In August/September this year I was lucky enough to be invited to hold a solo exhibition of my work at the Japan Foundation Gallery in Sydney. It was titled “Somé – Dyeing the Australian Environment”.

It’s been a long while coming but here are some images from the show.

I made some new work for this show, a large noren for the entry to the gallery space and a series of pieces called “The Beautiful Weeds of Canberra”.

Entrance to the exhibition. “A Hearty Welcome” on left
I called the noren “A Hearty Welcome”, referencing its function as a gateway to the exhibition. I dyed it using katazome on hemp fabric which I sourced in Australia. Previously I’d dyed several noren but on Japanese linens which have a certain stiff feel to them and are rather open weaves so that a glimmer of the space behind the curtain is also visible. I’m yet to find a fabric with similar qualities in Australia but the hemp fabric was a new experiment using a natural looking slubby cellulose fibre. It’s a little softer than I would like, as it creases easily and softens in the washing stage of katazome.

The noren was tied back during the opening event – Photo by Document Photography
The imagery I used for the stencil was of the droopy branches of Eucalyptus Cinerea (Argyle Apple). I’ve used them as subject matter before because I love their dusty blue-green leaves with their almost circular forms. They really lend themselves to being carved into a silhouette-y stencil.

The other new work I produced was a series I’ve been calling “The Beautiful Weeds of Canberra”. I’ve become even more obsessed with weeds since starting these pieces but the idea behind them is that our natural environment is a composite of all kinds of species native and otherwise. When you look closer you realise that a good many of them are actually “weeds” but to me they are familiar parts of the landscape and also quite beautiful in their own right. 
Keeping a little distance from the complex conservation and environmental problems connected with “weeds” I’m trying to just depict them in all their weedy glory – kind of weed portraits.

This is a series I will be further developing and expanding for future exhibitions but the initial weeds I’ve dyed are Wild Blackberry, Rosehip, Umbrella Sedges and Japanese Honeysuckle. For these pieces I used vibrant acid dyes to dye the weeds themselves – true to nature- and applied natural dyes as the background colour. I really like the russets and orange tones you can extract from local eucalyptus varieties and onion skins so I’ve used a combination of these against the vibrant colours of the weeds I chose.

Blackberries and Sedges – first trials in “the Beautiful Weeds of Canberra” series.
Japanese Honeysuckle – Beautiful Weeds of Canberra. A garden favourite in Japan but a creeping weed in South East Australia.
For future pieces I’m planning on featuring many many more beautiful weeds and trying to get even deeper, richer background colours. I’ve also started research for a series on “the Beautiful Weeds of Kyoto”. It’s interesting to see which weeds overlap with Australia; the weeds which we “share”. It’s also cool finding those species which are natives in Australia but invasive in Japan or the reverse. I think there’s some deeper subject you could read into that if you chose to. 

detail of “Sedges” – Beautiful Weeds of Canberra Series. 2016
Anyway, back to my exhibition in Sydney, the general response from the audience was really good. I had never shown work in Sydney, let alone so many pieces all at once before, so it was great to come across all these people who I’d never have had the chance to meet. I held a floor talk and two workshops whilst I was there too. Both went really well. It was my first time to hold workshops with so many participants but everyone was very enthusiastic and got great results.
Each participant dyed two washi postcards using powdered pigments.

looking like a pro giving my floortalk for Japan Foundation Members before the opening

during the opening
the opening

workshops underway

Participants results from the workshops. really nice!!

It would be nice to do more workshops in future, maybe on less of a tight schedule next time!

Anyway, I’m now working towards new things for 2017. A few exhibitions on the horizon so I have to get making!