Sunday, February 28, 2010

a small house



My friend Anna brought this little house at a second hand market.


What is interesting about it is that it seems to have been made to 'house' this little glass figurine (or that is what we like to think).
The roof lifts off so access can be made to the little glass figure. I think that the whole thing is excellent







Friday, February 26, 2010

small object


Kneeling bull holding a spouted vessel 
Proto-Elamite; 3100–2900 B.C.
Iran, southwestern region
16.3 x 6.3 x 10.8cm


Wednesday, February 24, 2010

a detail


a part of a new piece that I am working on


Monday, February 22, 2010

a box


 this fabric piece is going to be a box.


box n. 1. a case or receptacle, usu. rectangular, of wood, metal, cardboard, etc., with a lid or removable cover...3. the quantity contained in a box... 9. a small shelter...


As civilized man began to wander, the box became extremely important as a means of taking his possessions with him. A portable enclosure for his belongings was a necessity...

...A study of boxes is a study of the changing values of civilized man, for by learning about the various uses of old boxes we acquire knowledge about those things that man felt were his most precious belongings.

...The box has been used to protect, contain, or simply to decorate, for centuries. 

Boxes - The Collector's Book of Boxes. Marian Klamkin 1972


for storing our treasured possessions... the box is functional and practical... a box holds something


As one becomes conscious of one's self, one becomes a conscious collector of identity, projecting one's being onto the object's one chooses to live with. Taste, the collector's taste, is a mirror of the self.

The Cultures of Collecting, Roger Cardinal


"May my story be beautiful and unwind like a long thread..." she recites as she begins her story. A story that stays inexhaustible within it's own limits.
Trinh T. Minh-ha


Sunday, February 21, 2010

on my way to

on the way to my sister's farm there are lots of things I love to look at





I don't think that I really understood where I came from until I travelled overseas and returned. My family is from down south in Victoria, by the sea. This new landscape where my sister lives is similar but also very different to where we grew up. It is also very dry and I suppose at times unforgiving. I try to go and visit as much as I can. I have an obsession with gum trees, and the drive which starts in the city ends on a dirt road lined with gums.
I am making copper boxes at the moment. On this recent drive I had to stop and take a photo of 2 sheds that I always look out for on the trip up. They remind me of something that I hope to capture in my work, and of where I come from.


We shape our dwellings, and afterwards our dwellings shape us.

Winston Churchill



Falls Country
(for Peter Skryznecki)

I had an aunt and an uncle
brought up on the Eastern Fall.
They spoke the tongue of the falls-country,
sidelong, reluctant as leaves.
Trees were their thoughts:
peppermint-gum, black sally,
white tea-tree hung over creeks,
rustle of bracken.
They spoke evasively,
listened to evident silence,
ran out  on people...

[the last stanza goes: 

...Listen. Listen,
latecomer to this country,
sharer in what I know
eater of wild manna.
There is
there was
a country
that spoke in the language of leaves.
Judith Wright

( I brought my copy of Phantom Dwelling by Judith Wright in London in 1993.When I first went overseas, what I missed most was the Australian sky and the trees)





Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Poetry and Memory



Third Elegy  2007
acrylic paint, beads, thread     
970 x 1220mm


Below is another article written about my Distant Elegies exhibition. It is by the amazing Ramona Barry and was published in Craft Culture a publication of Craft Victoria.

Poetry and Memory, the new work of Katherine Bowman
By Ramona Barry

‘But who are they, tell me, these travelers, even more transient that we are ourselves..’
Ranier Maria Rilke, Duino Elegy #5

On a warm Saturday morning I drove from the city to the country. I was off to the Warrnambool Regional Art Gallery for the opening of Katherine Bowman’s latest show ‘Distant Elegies’. I would drive inland through towns like Winchelsea, Colac, Camperdown and Terang. Before arching towards the ocean. Signs proclaiming country fairs and races, firewood for sale and fruit and flower stands by the side of the road. The land still drought- stricken but beautiful with canola fields, low stone walls and storm fronts gathering in the distance. I am a stranger to this countryside that Katherine Bowman knows well. I was not alone on the road either. Her family and friends were traveling from all over Victoria to support her and to see what she’d been up to this past year.

I’d been lucky enough to visit Bowman in her home studio the week before. Trained as a jeweler with the soul of a fine artist her home reflects her work. White washed walls contain treasured objects, her work bench is clean and ordered. The kitchen smells of lemons and earl grey tea. Her production jewellery sits beside paintings of birds on tin, sculptural pieces from her masters work (felted and beaded house structures that stand small but resolute). It is clear that Bowman’s work practice is truly integrated into her life. Each day spent at the bench, or, as is the case this past year, facing the canvas.

It is the long corridor I was most interested in. Lined with 9 large canvases. Simple paintings of anonymous black and white figures floating in white space. On closer inspection sections are beaded and stitched. Tendrils, nerves, tree roots extend out from the figures as if their externality is being revealed. They evoke feelings of nostalgia and poeticism and with good reason.

The starting point for this body of work came many moons ago. In the final year of her Masters work (2003) her grandmother entrusted Bowman with a box of photographs. A collection of 50 odd images from her grandparent’s time in Warrnambool in the 1930’s as itinerant farm workers. Photos of men and women in their Sunday best standing in muddy fields, working, living, playing and being on the land.

Sometime later Bowman began reading Ranier Maria Rilke’s Duino Elegies, poems that examined the individual’s response to being human. Complex and dense, these are poems that need to be read and reread at careful pace, perfect for the mind of a jeweller. For Bowman they held resonance with the photos. Bowman instantly saw paintings in her head and it began her journey that lead to the creation of a new series and style. Bowman had always made objects, and tinkered with painting – but now embarked on a year long endeavor of facing the canvas. She selected ten images for the ten elegies and began work

Why does a jeweller become a painter? As Bowman says “I always work from subject, not material and I think you have to honour your subject”. Paintings had been what appeared in her mind so paintings they had to be. That is not to imply that the maker in her was suppressed by the brush. As the images emerged so did Bowman’s desire for embellishment encroach. Simple skirts became encrusted by bugle beads, tree roots came alive with chain stitch And finally, with Elegy Number 10 Bowman returned to the object – as simple wedding band on a table with all the secret desires and imagined dreams of the wearer extending out of it. Interesting that as the final work neared completion Bowman returned to a desire to create an object as if refocusing herself after a long period of working in a radically different way.

And what of the poems? There is no denying the impact they had on the work as you read them and then attach meaning to the work it does make sense but I think it all too neat to just equate meaning from one to the other. I felt there was much more a connection to Katherine’s own personal history, and the history of her family. The figures, despite their finery, could not hid there inner lives. They seep out of them like an aura, something that is barely visible but cannot be contained.

“Look, trees exist; houses,
We live in, still stand. Only we
Pass everything by, like an exchange of air.
And all is at one, in keeping us secret, half out of
shame perhaps, half out of inexpressible hope’

Rilke, Elegy #2

In the gallery space the work was transformed. The figures hung together as a group, a gathering of memory, history and poetry. As Katherine’s friends, family, colleagues and admirers moved around the space they became a part of the work – a continuation of her history. The warm light of the gallery revealed the intricate stitching and beading – the repetitive and even chains that threaded along tree branches and nervous systems. The work became more celebratory, less melancholy more a celebration for the human spirit. A desire to reveal the emotional rather than conceal it with anonymous faces and uniform elegance.

A photographer moved through the space to capture the occasion. And I imagined these images, almost all in attendance dressed in black and grey, mingling in with that original box Bowman’s grandmother had passed on.

Katherine Bowman Distant Elegies
Warrnambool Regional Art Gallery until December 9.
Flinders Lane Gallery Feb -5 -16 2008

click on images for more detail

Monday, February 15, 2010

Bees of the Invisible

The catalogue I produced to go with my exhibition Distant Elegies had an essay written by Kevin Murray.
I was incredibly touched and thankful for this essay, for when I read it I felt that he had understood what I was attempting with this body of work, and that meant a great deal to me.
Below is the essay.

Bees of the invisible

Katherine Bowman was alerted to the writings of Rilke after a friend recommended Gaston Bachelard’s Poetics of Space. Bachelard quotes liberally from Rilke’s poetry in attempting to describe the hidden meanings we project onto the world. Rilke’s Duino Elegies is a series of ten poems written in two separate periods of his life, first in 1912 and then just before his death in 1922. His intense poetry taps the deep vein of emotions and memory that underlie our ordinary life.
At the time of reading Rilke, Bowman happened to be browsing some black and white snaps collected by her grandmother. The many anonymous figures in black and white evoked the tender sense of loss that imbues Duino Elegies with its sensitive appreciation of life’s finitude—what Rilke calls ‘the absolutely miraculous line of this so strangely lived life’.
This exhibition is quite special. We have nine elegant linen canvases, each housing a constellation of images from a local past—the windy day, the horse, the tree, the bicycle, etc. The presence of things is framed by a ghostly world of images that evoke the passing of time—the ship, the birds. Bowmans paintings give some measure of the depth to the many lives once lived, lived here in Western Victoria.
But Bowman is more than a painter. She is by trade and passion a jeweller. She is conversant with the precious detail as well as the big picture. So her canvases are embroidered with subtle details that hint at the material life that once existed.
Almost like a key to the series of paintings, Bowman lays out a table of items for us to consider. From a wedding ring emerges a world of things. This evokes the mystery of a jeweller’s vocation, as couples entrust her with the embodiment of their joint lives in a thin sliver of metal. For Rilke,
And we: spectators, always, everywhere, turned toward the world of objects, never outward. It fills us. We arrange it. It breaks down. We rearrange it, then break down ourselves.[1]
Bowman’s exhibition continues her long-standing interest in the material life of memory, particularly the power of textures to evoke the depth of the past. While we don’t all share her experience in Western Victoria, we can jointly imagine the world that is evoked. Perhaps there’s even something about the rolling landscape of this region that is especially conducive to memory.
In a famous letter, Rilke described artists as the ‘bees of the invisible’. For Rilke,
It is our task to imprint this temporary, perishable earth into ourselves so deeply, so painfully and passionately, that its essence can rise again, ‘invisibly,’ inside us.[2]
This mission was an urgent imperative for Rilke. The Duino Elegies were written in the shadow of the machine age, which threatened to replace all expression with function. Today we live in the thrall of the screen age, which attempts to flush out all shadows in the stroboscopic excess of images. As fellow Western Victorian writer Gerald Murnane once wrote, ‘the invisible is only what is too brightly lit.’[3] We should embrace Bowman’s work like a root that connects us to the dark rich soil below.     

[1] Rainer Marie Rilke ‘Duino Elegies’ from Selected Poetry of Rainer Maria Rilke (ed and trans Stephen Mitchell) London: Picador, 1982, p. 195
[2] Letter to translator, Witold Hulewicz, 13 November 1925
[3] Gerald Murnane The Plains Harmondsworth: Penguin, 1982, p. 104


Fifth Elegy
acrylic paint, sterling silver charms, thread, enamel paint,
1000 x 1570mm


Sixth Elegy
   acrylic paint, beads, thread
   1120 x 1220mm




 first 3 photographs by Terence Bogue, last 3 by me