Residency report: Anne McCallum

Anne McCallum, Snapper, 2021,
Cyanotype on Fabriano Watercolour (cold press)

On our way to Gunyah we stayed a couple of nights with my husband’s brother and sister-in-law. My brother-in-law is a keen fisherman and for dinner one night we had freshly caught snapper! Of course I saved my fish skeleton - I have a fascination with bones and love the shape of a fish skeleton, so we froze it and took it with us to Gunyah.

I waited for the rain to make way for a period of sunshine so that I could make more cyanotype prints. Finally, it complied. So, I retrieved my frozen skeleton and got to work. The skeleton of course started to defrost on the paper which led to a slightly blurry image - which I was quite happy with as it gives a less clinical aesthetic. However, I thought that it might be a good idea to dry out the skeleton, so I left it in the sun with some ants that were doing a good job of cleaning it up. I love being able to work with nature.

The next morning I was up early and went to retrieve my skeleton - it was gone! Not a trace left behind! Gone! Probably taken by a bird for a late night supper, or maybe a local cat thought that it looked like a good present to take home to the family - a step up from another mouse?? I love being able to work with nature! My fish skeleton is now serving a better purpose than simply being a prop for an artist.

Nature is not all about pretty views - nature is about living and dying - and in dying what is left behind becomes a trace of what was there before. I am intrigued by what is left behind - to me, bones are in themselves a memento mori - not just a memorial to a death, but a memory of vitality, and even in death - become something vital to another living creature.

I find bones beautiful (I also like fallen flowers and fossils), I like beauty and making aesthetically pleasing images and objects. According to Agnes Martin in her essay “Beauty is the Mystery of Life” “ Beauty is an awareness in the mind. It is a mental and emotional response that we make. We respond to life as though it were perfect. When we go into a forest we do not see the fallen rotting trees, we are inspired by a multitude of uprising trees” However, I see beauty in the fallen trees too, I am drawn to the colour, shape and form, the symbiotic organisms that thrive on the death of another. How one death can create more lives.

Anne McCallum, Neptune's Necklace, 2021, 
Cyanotype on Berger Cotton paper

Now a week has passed since I said Goodbye to Gunyah. A week of returning to “normality” and the everyday demands on my time. I miss just being able to take the time to watch the spiders in their webs and listen to the water lapping at the jetty. I miss the friendly Kookaburra who visited every afternoon to sit on the balcony rails to watch the world go by and I miss the freedom of being totally self centred and self-focussed on creating. I think my time at Gunyah was akin to being “at the still point of the turning world” (T.S. Eliot). It was very beneficial to step away from my reality and lose myself in an alternate space, even for such a short space of time. The time spent in reflection and contemplation of the year ahead became moments of calming and a space for growth and making. I feel that the fact there is no ‘expected” final outcome from this residency, actually spurred me into wanting to create something, have something concrete to show for my stay. A new set of Cyanotypes, which depict the natural environment around Gunyah and a series of small thread sculptures, also inspired by the water life around the place, will go on to be a part of my final projects for my MFA and the breathing space that this opportunity afforded me will hopefully sustain me through this final semester.

Thank you Gunyah for allowing me to experience this space.

Anne McCallum

Anne McCallum, Gunyah spider, 2021

Upcoming artist-in-residence: Melinda Young

Melinda Young in her studio

Melinda Young is a contemporary craft artist whose work spans jewellery, textiles, installation and interactive public art projects. She has exhibited extensively in Australia andinternationally since 1997, her work is held in public collections and included in numerous publications. Melinda’s practice primarily engages with the idea of ‘place’ and explorations of materiality, with an emphasis on found or re-purposed materials as vehicles for narrative explorations of the landscape and the people who inhabit it. Currently undertaking a cross-disciplinary PhD at the Australian Centre for Culture Environment Society and Space (ACCESS), University of Wollongong; Melinda’s research explores how the concept of place has developed as a common touchstone for the maker, wearer/user and viewer of contemporary jewellery and small craft objects. Her research investigates how ‘objects carry traces’and how these traces help to distinguish and form personal narratives. She is also investigating how contemporary jewellers use the found object to ‘map’ locations. Found materials, both natural and ‘unnatural’,  are a constant presence in her work, the recovery of leftover materials is used to develop narrative, direct meaning and context for the research and its physical outcomes. The action of moving through the landscape, the linearity of a journey rather than the abstract fictive space of the ‘excursion’ increasingly informs the production of the work and the liminal space of the journey is frequently the site of making. Alongside her making practice, Melinda has spent the past 20 years working within the contemporary craft and design field as an educator, curator, writer and gallery manager. Melinda is an Associate Lecturer at UNSW School of Art & Design.

Melinda Young, Future Relic Neckpiece, 2018. Plastic marine debris, brass, handspun fishing line. 400x200x60mm Collection of Toowoomba Regional Art Gallery

During my residency at Gunyah I will develop a new sequence of research work for my PhD. This research involves reflection and immersion in place, looking at practices of navigating and mapping to understand how place can be reflected in a wearable object. By working in different locales, this work also reflects on the notion of the souvenir as an object collected in place. Working on location/in place extends my material and skills-based language through the necessary development of adaptive making practices. I will also write; consolidating my research for interviewing contemporary jewellers whose practice sees them mapping different locations.

Melinda Young, Graft & Glove (detail from the Installation Arbus/Adrift - Together/Apart), 2020. Driftwood, marine debris, 925 silver; largest 200x50x30mm.

You can see more of Melinda's work on Instagram @unnaturaljeweller

Melinda Young, Tracelines - Aftermath (Riverbed) Neckpiece, 2019. Heat patinated copper, handspun worsted yarn, coloured pencil; 500x400x10mm

Upcoming artist-in-residence: Anne McCallum

Anne McCallum with her work at Centre of Contemporary Photography Melbourne

Anne McCallum is an artist living in Nug Nug, on Mogullumbidj land in North East Victoria. Working across textiles, sculpture, photography and video, she has exhibited at Centre of Contempoary Photography Melbourne; in World Cyanotype Day Exhibitions in Texas, New Orleans and Brisbane; at Kingston Arts; PSC Gallery Southbank; Brunswick St. Gallery and Head On Photo Festival Sydney. In 2020 Anne was an Artist in Residence Isle of Iona in Scotland. Anne is currently finishing her Masters in Fine Art at RMIT University in Melbourne. Her impermanent, delicate sculptures are woven from organic materials. Anne's focus on materiality creates a connection to origin and engages with natural cycles. She also works with meditative moving images to give a sense of duration to these hand woven abstract objects as they sit gently in the natural environment. Anne's slow flowing video allows for drifting in a dreamy manner amongst these artefacts which, like nature, have a transient existence.

Anne McCallum, 2020, Nestling, Free motion embroidery sculpture

During my resideny at Gunyah I plan to create small delicate sculptural forms inspired by the surrounding natural environment. I will also make some cyanotype prints of the local plants and create a video about my creative processes and residency at Gunyah. 

You can see more of Anne's work on Instagram - images_by_anne

Anne McCallum, Maunder (detail), 2020, wisteria vine and found organic threads

Upcoming artist-in-residence: James Vicars

James Vicars portait
James Vicars

James Vicars is a writer based in Armidale NSW. His writing and photography has appeared in anthologies, and his short stories, essays and reviews have been published in magazines. In 1992 James co-founded and edited the literary magazine, ‘New England Review’. He has received fellowships from the NSW Ministry for the Arts and the Eleanor Dark Foundation, and holds degrees in English, communications and writing. James teaches part-time in universities and has been an Adjunct Lecturer in the School of Humanities, Arts and Social Sciences at the University of New England. 

Book cover, Beyond the Sky
James Vicars, 'Beyond the Sky', book covers

Over the past ten years James has been researching and writing a biographical work about the 'lost' life of Australia's first woman aviator, Millicent Bryant. This recently come to fruition with the publication of 'Beyond the Sky: the Passions of Millicent Bryant, aviator' by Melbourne books in November 2020. While this work is based on extensive research and historical sources, James has taken the less usual path of telling Millicent Bryant’s life in the form of a story so that readers could meet her more fully and 'hear' her voice as it comes through in her letters and other writings.

James Vicars about to take a research flight in a Tiger Moth 
while writing 'Beyond the Sky'.

During my residency at Gunyah, I'm planning to continue working on my creative memoir, provisionally entitled 'The Year of Writing Dangerously'. I began writing this in 2018 while living with my partner in her handmade house in the bush in northern NSW. Sadly, we lost the house in the Kangawalla bushfire of November 8, 2019, and our community was devastated. During my time at Gunyah I plan to further develop and edit this creative work and to find ways to incorporate my experience of this immense bush fire catastrophe, its wider impact, what can be learned from it, and what new beginnings might look like.

James Vicars, The last photo of our house before the bush fires, 2019

You can find out more about James' work on his website or Facebook page

2021 Gunyah artists-in-residence program announcement

Congratulations to the artists selected for the 2021 Gunyah artists-in-residence program: 

James VicarsMelinda YoungPrudence Holloway & Benjamin KiehneRox De LucaWendy TsaiBlake LawrenceAnnelise Roberts & Jack PalmerNadia OdlumDanica Knezevic.

You can follow their residencies on Instagram @gunyahartists #gunyahartists 

Thank you to everyone who applied – the number of applications more than tripled last year! 

Gunyah sun deck


Residency report: Isabelle Devos & Helena Pastor

Isabelle: I made the long drive down from the tablelands of NSW to the coast, towards the promising thoughts of creative focus, rest and restoration with friend and writer, Helena Pastor. We had agreed to meet at Gunyah that afternoon. As I unpacked my car in the driveway at Gunyah, I marvelled at the simple natural beauty of the place. 

The following ten days were long, restful and creative. Never before have I had such time to myself to devote to creative introspection and outward expression. I collected botanical materials from each walk, created daily bouquets and arrangements, exploring their shapes and colours. My creative work was to be purposely undefined, allowing myself time to play and create, based on no outcomes, some of the work in response to the location and some work out of my memories.

The water of the cove was mesmerising to someone who lives far from the ocean, ever changing from clear and inviting to dark and ominous with building storm clouds and winds. I found myself down at the jetty many times each day to sit and observe the water, land and light. I allowed myself time to breathe, rest and observe for periods of time during the day and the studio space became a place of focused creativity. After the multiple challenges during the past 18 months, this residency was the perfect antidote.

Each afternoon, I met up with Helena and we shared stories and laughter and enjoyed preparing meals together. Helena began writing lyrics to a song based on stories of my childhood memories of my French grandmother’s house. I hope to create a painting to go along with this song, when completed.

Thank you to all who make the gift of Gunyah possible. I will never forget my time here. 

Isabelle Devos, December 2020

Isabelle Devos, Approaching storm at North Arm Cove

Isabelle Devos, Ink painting on paper, study of beach at North Arm Cove

Isabelle Devos, Study of North Arm Cove water and land, acrylic on paper

Isabelle Devos, Botanical colour study, gouache on paper

Helena: I loved every moment of being at Gunyah with my fellow artist-in-residence, Isabelle Devos. Over the ten days of our residency, my world became very small and I often felt like I was living on a peaceful tropical island. My Gunyah routine consisted of a morning coffee on the window seat overlooking the ever-changing waters of North Arm Cove, then a long walk past a variety of interesting letterboxes and house styles, meeting local residents and dogs, and then home – yes, Gunyah felt like home – to work on ‘One Fork, One Knife, One Life’ – a new memoir project that reflects on the wartime and immigration experiences of my Dutch parents who came to Australia in 1959.

With the help of a 2019/20 Create NSW Small Project Grant (a wonderful validation of this new step forward) and the nurturing creative environment of Gunyah, I completed the first big baggy draft of ‘One Fork, One Knife, One Life’. The draft is currently an unwieldly ‘prose blob’ that needs wrangling into shape and whittling down, but it exists and I’m feeling excited about beginning work on the next stage. I also enjoyed hearing about Isabelle’s fascinating and eccentric French grandmother, and I’ve nearly finished the song lyrics that came out of our conversations.

Like Isabelle, I particularly enjoyed the jetty at Gunyah, where I tuned in to the tides, listened to the water gently lap against the shoreline, and occasionally spotted dolphins. Shortly after returning home to Armidale – which certainly doesn’t feel like a tropical island! – I found out that I was one of two writers shortlisted for the 2020 Varuna New England Writers’ Centre Fellowship, a fabulous opportunity for writers in the New England area. Whatever the outcome of the judges’ final decision, I’m so happy to see ‘One Fork, One Knife, One Life’ resonating with readers. I’ve also just heard that I’ve been awarded a second Create NSW Small Project Grant to work with an editorial mentor on ‘One Fork’ once I knock the manuscript into shape. Hooray!

Thank you, Gunyah, for restoring my creative faith and optimism … I can’t wait to return.

Helena Pastor, December 2020

Helena Pastor, One Fork, One Knife, One Lifefirst big baggy draft

Helena Pastor, Feet up by the Gunyah waterfront 

Residency report: Riona Tindal

Riona Tindal in the Gunyah studio
Riona in the Gunyah studio

After finishing my PhD degree, I stopped making art full time. Utterly burnt out in 2016.
The urge and the trickle of the desire to create began towards the end of the year 2019 when I applied and was successful for a Gunyah residency. I spent the entire year planning and dreaming. And longed for it to happen “now”. Life was so hectic, even with COVID, losing one job, resigning from one, and starting a new job and a business at the same time, I had no time for art.
Busy work life with poor balance. 

I was so grateful to just get away and do something purely creative.
Once I arrived at Gunyah, it was a familiar environment as I spent summers as a child not far from Gunyah. The first night I was excited and set up everything and had a dinner looking out the cove.
Next day, I hit the ground running doing videos, sketching and planning.

Then… 24 hours later, I got stuck! Mentally stuck.
I was surprised. I completely could not function creatively.
Thank goodness for the Residency. If I was at home or at a studio, I would just give up and focus on my job or house, neglect my art again and again, possibly for months if not years, not dealing with it.

The residency – I was in a space that I had to deal with my mental mindset. It was a very good opportunity to do this. I needed this. I finally broke through on the Saturday (halfway!) and my creativity changed when I went back to my grassroots of my art education, right all the way back to when I first learned to paint, and then travelled with my memories, the people who were part of my creative journey and my skill sets, exploring and finding myself again and I slid into the creative groove that was mediative, into the zone. And I know I prefer this art style and it is not “modern”, so I removed the pressure of myself to be on the ‘trend’ and do what I am confident in.

It clicked.
I worked and explored colours across two main mediums and felt more in the groove. While I have not yet found what I want to do, I am more comfortable and letting go.

After the residency, I got offered a studio space/office space which to me, the universe is saying I need to do this! so this is my journey into reclaiming my creative side and explore being a full-time artist down the track. Will be applying for exhibitions in 2022.

I am grateful for the opportunity!

Riona Tinda
November 2020

Riona Tinda, Field study of the North Arm Cove, 2020, acrylic on canvas
Riona Tinda, Field study of the North Arm Cove, 2020, acrylic on canvas