heather b. swann


june 8 - 31 august, 2017

Here is a little glimpse. I have just put together an installation called Luna at the brand new Michael Bugelli Gallery in Hobart. The gallery is in Ingle hall, an 1811 Georgian house in the middle of the city. It has a lot of history and I was asked to respond to that, and also Michael has an antique gallery and I played in there too. I only had two months to make the installation so I included a few older works and made three new sculptures. I only have a few images and more will be taken this week, but here I send a few to give you an idea.

Why did I call the exhibition Luna? When I was asked to make an exhibition in an antique gallery, because I am intensely involved with looking at ancient objects, I immediately thought of a half-finished sculpture that had been waiting for me in my studio for a few years. This sculpture is directly influenced by the ancient Egyptian ointment spoons that take the form of a woman swimming.

It was right as a starting point for these reasons: 

Firstly, it is almost pretending to be an antiquity. Throughout the process of making the installation Michael and I chose the antiques that would be exhibited together with my work, and we played games going backwards and forwards. I used some antique objects in my work, and he asked me to play with some of the antiques that were then presented as authentic in the Luna collection of antique objects. We chose some spoons.

Here are some of them in the front room of the gallery with the Boys and girls 2010.

Secondly, the spoon sculpture is a performance tool, it can be played with, and that is the exhibition I will take to Japan next year: a series of performance tools. I have just come out of a three-year stint making an exhibition called Nervous. This series of eight performance tool sculptures, presented at the NGA last September to November, included two performances in which the sculptures were animated by a group of musician-performerss. 

Then, this spoon sculpture is made as a scoop for water. I come from Tasmania, and I miss the quiet deep rush of the great grey Derwent river - I now live in Canberra near the sadness and stillness of the lake. I enlarged the bowl of the spoon to make the scoop for water and had the sculpture cast in bronze, patinated black with the scoop polished brilliantly - it is like a full moon. Luna. I made a bath for the Luna spoon woman to dive into, some deep water. Michael and I chose some receptacles for water for the Luna collection of antiques. Many beautiful glasses. Michael already had five 19th century French Friendship glasses, one of them broken and glued back together, and we included these in the Luna collection. 

Finally, my exhibition is Japan is called I let my body fall in to a rhythm. It rolls on from the Nervous exhibition in addressing intense emotions and the creative process, the idea of closing ones eyes in order to see inside, to find something inside. Luna like lunatic. The Luna exhibition opened on the night of the full moon, at the start of the Dark MOFO festival hosted by MONA. Here is the bath with the Luna spoon woman.

I placed the bath in the middle of the hallway of the house gallery. There were sculptures and drawings and paintings over two floors of the house. As one walks up and down the stairs you look down in to the bath.

Using the glasses and spoons we made a sound piece with a group of friends one afternoon in my studio. We made a video of the making of the sound. The sound is that of spoons tapping on glasses. The sound plays on different tracks in each of the rooms so that there is a random tinkling of spoons and glasses throughout the house all the time.

The video plays on the bulkhead of the stairs. There is a disconnect between sound and image. At the top of the stairs lies the Black Sun and the Blue Moon, from the Nervous exhibition. And a little text drawing that talks about remembering and forgetting.

Under the second flight of stairs is a sculpture called The letter that never came. It consists of three parts. One of these is 100 white glass moons growing from a walking stick made by the Tasmanian woodcarver Tut Ludby. Onto this walking stick I have grafted another half of a walking stick made in Tasmania in 1995 by a carver called Rigg - to make the stick longer, for more time, more time waiting. The sculpture hangs under the stairs in a tiny cupboard on a coat hook left from when the house was used as a boarding school for boys. When we were lighting the sculpture we found in the cupboard a very small leather shoe - we left it there. 

The second part of the sculpture is a small hatpin holder, an antique English ceramic mountain. Michael found it in an antique store and offered it to me. I refused and left it there, but I could not forget about it all night, and the very next day I went back and secretly retrieved it and incorporated it in to the letter sculpture. It is tucked away under the stairs on a shelf made of the very rare Tasmanian King Billy Pine, near the hanging walking stick. In each of the hatpin apertures I have placed a small object that I made from cedar wood and a tiny turned wooden stick. On each of these cedar wood panels is written the start of that letter that never came: ‘dear,' ‘oh,' ‘my,' ‘dear,' ‘dearest,’ ‘darling.' I like to call this little part of the sculpture It is in the wood which refers to the wood of the old house, the wood of the sculptures, the wood of the tree that stands at the front of the old house, and from that, then, the wood of the tree of the family. The family tree.

The third part of the sculpture is a photograph that I made with the help of my son, it is of a Norfolk Island pine tree with a garden bench. As I mentioned, the gallery is in an old colonial house. At the front of Ingle Hall is a very old Norfolk Island pine, the only one remaining of an original three. This one left standing has a double trunk. One of the antiques in the Luna collection is an old circular garden bench that was placed in the garden at the front of the house for the exhibition. It is the first thing that you see when you come to the exhibition, whether you notice it or not.

And here is the little photograph under the stairs with the longer stick of waiting for the letter that never came.

When you walk in to the last room of the exhibition where there are drawings and a painting hanging, you can look out the window and down in the garden below you and there is that circular garden bench.

Circular, lunar, completing a history that can not be remembered because it has never existed, a history that can not be remembered but which can now be forgotten, a history that does not exist now made in objects that might haunt this house like the histories that have now been forgotten, circling back on us. 

This is some of the exhibition. There is more, but I am exhausted with writing now.

And I must make some new sculpture now. I am making a Sandman who will sing me a lullaby.

Heather b. swann

June 2017