International newspapers, paper straws, glue
2.5 x 5m (variable)
Hundreds of tiny folded shapes made out of newspapers from around the globe sprout from the gallery wall on paper stalks. The intricate paper shapes, like cogs in a print machine or cells from a slowly spreading virus, grow and sweep across the wall space; information in multiple languages tumbling and mixing, decipherable only in snippets, yet rippling, as orchestrated as a Mexican wave.
Rather than the traditional columns of the broadsheet, this ‘news’ clumps to form vaguely familiar islands and continents. Its shape is loosely based on a weather map of the world found in the French newspaper Le Monde. Inspiration for the work came initially from the furor that occurred over the Danish newspaper cartoons, so deliberately fuelled by world media. Struck by the unpredictable power of the non-stop media machine and the way a news story will travel quickly across the world, changing according to the political agenda of each news desk it falls onto, the artist wrote to over 100 embassies and consulates requesting copies of their local newspapers. The response was over-whelming.
As with much of Thurle’s work, she stretches and contorts language to fit her own aesthetic, questioning what is not represented, reminding us of how easily sense can become hidden beneath the folds, of how words can be as flimsy as the paper they are printed on.
Paper Biology; a wall-embroidery, celebrating 200 years of school history
Beginning in the school’s extensive archive, and drawn particularly to the intricate biology notebooks of Alan Motram, a former headmaster, scientist and pupil of the school, Thurle collected paper documents from all areas. She cut, twisted, bent and folded thousands of tiny snippets of text and image, arranging them onto the walls of gallery. The resulting work reads like a type of wall-embroidery; words, thoughts, instructions, information, poetry, experiments, records and beliefs, from the early days of the school to the present, all carefully ‘stitched’ onto the wall in organic patterns which flow across the walls and around the doors and windows. Strands of ideas from one department are threaded through others’; founding philosophies are woven into present structures; ideas from all levels in the school from the official to the personal, float above the plaster of the school gallery walls; a type of genetic imprint, a memory, a doodle.
Paper Biology was created during a month long residency. Students helped. They asked constant questions:
- Why did you work on the walls?
- Since the gallery itself is part of the school’s history (once a tuck shop and geography classroom, and so connected with the history of the art department) it seemed to make sense to use the actual walls rather than hang something else onto the walls. I liked the idea of the phrase ‘if these walls had ears’; what may have soaked through the plaster over the years. I also liked the idea of a box space (the gallery) as a symbol of mind or memory, with words and images etched into it randomly.
- Why did you use circles?
- The old biological drawings in the school archive were of cellular structures, so all featured quite intricate repeated circles. The idea of the school itself as a living organism, with individual organs, and flow of air etc., appealed to me. Cells as units that cluster and grow to make a whole is an idea I’ve used a lot, and it fits especially well in school, where education, growth and learning is what keeps it ‘alive’. On an individual level too, I like the idea of thinking, day-dreaming, creating in circles, rather than straight lines. My circles are like thought patterns.
- Why did you use paper?
- I always use paper in my work; though sometime add other things too. This is mostly because I am interested in language and memory, in how we get and keep information; so books, maps etc. and the printed word are ideal materials to work with. I also enjoy the feel and look of paper; its versatility and simplicity. Printed paper, even photocopies, is a powerful medium to work with because it is such a part of everyday life so for most people it has significance on many levels.
- Why didn’t you use much colour?
- I like to fill in my own colour by reading or imagining the words. And much printed text is in black and white anyway. For this work I did add some colour (the grey/blue circles, the maps and small images), to balance the amount of stark white photocopies needed (rather than chop up the original documents). I did choose not to use the more contemporary glossy paper and colour images so that the past and present could be a seen as a coherent whole.
What will happen to the work?
- People are often surprised that while so much time is invested in making a work, it will not be able to be kept, unlike an oil painting or bronze sculpture. But this piece is only relevant now, as a moment in time, a glance. We can’t keep feelings and words, except in our minds, and neither would it be relevant to keep this work for years to collect dust. Mainly photocopies, its value is in the minds of the people who contributed to it and enjoyed it, and who may go on to think differently or experiment creatively in their own ways. And of course, there will always be the photographs.
- Do you always work like this?
- It is rare to be able to work on such a large scale like this, to have such rich resources easily to hand and such a willing team of supporters. So I do usually work on a smaller, more commercial scale. Working at the school was extremely rewarding for me and will be permanently embroidered on my mind! Thank you.
Froth - Found text, glue - 200x200cm - 2003
Made from texts collected from around the school during a residency, the work playfully alludes to the various influences that a school boy may encounter in one day.
‘Working with the boys in the art room, over-hearing their formal and informal conversations from the studio above their class room, I was reminded of my own experience of education…of that time in your life when your head is being filled with information and how it sometimes seems almost to ‘froth’ as various school influences, theories, routines, structures, facts and fiction all swirl and collide... sometimes being pushed down, sometimes bubbling to the surface. At ‘school’ again, I was aware of identities forming, of growth and ideas and multiple microcosms of possibility. It was also a powerful reminder of the unpredictability of teaching… information that is highly structured and specific but which is often soaked up at random as boys struggle to sort ‘themselves’ from the overload, make their own connections, find their own sense of the world’.
Texts include extracts from: an encyclopaedia, an almanac, an economics manual, a self-help book found in the library; ‘Make the Most of your Money’, a geography text book on global warming and how to save the planet, a history of Nostra Damus, Orders of Service from the Chapel, an Atlas of Australia, a novel based on Dr Who.