December 21, 2009

Sunday Pause: Our Greatest Fear

Image: Grow little plants, grow. The view from where I am currently sitting.

Our Greatest Fear

Our greatest fear is not that we are inadequate,
but that we are powerful beyond measure.

It is our light, not our darkness, that frightens us.
We ask ourselves, Who am I to be brilliant,
gorgeous, handsome, talented and fabulous?

Actually, who are you not to be?
You are a child of God.

Your playing small does not serve the world.
There is nothing enlightened about shrinking
so that other people won't feel insecure around you.

We were born to make manifest the glory of God within us.
It is not just in some; it is in everyone.

And, as we let our own light shine, we consciously give
other people permission to do the same.
As we are liberated from our fear,
our presence automatically liberates others.

~Marianne Williamson from her book 'A Return to Love'

Image: The view from the window here is of an apartment building/ creativity centre vibrantly painted with a lighthouse. Taken November, before all the leaves had fallen.

December 18, 2009

Goodbye Kaulsdorf

The Journey Continues

My bags are packed. It seems only yesterday I was unpacking, full of excitement, creativity and determination. The choice to move is sudden but I like that. I am going to be house sitting for a generous friend in another, much more central, part of Berlin.

I will miss this place. I have learnt a lot about simplicity here. I had one room which served as kitchen, office, bedroom, living room. The tiny bathroom sink I shared with another girl also served as the place I did my dishes. Due to very limited equipment and no fast food nearby I cooked only simple meals and my health has improved because of it. Cereal for breakfast, salad for lunch, chicken & mixed vegetables for dinner. Fruit, nuts and yoghurt for snacks. Tea, lots of tea.

In the mornings I would wake up and stoke the fire in order to have warmth for the day. There is no TV, though I haven't watched much television since I was a child anyway. At night I could hear the squirrels rustling in the ceiling and watch the stars through the skylight above my bed.

I have accumulated very little since I have been here- art supplies, a few books and some winter clothes. Home in Australia I was known for hoarding things. I could easily fill any inch of space with 'things' that I 'might' use again one day. It is wonderfully freeing to have so little.

Today I went for one final walk to the lakes. I mentioned earlier that I had never seen real snow before. Well, today I was gifted with snow, lots of it, enough to cover the ground and the cars and to tickle my nose when I walked through it. A pretty good goodbye present I think.

I may be leaving Kaulsdorf sooner than expected but I definitely got what I came for.



December 15, 2009

Jetstream

Just a quiet moment in Berlin.

This image reminds me how wonderful it is to have creative friends. I have been a photographer since I was twenty-one and taking photographs comes second-nature to me. I have my own way of seeing things and it shows in my pictures. On the afternoon this image was taken I was with three other creative types whom I now consider to be very good friends. We spontaneously decided to go for a wander and take photographs together. Seeing the images the others were taking inspired me to rethink how I compose my images, perhaps by incorporating more angles. In this image I feel I have combined my own sense of capturing a gentle moment in time with a more angle driven composition that is not my usual style.
I am very appreciative of the opportunities I have to learn from my friends.

This image also reminds me that one of these talented friends is leaving Berlin in two days to go home. Bon Voyage Steven! I'm sure we'll meet again soon.

December 14, 2009

Sunday Pause: Promise Yourself


Promise Yourself

"Promise yourself to be so strong that nothing can disturb your peace of mind.

To talk health, happiness, and prosperity to every person you meet.

To make all your friends feel like there is something in them.

To look at the sunny side of everything and make your optimism come true.

To think only of the best, to work only for the best, and expect only the best.

To be just as enthusiastic about the success of others as you are about your own.

To forget the mistakes of the past and press on to the greater achievements of the future.

To wear a cheerful countenance at all times and give every living person you meet a smile.

To give so much time to the improvement of yourself that you have no time to criticize others.

To be too large for worry, too noble for anger, and too strong for fear, and too happy to permit the presence of trouble."

~The Optimist Creed

I was in Grade 8 or 9 when my Art teacher gave us each an A3 sized printout of The Optimist Creed. It was on plain paper, in black and white with a decorative border. Thirteen years later, I still have it, although it is a little worse for wear. I can almost quote it by heart. In such a simple gesture that teacher has greatly influenced my life. Thinking back on who she was I am greatly inspired by how she lived her life and how she influenced her students. She taught us to be strong, independant, to appreciate beauty and to give 100% in everything we did for our own sake and no one else's. She taught by example.

On the outskirts of my home town on old sheep-grazing property she created the most beautiful rose garden with hundreds of varieties of roses, meandering paths and creeks. Visiting there one could feel (and still can) the love that went into creating it. By the time I was in grade 11 she had remarried and moved somewhere far away and I never had the chance to thank her. Nor could I realize then the impact such small gestures would have on my life.

Image: Butterfly in Bruges, Belgium, July 2009.

December 10, 2009

Berlin Foto Labor


I must admit I am a bit of a geek and more than a little precious when it comes to having my images printed. So I was very apprehensive about picking up 'Dew' from the lab today. There is quite a financial outlay required to print large prints on the papers I like. If there is anything even the slightest bit wrong- a fleck, a scratch or the wrong colour balance then I have to get it reprinted. This preciousness can leave me out of pocket quite a bit. But I couldn't handle having a work of mine out there that was less than the best I could do. I lose sleep over these kind of things.

The lab I chose, however, has more than exceeded my expectations so I am not only relieved but also ecstatic at how well it has worked out. The print looks better than ever! There is an excellent gradation in tones from lights to darks, the blacks are not compressed (which is a problem with some papers) and there is just the right amount of contrast. Okay, so maybe this is more to do with the paper I chose but the labs set up and ICC profiles has obviously helped.

The lab staff were very helpful and treated my image with as much care as I would. My German is only basic so far but they could speak English well enough that we got by. I love the set-up. Eizo monitors, clean workspaces, proper viewing stations and white gloves for handling are very reassuring. It is also very convenient that I can upload and order images via their website though you can also drop images in personally. They print at 360DPI and provide ICC profiles for the highest quality image reproduction.

If you are looking for a lab in Berlin I can highly recommend Viertal vor 8. I think it is also a cute coincidence that they have an Australian kangaroo as their logo.
I hope to get more images printed there soon!

December 9, 2009

Jacaranda Love Goes Under the Hammer


"...the balloons play out human emotions and human agendas. I allow them to be spontaneous, to fight or be still as their mood dictates. Like humans they get tangled up in each other, they feel lonely, they reflect on lifes mysteries and they dance for joy in the sunlight..." ~extract from artist statement.

Jacaranda Love is the second image going up for auction at 140 Hours of Fame. This image is from my 2008 series The Outsiders

The image to be auctioned is numbered no. 9 of 10 and is 20x20 inches. It is printed on Baryta archival photographic paper which is similar to traditional fibre based papers and has a superb dynamic range.

When I photographed this image I imagined the two balloons as a couple, in love and becoming ever more intertwined with each other. The Jacaranda blooms in late Spring and for many Australians on the east coast (particularly Brisbane & Grafton) is a joyful reminder of the coming of Christmas.

If you would like to know more about this image or series please contact me.

November 26, 2009

A few thoughts on becoming an Artist

Click to view larger

Less than 48 hours after my exhibition opened at the QCP I was on a plane headed for Europe, ready for new adventures. It probably seems a strange way to do it but I'd already planned the trip before I was offered the QCP space.
The exhibition went well. I was thrilled with how many people came to show their support. I received the above press about the exhibition. The image 'Fog' was also featured in the arts page of the Brisbane News. I'd sold two prints before the exhibition even opened (thank you!). For a first solo exhibition I was very happy with how it went.

Now that I am finally (!!) working on a new body of work I have been reflecting on my career as an artist so far. It has not quite been a year since I graduated from university. A graduation that only just happened despite being in the top percentile for every subject I did bar the last one (it's a very long story). Two days before Christmas one teacher warned me 'You have no resilience Rachel. You will never make it as an artist unless you can develop some resilience'.

Well it has been almost a year and I feel like I am gathering strength as an artist. I feel like I have struggled with myself all year, at one stage I wanted to throw it all in, I felt like all the creativity had been sucked out of me and I hated the art world and all the incest within it.

The last two months have seen an exciting turn around. By working across multiple fields- writing, painting, photographing I have opened up new doors to ideas and new ways of working and existing. I have also, thankfully, moved beyond wanting to be someone else and stopped trying to imitate them although they still influence me and motivate me to work harder. It's taken a year to become independant. The hardest thing for me was to create work outside of University where I don't have a deadline or a teacher to give me a grade and give my work value. I am now my own judge.

I've still got a long way to go, I'm still in the starving (and slightly insane) artist category. For that I am keeping one word in my head at all times: Resilience.

I've currently got hundreds of images to sort through for my next series. For the first time I've photographed people - a major step outside the comfort zone of a born and bred introvert. I'm exploring ideas that I am not passionate about but rather completely intrigued by, which is far more interesting. I feel like I am poking my fingers into something intangible and it is wonderfully fun and satisfying. I am interested in the artist as a scientist, as a researcher exploring ideas that can't yet be expressed verbally. It's a nice feeling to be consumed by my work again.

November 25, 2009

Under the Hammer, Virtually!


Exciting news! My image 'Dew' from the Archimedes' Field series is going up for auction with 140 Hours of Fame. 140 Hours is the first online art auction to use Twitter and is described as "re-inventing the art auction business and making it ready for the 21st century". It is held by the New York based Galerie Saint George. Their first auction held in early November was a great success and I'm excited to be a part of the second.

"140 Hours:24" goes live this Friday 27th November from 12noon EST until 12noon Saturday 28th November. So 24 hours only! The starting bid for Dew is $300US, so this is a great opportunity to get your hands on one of the Archimedes' Field images.

The image for auction is numbered no. 7 of 10 and is 70cm x70cm (27.55x27.55inches). There are only seven remaining of this image. Last year 'Dew' was a finalist in the Clayton Utz Launch Scholarship and was recently exhibited at the Queensland Centre for Photography.

As part of a larger series examining impermanence and the cyclical nature of life Dew is the image that represents hope for the future.

The auction listing for Dew can be found here.

To find out about the bidding process click here or visit the auction home page here.

UPDATE: 'Dew' no. 7 of 10 sold for $300US to a collector in the US.

November 7, 2009

The Kaulsdorf Lakes






Click images to view larger

Woke at 3:30am today. The moon was shining on my face. I never considered that the moon could wake me up. But after weeks of cloud and rain I was happy to see it. I left the house before sunrise. The streets were peaceful. The ground was frost covered. The air was a combination of mist and chimney smoke. I knew where I was going.

November 2, 2009

Three years left


Last night I dreamed that everyone had numbers on their wrists that indicated how many years they had left to live. My wrist said three. Naturally I was concerned. Someone said to me that if I change right now I could change that number. Before my eyes appeared a table of organic fruits, vegetables and juices as if to say 'this is what will save you.'

Sometimes my dreams have no subtlety at all.

October 29, 2009

Progress Report #1

It's been a week since my honesty blog post so I thought I would update with how everything is going so far.


Photography
I've been working on concepts for a new body of photographic work but this week I didn't make any progress on it. I'm at the point where I need to approach people but I'm so shy when it comes to this. I just need to do it.

After much consideration I have reopened my online shop and added new images to it. I'll continue to do so over the coming weeks.

Other than that everyday I have been going for regular walks in search of that 'magic moment'.

Oh yes! And I picked up a polaroid camera at the flea markets here in berlin and @roidrage gave me a fantastic tour of the city showing me where to get all my photography supplies from.

I'm also full to the brim on inspiration having devoured the Frankie photo album and then devouring blogs such as The Drifter and the Gypsy, Hei Astrid, Thumbelina and The Feather Circus (great poetry as well).


Writing
Going very well. I've almost finished another short story for the course I am doing. Just need to tweak the ending a little bit but should be done by the weekend.

I've been reading a lot of short stories to learn how the masters do it. For my birthday earlier this month my landlords gave me a book 'Best Australian Short Stories' full of the classics. It's as if they knew me. I also picked up a small book of Katherine Mansfield short stories ( 'The Garden Party' is one of her most well known pieces) which I just loved.

Received the comments back from my tutor for my first story and they were all positive with only a few punctuation errors to be fixed. Found a great magazine to submit it to but want to let the story sit for a few weeks in case I decide to make some changes.

Oh and I'm getting involved with the Forward Motion writing community again (after a six year hiatus). I've thrown myself in the deep end and tomorrow I will be joining a 48hr writing marathon where the goal is to write 5000 words in that time. I think it will be a great way to kill that dratted inner critic and have some real fun with my writing.


Art
This one is requiring a lot of work as I am out of practise. I've been doing painting exercises almost everyday and drawing regularly and I have already noticed a lot of improvement. I need to get materials though. I've been using the cheapest acrylics and brushes. I have plans for a series of paintings but I want to save up for the materials for these. I hope to create some small original drawings/ watercolours to help raise money for the materials I need for the larger pieces. Will continue working on these in the coming weeks.

Digging Deeper and giving more in all my work
Coming along slowly. I wish I could be just 'there' already but will just have to be content with taking baby steps and pushing myself further and further. (I guess they aren't baby steps then - no one pushes a baby that hard!)

Despite the fact that I seem so serious all the time I actually am enjoying all this hard work. It's very satisfying.

How is your week going?

October 28, 2009

Under The Table

Keeping my head straight about everything I do and want to do is proving very difficult. A lot of time at the moment is taken up with planning and working out how I am going to manage it all. To be honest I think I spend too much time planning. I think it is an anxiety thing. I have been planning and re-planning and over-planning with lists typed into the computer, lists and writing in my journals, mind maps on large sheets of paper, planning everywhere! It's been a little excessive but I think I'm done now and ready to get stuck into everything. Time management is going to be essential. I am both the employer and the employee. I set myself daily schedules to work on each aspect of my work and the only hindrance to my schedule is feeling like 'it's not going to work' or 'this is too hard!' Shutting up that inner critic is so hard. Sometimes I just want to crawl under my desk and wait for the world to end. Today, for a laugh, and to get it out of my system I actually did. But I took some things with me, setting up a little sanctuary of objects that make me happy. It was quite fun and hilarious reminding me of when I was a kid and used to snuggle up with my toys and a book (usually 'Snugglepot and Cuddlepie' or 'The Muddle Headed Wombat') in whatever small space I could find.

October 26, 2009

Dusk Fog





At dusk yesterday, I felt a stronger than usual urge to go for a walk with my camera. Perhaps it was a smell in the air, a feeling in the atmosphere, intuition or just restlessness but something was saying to me 'you have to be out there'.

With a vague idea of heading towards Biesdorf, a neighboring village I pass on the way to central Berlin, I began walking. Mostly I let my legs lead the way trusting my intuition.

The light was beautiful. It had been raining earlier in the day, there were puddles everywhere and a light fog. I began shooting intuitively not really looking for shots but feeling them instead. I intended to take the images home to study what it was I saw/ felt when I was in that moment.

I'd been chasing a tiny patch of illusive fog in some grass when I spied this field from a distance. It was one of those moments where my breath just left me.

I think I even gasped out loud.

October 23, 2009

Frankie, I Love You


Today I heard my landlord place something against my door. He'd already delivered the days firewood and coal so I knew exactly what it must be. I flew to the door and immediately began ungracefully tearing open my package. My Frankie Photo Album had arrived!!!


Yes, Lara and Louise I do love, love, LOVE the Frankie Photo Album!!!


The experience of a book such as this can only be improved with a cup of tea such as Peppermint or in this case Chamomile.

Aha! Here I am on pages 70-71. My image looks pretty good I think!

The book is simply darling. Words I would use to describe it are: uplifting, inspiring, melancholic, funny, sad, quirky, sweet, odd, endearing, nostalgic and lovely.

With images from artists all over the globe it evoked a sense of connectedness that I haven't experienced in a photo book in quite a while. I was impressed by the careful curation by the editors with the images on each page working together wonderfully and a range of emotions experienced in peaks and falls throughout the reading of it. It is the kind of book I can come back to over and over and still find enjoyment, peace and inspiration.

I settled in with a cup of tea and went through each page slowly, taking in the artists comments on each image. The book feels nice to touch too which is always important for me. It adds to its overall deliciousness. When I finished reading it I let out a deep sigh of contentment, got up, picked up my camera and went outside and started photographing.

Now that is a good book!

I believe there are still copies of the limited edition book available here though I hear they are selling very quickly.

Here is the image that made it into the book:

October 22, 2009

Honestly, Really, Truly




"Until one is committed, there is hesitancy, the chance to draw back, always ineffectiveness. Concerning all acts of initiative (and creation), there is one elementary truth the ignorance of which kills countless ideas and splendid plans. The moment one definitely commits oneself, then providence moves too"
-Johann Wolfgang Von Goethe

I've been painting, writing and organizing a new body of photographic work.

Yesterday, I wanted to throw in the towel. I'd had enough of cold weather, of bad tasting water, isolation and the long travel distance to the city. But in reality the real problem was that I'd had enough of feeling like there was no point in doing what I was doing and that I may as well give up.

My inner critic dogs my every step. 'Oh that's terrible', 'God, it's going to take you forever to get good at this, if you even get good'. 'You'll probably always be mediocre' 'Why bother trying. Just give up, go home and get a normal job' 'You are hurting everyone you know.' 'Everyone will see you as a failure because you don't work a real job and you're not earning any money' 'You're not working hard enough' and so on and so on ad nauseum. I don't know where this inner critic comes from but it drives me nuts.

At that crucial point where I was ready to give up Hazel Dooney published her blog post A Point Just Passed. It turned me back up the right way again with a realization that I need to commit to my dreams even more than I already have. Until now, there has always been an escape plan, the opportunity to save losing face but I know from experience that until one fully commits it is true that there is hesitancy. An unwillingness to give 100% to the work just in case it goes wrong and someone (being me in this case) looks like a fool. I want to pass that point of no return now.

Over the last few years I've gradually committed more and more to this dream. I've worked hard. I've had many successes. But one thing is missing. Honesty. The honesty that comes with confidence I don't yet have.

Art requires honesty and that scares me. If I'm to be truly honest I might stick out like a sore thumb. People might realize I don't conform to what is normal. I might make mistakes publicly, I might change my mind and then look inconsistent. People might criticize my actions. So many 'if's'. But if I am to commit to this (and I am) I have to be honest even if I'm not confident.

I want to be an artist. I want to work with new ideas and concepts. I want to be a writer. I want to say what I think. I want to make a difference. I want to do what I want to do. And I want to be good at it. Most of all, I just want to be me. I'm only here on earth for a short time and I want to make what I do count.

Conversations I've had with various people - actually everyone, especially myself - have left me feeling awkward and uncomfortable because I wasn't being completely honest. I'd tell people that I'm looking for a job here in Berlin or I'd dodge the truth and joke that I got lost on my way home. I'm not here to get a job. I am here to give my dreams a go. Kaulsdorf is the distraction free work space. Berlin is the dream city, swirling with creative energy that I go to for inspiration and ideas.

Honestly, I am in Berlin to be the only thing I can be. An artist.

Images: Autumn in Kaulsdorf-Berlin isn't bad really.

October 20, 2009

Dr. Sketchy's Berlin


As many of you know, two weekends ago I went to the Dr. Sketchy's Berlin life drawing class. Today, the photographs from Dr. Sketchy's have just been uploaded. Nina Zimmermann from SweetsnFreaks did a fantastic job of photographing the event.

Check out the images from the session here:

Dr. Sketchy's Berlin Gallery 10th October 2009

There is even a picture of me in there looking rather chequered (complete with serious expression and double-chin). I don't look quite as glamorous as the babe wearing the pasties.

The next Berlin Dr. Sketchy's is November 14th and I'm definitely going. Hopefully will get some much better drawings next time round!

Come with me if you are in Berlin, if not, check out if there is a Dr. Sketchy's in your city :-)

October 5, 2009

Home is Where the Heart is (Heart's in Kaulsdorf)


I think I dreamed my room into existence. While travelling through Poland, I imagined a room with lots of light, space and a large desk. This was the first room I looked at when I arrived in Berlin and it was perfect. There is a little fireplace (that I'm already using) and a wonderful skylight where I can see the stars and passing clouds from my bed if I lie in just the right spot. It is large enough that I can do yoga of a morning. I'm realizing how badly I need to get back into my practice (my poor hamstrings!).

In the afternoon I might bundle up and go for a walk to one of the nearby lakes and take some photographs. My first explorations yesterday led me through fields past many people, old and young, taking advantage of the wind to fly multi-coloured kites.

My home is about twenty-five minutes by train from the centre of Berlin, in a 'village' called Kaulsdorf, which for some people will seem a long way but it's perfect for me. I love catching the train home from the city. Colourful grafitti on high rise apartments gives way suddenly to autumnal trees and I feel like I am in the country again. I grew up in a small town so it feels nice to be surrounded by trees and peace. The bird-watcher in me has re-awakened with new to me species all around this area. Here I have the best of both worlds: peace, tranquility and nature as well as the creative energy of Berlin within reach.

Accustomed to the mild to hot climate of Brisbane, I am ill-prepared for the Berlin weather and have already made several trips to the well known second-hand clothing store Humana, but it will be an experience for sure. Apparently Kaulsdorf often gets snow in the Winter so I'm looking forward to hopefully seeing real snow for the first time.

This room will be my creative hub for the next few months and creative things are already happening with my first short story in a long time almost complete, two more to start, multiple drawings made and photos from my travels already being edited. And this is just the beginning.

September 29, 2009

Published!


Exciting News! One of my Field Polaroid images is featured in the just released Frankie Photo Album.
"Designed to inspire anyone who's ever picked up a camera and delight those who just like looking at pretty pictures."

It is the first photo book Frankie magazine has published. It has been a long time goal of mine to get some photography between the Frankie magazine pages so to be in their book is simply wonderful.

The limited edition frankie photo album features the work (and thoughts) of over 100 photographers from around the world. If you like, you can buy it online at

September 27, 2009

Dusting off the Cobwebs

Image: 'Looking Up', view from the balcony of my temporary home in Berlin

For the last two months, up until last week, I have been travelling around Europe. It has been quite an amazing adventure particularly the last two weeks where I got the taste for travelling on my own.

Initially, I'd intended to settle in Frankfurt but after a week quickly discovered it was not for me. I headed off to Poland for more adventure. Last week I arrived in Berlin (my excuse being that it is easier to get to Berlin from Warsaw than to Frankfurt) and I fell in love. The street art, the (alternative) lifestyle/s, the galleries, the fact I can not speak the language and the friendly people have led to a love affair and I'm not leaving... for a while anyway.

My plan is to stay here for four months and begin some new creative experiments both with photography and also with mixed media and paint. Berlin is the perfect place to find inspiration. I am also finishing a small writing course that I began too long ago.

I have a hunger for adventure now and sitting still no longer feels right for me so I'm sure it is going to be a very exciting and productive four months!

July 19, 2009

Field Polaroid #7: The Party is Over

This is the way the world ends
This is the way the world ends
This is the way the world ends
Not with a bang but a whimper.
-TS Eliot

video

Time to go, with the help of my little sister we released the remaining air out of the balloons so they could be disposed of in an environmentally friendly way.


It's ironic that I write this last Field Polaroid instalmant surrounded by storage boxes, my backback and ticket and accomodation details. It's the end of a chapter. Archimedes' Field was about deaths: deaths of relationships, of dreams and aspirations. But thanks to nature it became more about the cycles that occur. Today a chapter of my life comes to an end but tomorrow I'm leaving on a jet plane (sing with me now!) for Europe, and a new beginning.

The exhibition opened last night and was quite a success. I had so many of my friends and family there to support me which was just wonderful. I said a lot of my goodbye's there and saw a lot of people I hadn't seen in a long time. Thanks for coming guys!!!

If you didn't get to the opening it will be showing until the 16th August and I'm in the window space so you can go at any time that suits you!

Anyway, I'd better get back to packing up my life now.


July 14, 2009


AN INVITATION

You are invited to attend

Rachel Marsden's exhibition

ARCHIMEDES’ FIELD

Opening 5-8pm Saturday 18th July 2009

Queensland Centre for Photography

Cnr Russell and Cordelia Streets

South Brisbane

www.qcp.org.au

Exhibition continues until 16th August

www.rachelmarsden.com.au

July 5, 2009

Field Polaroid #5: They Rose Again

As the sun warmed the balloons, the dew evaporated and the balloons rose one by one until soon they danced in unison. They became the antidote to a melancholy view of impermanence and a testament to the cyclical nature of the universe.

June 28, 2009

Field Polaroid #4: Art and Science

Sunlight reaches out to touch the dormant dew-laden balloons. Longer blades of grass begin to sway in a light breeze.

Archimedes’ was the Greek scientist who discovered the principle of buoyancy. There is an infamous story of him leaping from his bath and running naked down the streets crying ‘Eureka’ when he noticed that water rose when he sat in his bath. The buoyancy principle applies equally to gases such as helium which are lighter than air. In this case the external pressure of oxygen forces the helium balloons upwards.


I think there are a lot of similarities between Scientists and Artists. Both require a creative, open and inquiring mind. Both have a natural curiosity. Importantly, both work with the future in mind. The products of both scientific discovery and art also give us a stronger sense of who we are and how we fit into the universe. Questions are not always answered, but sometimes raised instead.


If I wasn’t an artist, Science would be high up on my list of alternate careers. What I am currently loving is seeing a merge between art and science in the works of artists such as Walter De Maria, Nancy Holt, Renata Buziak, Stelarc and Patricia Piccinini. There are many, many more that I could add to this list. In fact, if you have a favourite artist that merges science and art or even a scientist using art, please let me know in the comments section.

Walter De Maria’s seminal work The Lightning Field is an interesting piece in itself. It is made up of 400 stainless steel poles spread grid-like across a field in the remote Western New Mexico. The work is apparently best experienced during a lightning storm as the poles become grounding points for the electricity. However, because of the remoteness and the strict conditions attached to viewing the work, very few people can actually experience the work. Photography is also restricted so it is not an artwork for the masses. While I like the idea behind this work which utilizes scientific knowledge I do have a many questions about its perceived value.


One work I found particularly fascinating, that blurred the boundaries between art and practical science, was a garden project set up on radioactively contaminated land. The ‘art’ project involved earth remediation through the use of selected plants that can absorb heavy chemicals such as mercury and lead. A small area was fenced off and divided into four squares with different plants in each to study the effectiveness of each plant. This garden art work was questioned as to whether it actually constituted as ‘art’ or if it was just a practical science project. The artist argued that it was the concept behind the work in renewing the contaminated land that made it art. I am very annoyed that I cannot remember the name of the artist who made this work! I came across it in a book last year while exploring the work of Nancy Holt. Always write these things down! *edit: thank you to the anonymous commenter for giving me the name. Mel Chin is the artist and the work is called 'Revival Field'. More about this work can be found here.* It is works like this one where the line is blurred that I find particularly interesting.


Speaking of Nancy Holt, this artist belongs to the Land art tradition, and I found her Sun Tunnels while researching for my Archimedes’ Field project. Her Sun Tunnels are four large concrete tunnels placed in the shape of an X. Each one has holes drilled into the top in the shape of various constellations. The tunnels draw attention to light and our relationship to the sun, the stars and the passing of time as the view changes constantly with both the time of day and the time of year. What I like about her many works are that they are useful, accessible and socially necessary as well as beautiful.


Renata Buziak’s Biochromes are stunning and unusual documentations of the decompositions of plants using photographic paper. She has developed a unique way for the photographic medium to interact with vegetation. Her work allows for nature to take over the process of creating the final artwork in a very intimate way.


I guess the similarities between these works and my own is that they all allow for nature to take care of the results of the work, they all have a basis in scientific knowledge and they all openly welcome chance.

Throughout the shooting of Archimedes’ Field I was constantly at the whim of the wind. I had initially imagined the balloons standing tall like sentinals but the slightest breeze would set them off in every direction. They often would dance around in seemingly illogical directions. Also, like the land artists, my work was firstly designed to be experienced in person and interacted with. It was a mini-installation for my family and myself to enjoy.

One of the most beautiful moments of the whole installation was when I sat amongst the balloons alone on the first night. The moon was shining and reflecting off the ivory balloons, millions of stars shone above, and all was quiet except for the occasional dog bark and night bird. Oh, and there was the sound of the balloons. It was incredible, I still remember the soft sounds they made as they bounced randomly into each other creating a surreal orchestra that was visual as well as aural. They were alive and communicating with each other and their song was sublime.

June 21, 2009

Field Polaroid #3: A Memory Plantation

On the Saturday morning the balloons lie expended in the morning sunlight. My project is complete. At least that's what I thought.


I would like to share someone elses words with this weeks Polaroid release. When Archimedes' Field was first exhibited at the Circle Gallery last year the arts writer Nick Walsh kindly wrote the words for our catalogue. Here is his piece on Archimedes Field:

"Exploring the theme of impermanence, Rachel Marsden's work Archimedes' Field delves into the latent memories that pervade and structure a site. Marsden chose what was once her father's vegetable patch as a location for her installation. Residual physical reminders of what once occupied the patch of earth were present in the form of old garden taps, providing a link back to the original function of the area. In the installation Marsden inflated white balloons, placing them in rows in the vegetable patch. Taking on a ghost-like form the balloons appear to echo the veiled memories that lie beneath.

After initially installing the balloons in the pasture, Marsden returned to find the crop, as expected, deflated on the ground. However, when the sun rose and the day heated up, the balloons re-inflated, blooming like flower buds. Accompanying the photographs of Marsden's memory plantation is a video piece documenting this blooming, highlighting almost a physical manifestation of the impermanence she finds so enlivening as a focus for her practice. The balloons represent this tenuous presence through the very obvious hollow nature of their forms, reignited perhaps by the memories that fertilise the pastoral space."

June 18, 2009

Small Details


I just finished adding the final touches to the first Field Polaroid prints going as gifts to collectors of my work. It is a delightful feeling to be packaging up something I created to give to people who love my work. People say that giving is always more enjoyable than receiving and it's true.

As with all my prints, each image is signed, numbered and dated with the print date. Usually this is on the print's verso as I can't use pencil on the front of a lot of the paper stocks I use. Pen is sometimes too visible and I feel this takes away from the image. The images are printed with a white border so they can be framed more easily and this also serves to protect the actual print edges from damage.

I check over every image multiple times in different lights before I send it out. The papers I use, though beautiful, often damage far too easily and I will have an image reprinted if it has even the tiniest scratch or fingerprint on it.

I keep a register with details of size, paper stock, edition number and contact details of the person each print goes to. This enables me to keep a thorough record of how many images from each edition are out in the world.

More than just a formal book keeping tool, though, my register is a collection of names of kindred spirits from around the globe and a reminder that I have been able to connect with people through my art.

Images: A lady hangs out her washing in Pune, India.
Floral wreaths, India. January 2009

June 14, 2009

Field Polaroid #2: Influences


This is the second Polaroid out of seven to be released in the lead up to the Archimedes' Field exhibition in July. It was taken on the first afternoon just after the sun set. The balloons were full and bouyant and moved in unison with the slightest breeze. It was beautiful to watch.

Leading up to the shoot and even after it I did a lot of research into other artists who were exploring similar ideas to my own or who's work interested me. Eva Hesse and Andy Goldsworthy were key influencers in the development of my ideas.

Eva Hesse is of particular interest to me because of her minimalist creations and use of non-mechanical repetition. This is one of my favourite works:

Repetition Nineteen III, 1968 (click to view)

Apparently, she was not particularly happy with this work because she found it too beautiful and against her search for a “non” aesthetic. Despite this, I love the simplicity and repetition of the circular cylinders and the hand-made aspect of the work. I love the imperfect nature of it.

Most of her work was not made to last- she often used materials such as latex which she knew would deteriorate. She said her work was about ‘the process’, ‘a moment in time, not made to last’. I like that she see’s the impermanence of her work as an attribute rather than a flaw.

"She seems, in fact, to have been incorporating an anticipation of aging and, especially, the unknown into the creation of her art.” Elisabeth Sussman (curator of Hesse’s only solo show before she died).

Her anticipation of the unknown is an element I can relate to in my own work.

Andy Goldsworthy: I love the impermanent nature of the majority of his works and how they (often quickly) succumb to nature. This particular piece by Andy Goldsworthy captured my attention in the way the beauty of nature is documented and played with:

Extract from Rivers and Tides (click to view)

This scene in his documentary ‘Rivers and Tides’ is similar to what I hoped I have achieved in the Archimedes' Field installation. Goldsworthy spends many hours creating a beautiful dome of sticks, just next to the tide line. The documentary then shows an aerial view of the dome as the tide comes in and lifts and breaks apart the dome he has just created. In his documentary he talks about how his work is about the transience of life. He fights it by not trying to make permanent things but rather to accept and enjoy this transience.

June 8, 2009

Field Polaroid #1: How it came to be...

Let us start at the beginning:

Several years ago I had a vivid dream about a red inflatable mattress floating in the air outside my parent’s home – the place where I spent my childhood. A pink sunset lit up the sky and I remember just watching this mattress hover, weightless for a long time. The dream perplexed me and I couldn’t get it out of my mind.

Last year, while studying, the opportunity to create an installation work presented itself. I wanted to recreate the surreal feeling I experienced in the dream so I decided to create a floating bed.

I spent a lot of time trying to make a pretty pink child’s bed that could be held up by helium balloons. Calculating the weight of the bed compared to how much the balloons would lift, then working out how many balloons I could actually afford and then how I would attach them and then photograph the bed without the balloons or strings visible was a very time consuming process that kept me awake long hours at night.

By then I knew I wanted to capture the rise and fall of the bed to illustrate the temporal nature of childhood dreams. However, something wasn’t right with my concept, it was too cynical and simple, trite and a little patronizing.

I wanted to express something about the impermancy of human life and dreams but combine it with a celebration of the constancy of nature.

I kept working away at this silly bed, then one day it just clicked, as these things often do, that a field of balloons would be a marvellous way to recreate that magical feeling I’d experienced in my dream. I had found a way to express my ideas in a more refined and subtle way.

However, when it came to the installation day, nature and science turned my concept into something more complex and much more beautiful. I had allowed for the unknown, even welcomed it but the results were totally unexpected…

To be continued...

Related posts : The Doing Girl

June 7, 2009

Seven Weeks. Seven Images.



To celebrate the upcoming exhibition of my Archimedes' Field work I am pleased to be releasing seven never before seen images taken over the course of that weekend. One image will be released online - on my blog and webpage - every week during the lead up to the exhibition with the final one released the day after the opening.

It was little known by anyone that in addition to the medium format film and digital images, I also shot Polaroid's. In contrast to the high quality of the original images these Polaroids, reproduced as prints, are soft, grainy and otherwise technically flawed. This lo-fi approach enhances the dream-like feel of the field- almost as though my original vision was scooped directly out of my unconscious brain and placed onto paper in all it's unrefined and messy glory. I love this and especially like the way they compliment and add to the original images and video work.

With the release of each image I will also be providing additional insight into how Archimedes' Field came to be and the thought processes behind it.

The first of the Polaroid prints are going as gifts to collectors and some very special people in my life (often these people are one and the same). The rest will be made available for collecting as they are released. If you would like to acquire one of these Polaroids (or any image from the series) please e-mail me. The Polaroid's are available in two small limited edition sizes:

| 8x8inch - 30 only | 5x5inch - 30 only (+2 artist prints of each size)

But, of course, you will want to see them first so please do return soon.

Archimedes' Field opens at the QCP on the 18th July 5-8pm. I shall be very pleased if you would attend.

June 6, 2009

Image: Dreams of Sapa

A H'mong girl walks home through the fog after a morning of selling friendship bracelets and bangles to western tourists. Vietnam, 2007


June 4, 2009

The Red Balloon

I recently released a series of images called The Outsiders - Soul-animals. These images explore balloons as metaphors for human emotions. A lovely collector who was the first to obtain one of these images said they reminded her of 'The Red Balloon'. I had never heard of it before but soon discovered that it was a 1954 French short film about a boy who finds a sentient red balloon.
The film is poetic and metaphorical.
If you have the time to watch (it's 34mins) you can view it here:


Click to view full screen, sit back with a hot cocoa and enjoy. If you do take the time to watch it I'd love for you to comment on it below.

June 3, 2009

Sacred Space

It may seem odd but the place where I feel most connected to the world is a cemetery near my home. It is a large cemetery and quite beautiful, with rolling hills, well kept grass and tall, leafy trees.  It's certainly not the gloomy, frightening clich√© you might expect. 

 I recently went through a very emotional period.   At one point, all I wanted was to be left alone so I could have a good cry.  I got in the car and just drove - and I ended up at the cemetery.  It was a late afternoon, and the setting sun's rays were touching the headstones with gold.  I sat and gathered my thoughts, watching the shadows from the stone monuments lengthen.  In the east, I could see a just-risen full moon.  I didn't feel like crying any more.  Instead, the stillness of the place seemed to soak right into my bones; I felt calm.

I got up and had a liesurely ramble, stopping to read dates, names and loving messages on the graves.  I wondered about the lives these people had led and the relationships they'd had. Noticing the tragically short lives on some of the stones gave me a much-needed fresh perspective, and a sense of 'the bigger picture'.

I still visit the cemetery often.  It never fails to soothe my mind and soul, and to remind me to be grateful for my life and for the people who care for me, and to cherish them while I have them.  I always leave feeling grounded, peaceful and full of hope.

*this piece was first published in Nature and Health magazine, April-May 2008


I'd love to know: what makes you feel most connected to the world?