Gathering a FLOCK of artists at AGWA

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“Seedpods and Pastels” – A workshop from artist Esther McDowell/Yabini Kickett. Photograph by Elizabeth Pedler

FLOCK is a monthly forum created by, and for, Perth independent artists as a regular space to gather, connect and engage with each other’s creative practices. This month, FLOCK took place at AGWA’s Education Studio, featuring Esther McDowell/Yabini Kickett, who recently launched her 6-month Artist Activation project at AGWA. AGWA is delighted to support this unique and important venture for Perth’s arts community. Read on for the FLOCK team’s reflections on the event.

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Esther/Yabini McDowell demonstrating her charcoal-based works in AGWA’s Education Studio. Photograph by Elizabeth Pedler

Gathering a FLOCK of artists at AGWA: FLOCK #12.

It was a warm, friendly event, with some familiar faces and many newcomers. Awaiting the delayed arrival of an Auslan Interpreter created a unique opportunity for awareness of and collective tending to accessibility. The two deaf artists Peter Blockey and Geoff Scott were greeted with enthusiasm and presence by all attendees, and Daisy Sanders transcribed in writing everything that was spoken as the workshop commenced. This was enough to proceed with a welcoming sense of cohesion and care until the Auslan interpreter could assist with full integration and exchange.

Supported by an energetic attention in the room, Esther McDowell began by introducing her arts practice. She described the influence of family and country on her work, and how her use of materials is informed by knowledge of species and botanical influences. Participants were quickly absorbed in a process of drawing with charcoal and eucalyptus oil, creating rich and intricate pattered landscapes, and still-life images of the banksias Esther had brought in.

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Photograph by Elizabeth Pedler

A break after the workshop allowed artists to enjoy food together and forge new connections while chatting about their various, notably diverse practices.

Daisy Sanders opened the facilitated conversation by describing her experiences of and questions about the environment. She described her various endeavours to grasp the complex, interdependent life ecology of our earth, and how that informs her way of making, living and being as an artist. The participants were invited to think through provocations and were divided into pairs, then larger groups, to allow for extended, open-space discussion. Though the topic Artists and The Earth was broad, the discussion coalesced around questions of sustainability and inter-connectedness. The discussion ended on a note of quiet contemplation: each artist left with a question to carry with them into their arts practice, and a new way of considering the relationship they have with the earth. The presence and insight of Nyoongar artist Esther McDowell highlighted the need for more perceptive exchange, shared understanding and language in this space, and thus the importance of more questioning together, and deep listening.

The swarm of faces – friendly, tired, inquiring, joyous – revealed a FLOCK of invigorated and grateful Perth artists, who gathered themselves and were soon gone into the cool winter night. It was another exciting and fulfilling occasion, which once again had ignited rich conversations, curiosities, moments of inspiration and support numbering far more than usual for a short event.

We want to thank the Art Gallery of WA for their generous support in making FLOCK #12 possible, Esther McDowell for her workshop, and Daisy Sanders for leading the discussion. FLOCK is a monthly event by, and for independent artists living in (or visiting) Perth. It emphasises the bringing together of artists across all career stages and disciplines, to meet through activated creative practice and conversation. The FLOCK ecology is flexible and open-hearted, with an ‘all-welcome’ approach that promotes (by example) best practice, collective strength and celebration of Perth’s artistic vitality. Gathering artists together frequently, in a variety of local arts venues should be inevitable, but feels rare and radical. FLOCK creates a regular space for artists to meet, explore, wonder and inspire together, and to cultivate inherent valuing of how this can evolve our West Australian arts and emergent cultural life.

Elizabeth Pedler and Daisy Sanders

The next FLOCK event is supported by the Blue Room Theatre and will take place on Thursday 1 August at the State Theatre Centre from 5.30-8.30pm. Find more details, and register, at the Eventbrite page.