Donna Caffrey

Developing an art practice: Rabbit holes, the butterfly process and mindfulness in textile art

Symposium presentation 4pm Wed Dec 7

Abstract: I work in mixed media with a focus on stitch, textiles and paper. I’m a bit of a butterfly and flitter between works. Focus on and completion of one thing at a time is hard for me. I play, experiment, learn and play again. Often the piece I’m working on will lie unattended for quite a long time – waiting for an element, an idea, its voice to appear. At times my work is highly intuitive. In the words of Jasper Johns, ‘I do something, do something to that, and then do something to that.’ Aware that the absence of focus is limiting, I have been working on understanding what it is I could do better to improve my art practice and processes. It has been a struggle. I’ve tried to limit the medium I use, what I want to say or not say anything. I have done workshops to learn more and taken short courses online. Do I need to do less? Or maybe more? Of what? My curiosity leads me down information rabbit holes.

In my presentation I will talk about the small works I made whilst undertaking an artist’s residency in Oatlands, Tasmania in October. Immersion in this residency helped me understand more about what artistic process actually means to me and how inspiration, imagination and intuition all play a part in the making of art. I will also talk about the value of artmaking with respect to how it relates to mindfulness in my life. By making my mark with thread I capture a time, a moment, images and feelings of a place and my place in the world. I can rest my mind and be in the present. My art I make alone. I am not alone in my struggles to understand what, why and how I create. I found that stitching, making and meeting with groups is a vehicle that connects me with friends, keeps me sane and gives me contact with others in a creative space.

Provenance: Peer Reviewed.

If walls could speak

Invited visual artists’ exhibition HR Gallop Gallery December 6-8, 2022

Artist’s statement: I work in mixed media with a focus on stitch, textiles and papers. I play, experiment, learn and play again. Often a piece will lie unattended for quite a long time – waiting for an element, an idea, its voice to appear. A material/medium may spark an idea. An idea may spark a work. A work may be the catalyst for research and vice versa. At times my work can be highly intuitive.

I recently undertook an artist’s residency in Oatlands, Tasmania. My hope was that Oatlands would provide me with a new environment and break from routine that would help in terms of exploration, experimentation and development of my art. Donna’s personal brief for the residency was to explore mixed media grounds on to which she could stitch. Three weeks of exposure to convict history, sandstone buildings and contemplation of the impact of colonization on the landscape led me on an inspirational journey. I created semi-abstracted landscapes, printed keys and stitched sandstone walls together and explored abstraction of elements. The small works are studies, and all have a story and thought behind them waiting to be told in a larger format. Participation in an art residency gave me the time to be self-absorbed and immersed in my work and was the impetus for larger works on display in this exhibition. In particular, I focused on the concept of walls and what is a wall.

Walls can provide security, protect, detain, restrain. Walls can keep people in or out. A wall can be a living wall. A wall does not have to be a physical object but rather a metaphorical invisible barrier such as a prejudice or ignorance. In Oatlands the first sandstone walls to be constructed were the Commandant’s residence and the Commissariat. These were built by soldiers and rose out of privilege and the need to store supplies securely. The next major project was the goal. It was built by those it was intended to confine. Donna found it an irony that men were shipped across the world to Australia and confined and some 164 years later people who travelled by boat seeking asylum in Australia ended up confined in offshore detention.

Provenance: Invited artist.

Donna Caffrey is a mixed media artist with a focus on textiles. Her art practise involves study and experimentation with textiles and threads, paper, paint, clay and collage.

Instagram @caffrey.donna

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