One a Day project with Shona Wilson - Art Collector

Courtesy the artist and Mossgreen gallery, VIC

By Jessa Melicor

Jessa Melicor chats to Shona Wilson about her One a Day project that sees the artist create one ephemeral artwork a day, using Instagram as a platform to share her works.

Tell us about your One a Day project? How did it start and how long are you planning to do it for?

This One a Day ephemeral art project began and grew from a camping trip in mid Dec 2013. I did not know it would become a One a Day project until a month or so later, which was when I set up my ‘recipe’ or guidelines for how I would and could manage it over a year and then began posting daily on social media – which was new for me too.

“one ephemeral artwork a day for one year using only found natural material on site, no tools, rain or shine, tired or inspired, 5 mins or 50 a daily practice”.

I am now into a second year but decided to change from colour to B&W photography, which has impacted hugely on what I make, as form and light and shadow became the dominant features rather than pattern and colour. This has stretched and challenged me and goes under a new hashtag - #collaborationswithnature.

Photography is a huge part of the process. Not only do I try to ‘transform’ the materials I work with but I also use the photograph to conjure other layers of meaning or ways of seeing. It’s all done on a phone – I like the flexibility and convenience of this small ‘window’ into the world. The tiltle/hastags are gleaned once the image has been chosen.

I don’t know when I will stop, as this practice has become so entwined with my daily life – it has become a ritual and meditation for me. It has it’s own life and it’s a ongoing conversation with nature which really has its roots 20 years ago when I first discovered the work of Andy Goldsworthy.

How would you describe land art and ephemeral art?

These two terms are often put in the same box but they can be very different. Many instances of land Art – work that responds to or integrates with the natural environment and its processes – are ‘permanent’ or enduring.

Ephemeral art is not solely limited to the natural world either. So I would describe what I have been doing as ephemeral land art. Art making which engages with the processes and materials of the natural world (including light, shadow, wind, water etc.) and is transitory or fleeting in character, ‘lasting but a day’, is the dictionary definition.

Ephemeral art necessarily has a conversation with and about time, movement, and process. The origins of this art form are ceremonial and ritual based linking the spiritual and physical worlds. Ephemeral land art is an intervention into a real life process, which carries on after the ‘artist’ is no longer there. It is embedded in the reality of a particular moment within all-time. It has the ability to speak or emanate essence. I have termed this quality ‘pressence’.

Courtesy: the artist and Mossgreen gallery, VIC

How has your current project influenced your art practice? Could you tell us a bit about your art practice, where you started and how it has evolved throughout the recent years.

The spontaneity, resourcefulness, creative thinking, surprises and playful fun that have come from this project have rounded out my art practice. My studio practice of 20 years has always focussed on small natural details and elements as catalyst and material but very labour intensive and planned.

Exhibiting for the commercial market has a different ‘recipe’ which needed some rejuvenation for me personally – this project satisfies that need. The ephemeral work feeds the workshops I facilitate and has grounded me back into natural materials. In recent years my work began to include found plastic - it became a metaphor for the infiltration and effects of human activities in the environment. This work engaged with ideas of hybridity, synthesis and cross-pollinations between nature and culture. I have come to realise there is no separation and culture lives within nature.

I have always engaged with the transformative use and innate presence of natural materials. It has been through this variation of practice (the One A Day ephemeral project) that I have returned and found deeper meaning to earlier works and inspiration for new work. I will only work with natural found materials again – they generate and emit unique energy which is profound, subtle, and therapeutic and needs to be shared. The repetitive use of natural detritus brings me closer to understanding the world we share. The materials themselves are storehouses of knowledge and information. They act as 'keys', unlocking doors to memory, science, history and imagination and spirit.

What has the experience of posting 'One a day' on instagram been like? Has it ever been a challenge to create a work or work within this timely structure?

Art making of any kind for me is a communication, so the daily posting on Instagram served as a portal to both an audience and a conversation. It kept me motivated on days when I could have let it slide – it was a commitment and served as an underlying structure and framework. The paradox and complexity of not allowing the ego to predicate what image I posted was an interesting dynamic.

Invariably there would be 30 images taken which then needed culling to one – how does one decide? The image that resonates on the phone screen may not be the image that describes the work most fully or the one I particularly like. So much internal and physical editing was the hardest part of the project. I never felt constrained by the time I had making, I never felt rushed - unless I had left it till sundown. Strangely it was often the works when I ‘struggled to get out there’ that gave the greatest reward creatively and spiritually. This project has repaired a bridge home to myself – what a privilege – I think it may have helped connect others too.

Using natural materials in your art practice, what kind of materials have you worked with? Where do you find the materials?

Luckily – living on the east coast of Australia even within cities and shopping centres I can find natural material to use. I have collected material from as far afield as the Himalayas but more often than not I find them in my everyday life – on the street, in the park, on the beach – one doesn’t really need to go far (also sustainable). I have worked over the past 25 years with what may be termed exotic materials such as Portuguese Man of War (bluebottles), fish-scales and fish-egg shells (maybe more surprising than exotic) ,bones, insect parts, wings, feathers seed, seedpods, fern, flowers … basically anything that attracts my eye.

My aesthetic is the only ‘boundary’ I have for what I use. It is all marvellous – sometimes out of place and detrimental to its environment but still wondrous in itself. I usually dismember the material, break it up into its constituent or random parts in order to reassemble and reintegrate it into another form. I think this rearranging helps to disengage normal /dismissive labelling of things and shocks the mind and eye in a beautiful way so that the viewer may experience a heightened level of awareness and a new experience of these materials.

Each work speaks great ecological significance, and the idea of recycling nature and avoiding waste in creating art runs through your work - would you have any comments about this?

The material is the basis of my work.
The longer and more intimately one works or engages with something, the deeper their understanding becomes. In my case I have engaged with natural found material and as a consequence of being outdoors collecting, making and being, the effects of our human/cultural have become ever more noticeable and intense in the environment. This has directly influenced a stronger response in me to collect less, use what I have already ‘stockpiled ‘ in the studio and to ultimately recently re-engage with working ephemerally.

I have always wanted to elevate ‘the ordinary’, ‘the discarded and overlooked’ around me, by revealing what is extraordinary in it – finding the extraordinary, pursuing it. By revering ‘the small’ and drawing attention to it I seek ‘the wonder’ and show this to others via my work. ‘The small’ echoes ‘the large’, so when one really looks and begins to see what is around us all the time – in terms of the nature’s details mirroring the greater environment - it becomes impossible not to work without the considerations of my ‘footprint’, sustainability and the cycle of life. It is only by handling these natural materials and being in the environment, that I can learn experientially. The demonstration of this connection comes through my sculptural work and becomes an almost subconscious force.

Do you have any upcoming projects or shows?
YES! – always.

I have my upcoming One a Day - Ephemeral Art Photographic exhibition - solo show and book launch at
Mossgreen Gallery which runs from 11 November - 13 December. This exhibition will then travel to The Lost Ones Gallery in Ballarat January 6 – February 15 2016.

In 2016, I am one of 12 artists paired with 12 scientists for a collaborative project KURINGAI PH in Sydney’s Kuringai National Park. The resulting exhibition at Manly Art Gallery and Museum will run from December 9 2016 – February 19 2017.

The full list of shows and workshops can be viewed

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