimy green and a little mossy you could do that thing you did once where you cleaned patterns into them or you could make some work in the moldy house or your own house or you could do a 24hrDP and you have to write that application and your thesis and that paper or wait wait wait you could do some more paper cut curtains to cover the studio windows or what about pin prick works in scrap paper look there’s some paper use that or the wall or just… and…. and but and”

ME        “shhhhhhhhh”

MONKEY’S

“sjhfgbrth oskjhg er wirgloookkgjb  shoodllkbgb sdkkkk g dlos gosdg s nsbdf,eu ak djh sdjh  gh  sdjghwgy”

ME         “You can’t fool me with your Norwegian. You do not belong in the clouds with me and you are of no assistance to me here. Shhhhhhh.”

       

Variations of this conversation occur daily and it’s not so much difficult, as it is

repetitive and tiresome like the child who wants to stay up late and keeps getting

out of bed to ask for a glass of water. But I’m getting tougher, setting some rules:

 

1.     Don’t listen to the anxious monkey’s persuading you to make the same old work.

2.      

3.      

 

Ok, so I only have one rule and perhaps its more of a sign post – ‘This road does

not lead anywhere intersting. Find another route.’

 

Now here in pictures is a look at some of the actions, games and activities I have

been doing in order to quieten down and open up to some new possibilities. 

 

Rather than buy my regular art supplies I asked the art store if I could have this box of recycling.  

Rather than buy my regular art supplies I asked the art store if I could have this box of recycling.  

Then I sorted and grouped all my new treasures. Even if i don't make work with them I have things to play with, plastic bags to collect things in, old tape rolls to draw circles with, all sorts of bits of string and wire, and lots of free card and paper to draw on.

Then I sorted and grouped all my new treasures. Even if i don't make work with them I have things to play with, plastic bags to collect things in, old tape rolls to draw circles with, all sorts of bits of string and wire, and lots of free card and paper to draw on.

Amongst my treasures were some wood shavings, lovely little curlycues. So I sorted them out too. 

Amongst my treasures were some wood shavings, lovely little curlycues. So I sorted them out too. 

I made a wood shaving mandala out of it. Its a bit contrived and I think i prefer the rambling pattern in the next photo. And of course the monkeys cried "makeacarpet make a carpet of different coloured wood shavings goen on make a carpet" hmmmm maybe

I made a wood shaving mandala out of it. Its a bit contrived and I think i prefer the rambling pattern in the next photo. And of course the monkeys cried "makeacarpet make a carpet of different coloured wood shavings goen on make a carpet" hmmmm maybe

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I'm reading essays from this Swedish art catalogue

I'm reading essays from this Swedish art catalogue

When the afternoon jet lag sets in I sit at my desk and doodle. I have found that quite sedentary activities result in me accidentally sleeping for 3-4 hours. So I try to use this deep fatigue to be a time of letting the pen wander without purpose.

When the afternoon jet lag sets in I sit at my desk and doodle. I have found that quite sedentary activities result in me accidentally sleeping for 3-4 hours. So I try to use this deep fatigue to be a time of letting the pen wander without purpose.

I'm knitting like a stoned grandma, very very slowly. So far I have made a nice warm soft headband out of alpaca and silk. I thought about doing some of Kendall's improvisational knitting, but at the moment I need things to have a simple meditative rhythm.

I'm knitting like a stoned grandma, very very slowly. So far I have made a nice warm soft headband out of alpaca and silk. I thought about doing some of Kendall's improvisational knitting, but at the moment I need things to have a simple meditative rhythm.

But my very favorite things to do every morning is what call a ritual walk into the unknown. I move the furniture around the studio, then I spin around with my eyes shut and very slowly I walk around the space  with my hands behind my back and I try not to bump into anything. I imagine that the floor is full of holes and the walls are the edges of cliffs and I never know if I'm going to fall into a well or tumble over a cliff or get hit by a truck/table. It helps to translate physically the mental experience of entering an unknown landscape of creative endevour. And because it is play I feel like I can enjoy the uncertainty and sometimes i get really courageous and start shuffling around really quickly until...smash.

Nordisk Kunstnarsenter Dale

My cabin is perched on top of a mountain and hangs high above the small hamlet of Dale. Its many windows look out across to dark mountain ranges whose silhouette is softened by smudges of damp clouds.  To the left is a glimpse of a majestic fiord with crashing waterfalls and out of the kitchen windows on my right is a dark Norwegian wood. It has rained continually since my arrival and I suspect that it is more a companion to the terrain rather than a passing weather pattern.

Inside though, it is warm and golden. The walls floors and furniture are constructed from a honey coloured wood that glows and there are 8 radiators and a log fire that I have turned on all day. I’m toasty.

The studio is a grand space of possibility. High, wide, open and empty, with a floor that bears the scares and stains of all the artists who have come before me. It has an entire wall of windows 5 meters high and lighting enough to illuminate the MCG. I have arrived here with nothing but the belief that something will happen, so on the first afternoon I contemplated the scribble of a leafless tree outside my window and then watched the slow twilight settle. It was 2:30 and the sun was gone but above the torn edge of the spruce tree line the sky stayed electric blue for hours. It dimmed so gradually that my eyes adjusted to each increment of darkness and when the sky was truly black I walked back home with perfect night vision.

I awoke this morning at 7:00 to a nighttime that had yet to recede.  With nothing to do and no where to be, I made my coffee, sat on the couch, turned off all the lights and waited for the dawn to bring the landscape back into focus. The rain helped wash the ink out of the night but an hour or so later the sky remains shadowy grey. The slowness of sky watching and the gentleness of studying clouds may be enough action for today.

 

This place feels very foreign to my life

but very familiar to my art.

 

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