Synergy artists - L-R Judith Watson, Christine Nixon, Amanda Tattam, Ruth Maclaren, Christine Baines, Helen Bodycomb, Louise Marson, Rhonda McGuiness.
Synergy Project 2020-21 Lot 19 Gallery, Castlemaine, Victoria, Australia April 3-25, 2021
"I can’t get over the work involved in this. It’s amazing. I could stand and look at it all day." (exhibition visitor)
Like many creative types, I relish solitude but also know that my skills and development as an emerging artist are nourished by getting together with my tribe. We share our thoughts, plans and challenges, learning from, and encouraging each other. And the icing on the cake is seeing the twinkling delight on someone's face when they stumble on a new technique or find a delicious material to work with and want to share it with everyone.
We took all this for granted.
Then came the pandemic.
In April 2020, while adjusting to life with COVID-19, I was invited to have regular online catch-ups with some mosaic friends.
Many of us had been to Italy together to study mosaic art in 2017 and 2019 and had a special bond. We were all finding the dislocation and isolation of the pandemic difficult and had no idea what the future held. The Zoom sessions were initiated and led by Dr Helen Bodycomb, our teacher and mentor who encouraged us to share any creative projects were were working on. The other artists - Christine Baines, Rhonda McGuiness, Ruth Maclaren, Louise Marson, Christine Nixon and Judith Watson have their own styles and approaches to making mosaics. The whole group was stronger that the sum of its parts.
Pretty quickly we all agreed that we should embark on a remote collaboration and boldly even think of an exhibition. We wanted the work to be something joyful, that celebrated nature and resilience, not just the doom and gloom of 2020. With some financial support, "Synergy" started. Helen received a Sustaining Creative Workers Grant and the exhibition was supported by the Regional Arts Fund, Regional Arts Victoria.
We held online meetings allowing discussions over concept development and had deadlines for making small objects ( faces, people, foliage, animals etc) that would be later on included in the large unified piece. The work grew to be an arrangement of 450 mosaic vignettes, each hand-cut and fabricated into a sunflower-inspired assemblage using the bi-directional geometric algorithm of the Fibonacci sequence. Judith, an accomplished doll-maker and potter made many tiny ceramic arms, legs and bodies. Rhonda made hover flies to go over the sunflower. The rest of us made hundreds of small objects. Helen Bodycomb coordinated all this with great skill and patience.
The work measured 2.8 metres in diameter and took not only took hundreds of hours to make, but many hours up and down a ladder to install and take down. We are hopeful that Synergy will be part of another exhibition and will eventually find a permanent home so that it can be enjoyed in an enduring way.
This exhibition also featured 'Unswept floor' mosaics and a salon hang of the artists own works. Louise Marson's website has more detail about the Unswept Floor genre and exhibition elements.
Photo credits: Top and banner images - Julie Millowick AM. (other photos Amanda Tattam)