11 October is Ada Lovelace Day, a commemoration the plucky Nineteenth Century woman who pioneered computer programming. Ada was the daughter of brooding poet Lord Byron. Ada’s mother, who feared her daughter would inherit some of her father’s flamboyant poetic tendencies, put Ada on a strict diet of mathematics and logic.
The result was a fabulously gifted mathematical mind. Her mentor, Charles Babbage, referred to her as “The Enchantress of Numbers.” The efforts to curb the Byron flamboyance were not as successful. Apparently, Ada was odd. (As a Quirky Kid advocate and die-hard fan, I suspect today we would celebrate — or at least allow for — her neuro-diversity).
Ada Lovelace Day & STEM
STEM stands for science, technology, engineering and mathematics, all areas that have remained relatively closed to women and girls. 11 October provides an occasion to encourage girls to study STEM subjects and celebrate the noteworthy achievements of STEM career women around…
June: Renee – what led you to work with paper sculptures?
Renee: The desire to develop my practice and the love of sculptures created the impetus to evolve from 2-dimensional to 3-dimensional works.
My paper-sculptures require intricate hand-cutting and working with sharp tools, which I can only attribute to influences from south pacific oceanic art. My parents can attest to my early love of trawling through craft markets, PNG Arts warehouses and the National Museum in Port Moresby, Papua New Guinea.
When working with paper, it is difficult not to draw inspiration from the art of origami. The process of transforming the flat-paper medium into a constructed form is always magical!
June: What are the challenges and advantages of working in these media?
Renee: Ha!Ha!Ha! I will try to be brief
One of the challenges is the commitment of labour-intensive hours. Preparing for an exhibition involves a long-lead timeline, self-discipline and many re-heating of cups of tea. My practice is only possible because I have the support of my amazing family and husband!
Another challenge is sourcing my paper as I am very selective about the quality of the paper. The paper I am currently using comes all the way from the UK in a 10 meter roll. Then there is the challenge of transporting the roll of paper to my studio, which is nestled within Torndirrup National Park in regional Western Australia.
The lovely advantage of working with paper is the cleaning-up. No splatters. No fumes. The only spills are from that neglected cup of coffee.
June: What are the main inspirations with your work (discuss a couple of examples)? (Tell me about any other paper artists and you can mention about spiritual inspirations such as – the paper cut for Tahirih?)
Renee: Reflecting on your question, I feel that works are inspired by story boards. Artisans along the mighty Sepik River (in Papua New Guinea) engrave their stories on panels of wood. The story boards would depict their village occupation, life, flora and fauna.
The contents of my works are inspired by stories and events concerning humanity. For example, for an exhibition entitled ‘Journeys of the Intrepid Woman’ (2012, ArtGeo, Western Australia), I was very privileged to present a series of works informed by the true story of Tahirih the Pure (1817 – 1847 approx). The first woman suffrage martyr was not from the West, but this young woman from Qazvin, Persia (today, Iran). Tahirih’s courageous life inspires millions of people today.
Being a Bahá’í also provides the further catalyst to grow my skills. The Bahá’í Writings allude to the central role of artists in society, stating that “…the true worth of artists and craftsmen should be appreciated, for they advance the affairs of mankind.”
Wow!!! what a profound role of the arts!!
Note: the quote is by Bahá’u’lláh (1817-1892), from a tablet translated from the Persian, cited in “Extracts from the Writings Concerning Arts and Crafts,” in The Compilation of Compilations, Vol.1, Mona Vale: Bahá’í Publications Australia, 1991, p. 1.]
June: Can you tell me a bit more about the one you did on the Papua New Guinean lady with the string bag on her head (I think)
Renee: The “lady with a bilum” work expresses my gratitute to the wonderful people and communities of Papua New Guinea. My teenage years (1980‘s) were spent in Port Moresby where my parents were working as educators. I feel that the Papua New Guinean community was like my spiritual mother; her nurturing and love played a profound role in those formative years.
A ‘bilum’ is a Papua New Guinean string bag, traditionally woven from natural string fibres, sometimes incorporating possum-hair. Bilums are used to carry sleeping children and food crops.
June: What has been the highlight of your arts practice and career?
Renee: The highlight of my art practice is when I was able to collaborate with other makers and creators.
The below are my growth-&-soul feeding events:
Working with Dr Marjorie Tidman and Naysan Faizi on Marjorie’s book cover for ‘Sifting The Dust – God and the Mad Psychologist’;
Working with Shameem Taheri-Lee and Jason Eshragian on the Under One Sun music video;
Prop-making for Delia Olam’s play at the 2015 Adelaide Fringe Festival. Note: Delia will be performing at the Edinburgh 2016 Fringe Festival.
Follow Renee on facebook Renee Farrant Art She is happy to consider commissions for paper cut cover art.
Thanks so much Renee for dropping by the blog and sharing your thoughts and practice on just how profound art can be.
There’s nothing quite as daunting as a blank page. Gasp! That void could be filled with anything. Or everything. Or nothing. The emptiness stymies. It taunts. It goads.
According to Stephen Sondheim, restrictions can unleash creativity. It seems counter-intuitive. Absolute freedom seems as if it should loosen us up, but what gets us going are boundaries to bounce against.
Name a theme.
Set a word limit.
Pick a genre.
Add a deadline.
Break a rule consistently.
Enter a competition.
Play word games (five-word sentences; narrative through dialogue only; no adjectives; no words beginning with A; create palindromes; play with a literary device).
All of these restrictions make it easier to get started and keep going.
Poetry and flash fiction are excellent writing practice for this reason. Both challenge the writer on with their super-tight restrictions (especially if the poetry you’re writing has a form rather than free verse.)
Arriving at my parent’s house a few days ago and mum pulls out a heap of scrapbooks of her mother’s. They contained the letters we wrote to her when we were kids.
I imagine my grandmother snored her way through all my letters. Countless, neatly typed (complete with whiteout) letters from me consisting of, “Dear Grandma, I hope you are not sick, we are not sick, have you had any rain? We have had 3mm of rain .. blah blah blah boring blah.
Meanwhile my little sister Lesley was writing enchanting stories about fish who could fly to the sun and magical underwater cities made of gold, where all the teachers were star fish. Lesley wrote about her favourite pigeon falling out of the banana tree, the roast duck tasting awful because mum burnt it and getting bitten by a snake.
Sometimes you make the most ridiculous assumptions.
The other night I pulled up after driving all day and parked under the bridge at the Emerald Botanical Gardens. It was bloody hot. Western Queensland driving all day in the heat hot.
It was late and dark; the lights in the garden had dimmed to a glow. I had the car wide open thinking about all my well meaning friends telling me to stay safe, lock up, don’t talk to strangers. All the usual things I ignore as I hug them goodbye.
Through the trees I could see a man at a table with a heap of buckets, shining his torch into the garbage bin and on the ground looking for food. I thought maybe I should take over the can of sardines I had but something stopped me; was it the safety warnings or something else?