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