I am in the small town of Gyor (pronounced D’yer) mixing oil paint on a small wooden palette in the middle of a large white museum room. My easel and canvas sit in front of me while I stare out the second story window at Hungarian rooftops in a warm summer breeze.
The building happens to be a 17 century baroque palace called the Napoleon Museum (the man himself stayed the night here in 1809 after a nearby battle.) The space is large, 4 rooms with white temple windows and high ceilings. It is one of the main museums in Gyor and located in the centre of the town. It is also where myself and 9 other artists will be working towards an exhibition during August 2012.
I am an artist as well as a museum studies/science communication/biology student at Macquarie University. During the winter break I was invited to travel from Australia to Europe to participate in the 44th International Art Residency held by the Városi Művészeti Múzeum in Győr, Hungary.
The annual art residency and symposium is a three week event where artists from different countries, cultures, and cities join together in the museum to create work for an exhibition. I will be participating alongside another talented Sydney artist, Monika Viktoria, as well as ten established and emerging artists from Hungary and Slovakia.
It is an opportunity to try new techniques, to connect with and be inspired by the contemporary artists participating and have an enriching experience surrounded by an ancient city steeped in history.
Gyor is a dream city if you are predisposed to reveling in baroque architecture. Every building in the old centre has been restored as if we have stepped back in time and the cobble stoned pedestrian streets are lined with palaces in pastel hues of yellow, pink and blue with white ornate trimmings.
The ancient core of the city was built at the convergence of three rivers: the Danube, Rába and Rábca. I have had the pleasure of taking part in the local sport of dragon boat racing, a long boat with ten paddlers doing it Viking style. During long summer evenings, myself and the artists would frequently go for a refreshing dip.
To strengthen the bonds between the Australian and Hungarian female artists participating, the first week of the residency the five of us undertook a collaborative workshop. Each artist brought in their artwork for others to use. Through this process we learnt about each other’s inspirations and techniques while making new work.
I was inspired by a printmaking technique, rubbing an image on to paper to create a series of textures and patterns inspired by cells and microscopy. The series is called ‘Biological Dreaming’.
The last two weeks I made several smaller series of work. Four paintings were of local Hungarian botanical life, painted from clippings collected from a nearby forest.
I was inspired by an exhibition I had seen at the London Natural History Museum which documented the botanical paintings made by Joseph Banks during the 1768 HMS Endeavour Voyage to Australia with Captain James Cook. Painting from local botanical samples was a way of connecting to the history of naturalist exploration and documentation.
I also made another series of three paintings, which were explorations of 18 Century portraiture, costume and lace. The 18-19 centuries were reaching new heights of scientific exploration and knowledge of the world. I am inspired by the way the lace and neck ruffles of the period become symbols of intellectual feats, while the physical form of the lace also reminds me of patterns in nature and microscopic life forms.
Continuing a trajectory I have been exploring in my art practice for the last year or so, I also made a series of small sculptures. Created from paper and wax, they are geometrical forms inspired by the 18-19th century tradition of cabinets of curios and biologist and illustrator Ernst Haeckle’s ‘Art Forms in Nature’.
The exhibition opened in the Napoleon Museum on the 10 of August and will be showcased for one month. I was fortunate to be invited to exhibit my drawing series in a large art festival in Slovakia in October