Sunday, January 20, 2019

Hour of Long Shadows - An ANZAC Memorial Gate

HOUR OF LONG SHADOWS draws its inspiration from the Poem, “For the Fallen” by Robert Laurence Binyon,

“They shall grow not old, as we that are left grow old:
Age shall not weary them, nor the years condemn.
At the going down of the sun and in the morning
We will remember them.”

Severely cropped portions of Service Insignia projected in black onto monolithic concrete columns, like shadows cast from a single light source, evoke the solemn hours of remembrance from Binyon’s poem.

I was approached by the local RSL Sub Branch about this project in late 2018 through a friend who had recently joined the committee. The entry gate is a small part of a larger redevelopment which includes a set of memorial pillars, flag pole, tiered seating, stairs, deck and planted gardens. Not an inconsiderable redevelopment which was at that time, already well underway. But for whatever reason, this part of the project had stalled, and the Sub Branch were reviewing their options. Their vision for the gate, its form and location were clear, but they needed some help to deliver it.

The four pillared gate is not an uncommon feature of memorial spaces in Australia. There is a similar entry structure to a park just a few short kilometers away at Des Connor Fields, Ashgrove in Brisbane’s inner west. And the memorial park itself has a set of pillars which include plaques commemorating service personnel from the region. The challenge, as I saw it, was to develop an idea that was unique, reflected my own artistic purview and aesthetic, while somehow fitting inside the rigid constraints of the pillared form with all the historical and social inertia that carries. 

 Jugiong, New South Wales

 Memorial Gates, Yeronga

Des Conner Fields, Ashgrove

Artistic response, as it regards to the creation of memorial structures is a somewhat well-trammeled ground, frequently expressed through statuary, cenotaphs and cairns. However, there are notable conceptual approaches that spring directly mind; Maya Lin’s Vietnam War Memorial in Washington DC, a striking and controversial monument at the time; and Tony Albert’s YININMADYEMI Thou didst let fall, a confronting and unequivocal work in Sydney’s Hyde Park. Tony Albert’s family has a long history of military service and as an Aboriginal man, he has a particular perspective, acutely aware of injustice in the treatment of indigenous service personnel. Maya Lin, an Asian-American had sought to solemnly pay tribute to the lives of veterans without political sentiment but her heritage and youth brought criticism and discrimination and ultimately, she felt the later addition of flags and statues diminished her vision.

As a young child growing up in Brisbane’s northern suburbs, my family would frequent the Kedron Wavell Services Club. Each Anzac Day we would march to the dawn service with the local Scout Troup and wriggle our toes in the hope we wouldn’t faint during parade. Sunday nights was a smorgasbord dinner of roast meat and vegetables followed by a movie and dancing in the Blue Pacific Room. We’d dress up, short shorts with socks pulled up to the knee, and pile into the Kingswood for the short drive down to the club. 

The Blue Pacific Room of my memory was a great dark hall with a stage and dance floor at one end, a bar at the other and tables arranged long ways in-between. There was no charge to watch the film, and I recall such classics as Cannonball Run and Every Which Way but Loose with a break in the middle for the projectionist to change reels and the gown-ups to refill their glasses. And regardless of whatever else was going on, at 7:00pm sharp, the lights went out, we all stood in silence and the Ode of Remembrance was played throughout the club, the only light in the room coming from a red fixture formed into a facsimile of the eternal flame. It’s a persistent memory from my childhood and not an unwelcome one.

The fourth stanza of Binyon’s poem is poignant and its broad adoption as an Exhortation for Ceremonies of Remembrance is apt. The reference to dawn and dusk in the third line calls to mind an image filled with long shadows, distorted and abstract, cropped and incomplete as shadows can often be, and opens an avenue to explore bold and dynamic shapes.

And shadows themselves invite a range of interpretations. A person of great stature or standing, could be said to cast a long shadow. Tragic events, deep loss, unfortunate circumstance and ongoing suffering all cast a shadow over our lives. The interpretation is open. Individuals will respond to the work depending on their own experience and recognition (or lack) of the symbology employed.

The location of the work, adjacent to a busy main road, presents another compelling reason to take a bold approach. The Walton Bridge reserve, within which the memorial park sits, is split in two by Waterworks Road. The two halves are connected by a pathway under Walton Bridge, but the main pedestrian route, playground and amenities are situated on the opposite side of the road. During the dawn service, participants approach from afar and march by. For the most part, the work will be viewed at a distance and in passing.

After canvassing a number of submissions, the RSL Sub-Branch selected Hour of Long Shadows by way of a majority vote. I was mildly surprised. Years of art making brings familiarity with rejection and I felt my proposal was unconventional enough to concern some members. But I’m thrilled we’re going ahead with it and I look forward to its completion. There are approval processes to get through but hopefully, well be on site in a few short weeks.

Tuesday, August 14, 2018

Roma Workshops

I'd been toying with the idea of running workshops for some time. People asked me about it; I said I'd think about; but nothing ever seemed to happen about it. I'd done several demonstrations, completing sculptural techniques for the edification and entertainment of small groups of interested artists and the general public but I'd never run a hands-on class. Then a sculptor friend suggest I go country and try for some Regional Arts Development Funding (RADF) to cover it and that finally got me motivated. 

I've never received a grant before. Yet it seemed to me, a big part of many artists trade was the applying for, and awarding of, monies for the purpose of advancing their practice. While technically the grant was not awarded  to me but to the Roma on Bungil Gallery for the purpose of having me run a couple of workshops, it was me that developed the program, formulated a budget and filled in and submitted the form so I'll take it as mine in all but name.

My first full blown workshop was a short lesson in observational drawing. It's a subject dear to my heart as it was Observational Drawing taught by Mia Clarke at the BIA which got me going just a few short years ago after not engaging with art in any meaningful way since high-school. And while I couldn't hope to cover in a couple of hours what She had taught me over many weeks, I thought it was a good way to lift the veil on the practical nature of art making and give the locals a chance to get to know me too.

One down, one to go. For my second outing, I ran a workshop on the process and materials required to complete a two part plaster mould, a process I employ quite often. The materials are inexpensive and readily accessible. No heavy tools or specialist equipment is required. As far as short workshops go, I felt it was a worthy sculptural technique (something people might want to learn) and more importantly, achievable no matter how remote the venue.
The planning required to head some 600 kilometers from home and ensure you've not left anything behind is no casual thing. Ask any new parent with small children preparing for an outing, even just down the road and they'll tell you much the same. I was hauling 80 kilos of plaster, 60 kilos of clay, buckets, bottles, measuring cans, tape, scrapers, chisels, hammers, ply boards, hessian, scissors, petroleum jelly, colour oxides, ink, pva glue, fibreglass, concrete and enough plastic sheeting to cover a tennis court. And honestly, I don't think I could have done without any of it.

Despite my getting slightly lost and arriving late, I think everyone had a great day and learned some things. Big thanks to Nikki and Peter Thompson for hosting the workshop at their property, Echo Hills Farm and a big thanks to the Maranoa Council for their support through the RADF.

With the dust settled on a successful campaign out west, it was time for my travelling companion Hermann and I to reflect over a couple of cold beers. We’ve had home cooked meals, been treated to Piano Accordion recitals, gotten lost, found our way again, met Cowboys and Bikies, inspected cattle, gazed at the stars and made a bit of art. As Hermann was fond of saying, you couldn’t buy this kind of experience.

Tuesday, June 26, 2018

Built Your Self - Install

My exhibition, Built Your Self is installed and open for viewing at the Roma on Bungil Gallery in Roma, central Queensland. My friend Hermann, a fellow sculptor, and I, had a great trip out west. We visited wood carver Guy Braey just south of Dalby, enjoyed several pub and home cooked meals with the gallery team and even visited a cattle station.

The Roma on Bungil Gallery is a fantastic, contemporary facility and I'm thrilled to have the opportunity to exhibit the work in such a crisp, institutional space. It's a big change from my cramped and cluttered workroom.

A big thanks to Sandy MacDonald, Di Griffin and the ROBG team for their super professional expertise in setting up the exhibition. And a big thanks to the Maranoa Regional Council and sponsors Santos.

Wednesday, May 23, 2018

Non-Narrative Illustration

For the longest time, I felt it was important my work proselytize and preach a specific point of view. Trouble is, I'm not sure I know exactly what that point of view is, let alone how to articulate it. So as I began my most recent body of work, I set out to take a more positive tone, pursuing styles, subjects and processes that please and interest me.

I imagined the works as being the result of a Venn diagram describing some broad fields of interest; Design and Technology; Craft and making; People and human concerns. Similar to earlier sketches on this trajectory, each of these paintings is composed of figures in abstract backgrounds with  technical drawings overlaid.

I'm calling the abstract backgrounds, "Imagination Spaces", visually nebulous spaces of possibility.  Places where things can exist, interact and happen. And to be perfectly honest, they're just a lot of fun to paint. The physicality of attacking the surface with a loaded brush is sensually satisfying and enormously rewarding. If I don't like the result, I just paint over it, the ensuing interactions of these randomly applied strokes and washes exciting in their serendipity.

For these larger works, i chose to use myself, my family and friends as subjects, though I'm hoping they appear more as generic figures, like actors in an advertising campaign rather than portrait subjects. The images feel illustrative in nature, as though they might be attached to written narrative. But in composing the paintings and coupling the subjects, with limited exceptions, I sought to impose no fixed narrative of my own. The work invites the viewer to imagine their own narrative.

Built Your Self

Built Your Self is a collection of 2D and 3D works exploring ideas around craft, creating and purposefulness in an environment increasingly influenced by technology. Randomly constructed narratives are built employing a mix of processes from crude hand made to computer aided design and fabrication.

Built Your Self embodies a strong DIY (do it yourself) ethic which is only commensurate with the artistic pursuits of exploring creative processes outside one’s own expertise, to experiment, explore, make mistakes and even fail.

Building your own self is a process over which you may at times have varying levels of control. The work seeks to explore the artist’s own mix of optimism and apprehension regarding the present and the future through subjects, materials and processes that reflect his own varied and at times juxtaposing interests.

Built Your Self
an exhibition of 2D and 3D work by
Cameron Eaton
22nd June to 5th August 2018

Roma on Bungil Gallery
Hawethorn St, Roma QLD 4455

Wednesday, October 4, 2017

Thursday, September 21, 2017

A New Direction for the Same Old Thoughts

I’ve started writing this blog post at least half a dozen times only to stall after the first paragraph. I feel this work deserves some explanation but I’m struggling with the words. I have the words but when I spell them out, it sounds like rubbish. I don’t have the words but they’re all contradictory and by describing it, they sound like rubbish. Is it really that important anyway?

Forget the why.

What is it?

The process for each painting is the same. It begins with an abstract colour field and into that space I place a figure referenced from one of my life drawing sessions. Finally, overlaid on that is an extract of a technical drawing from a design project I’ve worked on.

The abstract backgrounds are imagination spaces. They are ill-defined and as a result, full of possibility. They have depth, a background and foreground. They are barren or fertile, structured or nebulous. Anything could happen there. Like an open horizon, they allow the mind to wander.

The figures are us. It’s a human story after all.

The technical drawings reference industry, change, progress, evolution. They are in some ways the antithesis of what it is to be natural but conversely, they are a direct expression of what it is to be human. We invent, we imagine, we resolve, we create. We make things that do things that make things easier and harder all the same time. Most frighteningly, our prolific making and doing and changing has pushed the effects of change beyond any sort of control we might comfortably bring to bear (assuming we ever had any control to begin with). Nature is beyond our control and we are nature, so therefore, we are beyond all control.

I’ve struggled for ideas of how best to describe my thoughts or create a visual narrative to express my feelings. So, I’ve abandoned any effort to do so.  I have assembled the elements. The images invite the divination of a narrative. It’s up to the viewer.