FERN STUDIO FLOOR: A COSMOLOGY
15 March – 5 April, 2014
In December 2013 I spent three weeks at the Bundanon Trust Artist Residency on Arthur Boyd’s Estate, 40 minutes west of Nowra, NSW. The estate manages the Boyd family homestead, 7 artist studios and 1100 acres of farmland flanked majestically by the Shoalhaven River. It is a stunningly beautiful and equally remote part of the world. Artists can apply to stay as long as they like. It’s an opportunity for us to work and develop new projects in the sanctuary of the bush and under the auspice of one of Australia’s most respected painters. It is a marvellous opportunity.
While I was there I spent a lot of the time with my head down. I was working through some personal issues that were troubling me, but what really caught my eye was the residue of previous residents. Bundanon can accommodate artists of all disciplines – dancers, musicians, writers, but Fern Studio was clearly used by painters.
It’s not uncommon for art studios to be covered in paint, but what makes Fern Studio interesting is its history. Each swatch of colour, drip and splatter represents the work of an artist who has participated in the residency prior to my arrival. Each of us, I presume, motivated by Boyd’s legacy and the prospect of creating something meaningful.
Armed with a camera and a wide stance I commenced documenting the floor, searching for dramatic compositions. It seemed that everywhere I looked there was a new constellation of colour and form.
It’s no secret artists suffer from a grandiosity complex. We hold on to a romantic belief that what we do is important. The isolation of a residency amplifies that delusion, more so in the bush. While I struggled with personal demons I was comforted by Boyd’s generosity. It was written colourfully across the floor, and in some places the walls. In moments of sadness I looked down and was reminded that the impulse to create is not unique but shared.
Like all my work, in which overlooked things are transformed and allegorised, Fern Studio’s floor is rendered fantastical through its treatment as an animation of slow moving photographs. This process has been informed by the potential for each image to appear not only as a paint-covered floor, but something else. At The Walls, Fern Studio Floor is projected upwards, onto a floating screen hanging from the ceiling. Visitors are encouraged to lie down and be seduced by this well trodden floor and its transformation into art.
Fern Studio Floor explores the significance of the Bundanon Trust Artist Residency to the artists who have worked there. It is partly documentary, partly abstract, and partly science fiction. It summarises three decades of spilled paint into a romantically cosmic affirmation of a grandiose artistic impulse and Boyd’s patronage.
Chris Bennie, 2014
Chris Bennie’s work has been exhibited in the Gallery of Modern Art, Brisbane; the Australian Centre of Contemporary Art, Melbourne; and the Contemporary Art Centre of South Australia. He is the recipient of the 2012 Gold Coast Art Award; the 2013 Swell Sculpture Festival Award; a 2013 Australia Council for the Arts New Work grant; and a 2013 Regional Arts Development Fund grant. In 2014 Chris will research tsunami-affected communities and objects in Japan as part of an Asialink Residency Laboratory at Youkobo Art Space. Chris lectures in Fine Art at Griffith University Queensland College of Art. Chris Bennie currently lives and works on the Gold Coast.