Blockie Artist Statement
Blockie was created for the Castlemaine State Festival, taking into consideration the festival's theme 'the art of making and artisanship in the region'. I wanted to sculpt a work that would have many levels of meaning and be appreciated by the general populous as well as the conceptually initiated.
Car culture is part of central Victorian life, and Castlemaine is known as the Street Rod centre of Australia. At surface level Blockie could be viewed purely as homage to the Street Rod fans of Castlemaine. The 1934 Ford Coupe's details are slavishly researched and contructed. The name of the work, Blockie, acknowledges the practice of showing off vehicles in a continuious holding pattern around the main busiest blocks of town on a Friday or Saturday night. The sculpture is American right hand drive, something the Street Rod purists insist is the way these machines should remain as a sign of respect for the heritage of Ford.
However there are other deeper levels of meaning if the viewer examines the main material used in construction. The reeds, Phragmites Australis, were sourced from gullies and creek beds that were once full of miners searching for gold, the very reason that towns such as Castlemaine and Bendigo were built in the first place. The reeds were also used by Indigenous peoples from the region in various ways. Blockie is also about questioning Colonial invasion of indigenous cultures and ensuring civilisation's effect on the natural world.
The idea of taking a resource from the land and to use for our own survival and benefit is one as old as time itself. With colonisation this practice accelerated into taking not just for survival but to stockpile or build wealth. This is in direct opposition to many indigenous cultures who took minimal resources purely for survival or spiritual reasons and moved on, avoiding exhaustion of a particular commodity, returning at a time when replenishment has occurred.
I collected some of the reeds over a year ago and had them stored as they were left over from a previous exhibition at Allans Walk Artist Run Space.For Blockie I returned to these sites which had re-vegetated and I could harvest from the same areas, this is apparent when the different tones of the reeds are examined, yellow older and the more green in appearance the more recent.
The act of taking these reeds and making art partially relates in some ways to colonisation in the sense that they were not taken for a practical survival related need. They were however taken for a spiritual reason, to celebrate the act of making and Artisanship, relating to the Festival's theme and were taken in a manner akin to that of Indigenous methods leaving time for replenishment.
I also see the use of organic and manufactured materials, Natural reeds and manufactured glue, as being a metaphor for co-existence between indigenous and non-indigenous Australians. Finally the use of an organic material to imitate a manufactured form or object creates dialogue about a swapping of roles between nature and manufacture. In our world it is common to find manufacture replicating nature – it is uncommon and virtually non existent the other way around.
I am a great admirer of Australian and international artists who use patience and attention to detail as an integral part of their practice, requiring an almost meditative discipline to create their concepts and works. I also subscribe to the questioning of society's values and our way of life and appreciate artworks that entice the viewer with aesthetics, concealing currents of stinging subtext.