I always look forward to the annual John Shaw Neilson Art Prize, as it’s an opportunity to endeavour marrying, however subjectively, an image with words, in this case a poem by the celebrated poet from Penola, South Australia. The poem I chose for inspiration was ‘Dear Little Cottage’. Rather than the description of the cottage itself, it was the lines about what went on inside the cottage that provided vivid mind-pictures – the fiddler playing and feet dancing on the rough boards.
The lines speak of old-time entertainment, before the digital age. Of evenings spent with friends gathering, instruments coming out of their cases, and impromptu sessions of bush and folk music, the kind that makes you want to tap your feet, sing along, or get up and dance.
I did, however, welcome the digital age and the knowledgeable Mr Google, while researching photos of fiddlers and bush-dancing couples.
While carving the block in stages, and pulling the prints, I was transported back to to the era I was depicting, when things were done the long and satisfying way, by hand. Adding to the atmosphere, I had the tape deck (yep, still have one that works) going non-stop with home-grown music from Blackwood, The Bruce Brothers ‘Kitchen Music’, and a selection of harp music by Andy Rigby.
In times past, while living in Central Victoria, I had the privilege of being invited to some ‘house music’ sessions. What amazing and joyful experiences. Thanks, guys, for the memories.
The actual process turned out to be a struggle because of issues with the ink and paper being a less than perfect marriage, and lacking time to allow each colour printed hang on the rack for a week or more of drying time. Rather than an edition of four prints I ended up with two unique state prints and two disasters! The print entered into the competition sold during the exhibition, which was a thrill. The other print was sold in the Clarice Beckett Art Award exhibition today.