The exhibition, Threads, contains 4 works:
Threads 2014 - This work started with photographs of groups that the artist is in. She invited the people in those groups to send her photos of groups that they are in, but not her…. and so on.
Breaking News 2014 - Since the 1st of January 2014 the artist has drawn the clothes of someone in the news media every day. She aims to continue this project for the rest of the year.
Critical Mass 2013 - Projected animation and photographic slide show.
Whole 2013 - Watercolour drawings of mouths
Conversation between Maryanne Coutts and Margaret Roberts about Threads:MR: Threads is the launch of a new project, so can you say how it came out of your previous work - how different is it and what is the continuity?
MC: The Threads project came from a show in Linden in Melbourne called Throng, which has two pieces, one which was a wall-sized watercolour of an asylum-seeker boat burning on the water, an image from the media of a boat that was set alight on Ashmore Reef. To accompany that I did an animation that was of crowd scenes. This work was about borders and boundaries as well as isolation and lack of boundaries. It was really on two levels. One on a personal emotional level as a metaphor for internal states and the other in a more political, broader sense. It came from working in a show in Thailand that was about people who didn't have nationality. For me Threads is all about all that.
So Threads goes back to when I first came to Sydney and I began working from news media photos. I kept noticing that there's a whole genre of newspaper photos that are masses or crowds so I made an animation that puts different crowds from across the globe together in what appears to be a seamless space. Some were schoolgirls in Sydney, some rioters in Ireland. I have noticed that crowds are always brought together by all having some common cause, whether its good or violent or whatever, and I tried to join them into a consistent space. I became very interested in that idea of crowds and that is where Critical Mass came from - the individual watercolours where people are morphing into each other and the crowd photos on the screen (which should move faster). I am quite attached to crowds and groups.
Then I also did drawings of a pile of rocks, something about the relationship between individuals and the whole that a lot of individuals make up. I wasn't thinking of logical threads, but when this show came up I wondered what could I do and thought about group photographs. This is a slightly different genre. The photos that the media take of the crowds are different from these here in Threads which are always taken about ourselves. These are a way of us documenting the relationships we have and the groups that we belong to, and they seem like very important things. They are usually not very artistic, whereas the photojournalist takes spectacular photos, some of them are brilliant.
And I think it is also from being in a new place (having moved here from Melbourne) and finding out how I connect as well. So I think all of my work tries to have those two levels, it has to come from a really personal motivation. But it has to have a much broader political connotation as well.
MR: In the Threads drawings it is amazing to recognise a person, as you see how similar and how different they are to how you actually know them. That connection with the person seems to over-ride the image in some way. The image seems to become a conduit for that connection.
MC: That has been a really interesting thing with this show. I thought it would be hard to persuade people to participate. Some people say they will send me photos but never get around to it. Then there's the people that say no I don't want to be part of it, are shy or whatever, or say I don't think the people in my photos will want to be in it. Then there are the others who say, oh wow, I am in it. I didn't expect it but it is letting me find a way that, while I am still doing the drawings myself, there is some way in which the audience is part of it, taking it over in a way, which I really like. So my drive now is to find a way to put it on-line so people really can interact with it like that.
MR: But it is good that you are still doing the drawing and that other people are not also doing the drawing on-line?
MC: Its funny, that's what artists do - it is our own touch. In some ways that is a conservative viewpoint. Some people get upset when they see work that doesn't look like it is made with a certain sort of skill set. And I am tracing so I am getting away from that as well. And my brother who is an IT person tells me: the problem with your project is that you have to do all the work, you can't outsource it.
I could just stick the photos up but I wouldn't look at them as much. This way, it means that every photo I put up I have to look at and also send an email to the person who gave it to me. This means I have to do something complicated and physical about every bit of the image and that is what this project is about. I am noticing more and more that drawing is about paying attention to things.
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