Testing Grounds

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Testing Grounds

Testing Grounds

Emilie Walsh studio


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During Emilie’s time at Testing Grounds, she will focus on her special practice, particularly with viewing devices, investigating the impact on her work in public space. She will also work on producing a new body of work for a solo show programmed at Forty-five Downstairs Gallery in late January 2020.

Emilie is a Melbourne based artist currently finishing her PhD at the Victorian College of the Arts on the narratives and imagination of adventure. She works with a range of media, from video to printmaking and 3D printing. She is also a comic book artist and her works have been published in The Lifted Brow and by Tree paper comics.

Emilie Walsh

November 2019

Since I moved into Testing Grounds Studio I am allowing my practice to explore in a range of different directions. Recently finishing a PhD at the nearby VCA is allowing me to feel free to try a new type of practice, outside of the Art School institution and research framework. It’s a good feeling! At the moment, my practice is going in three directions: fabricating viewing boxes, keeping a drawing journal, reflecting on my practice and a growing interest in trying my practice with engagement and community program.

I am fascinated by viewing boxes and devices. I particularly love the intimate relationship that looking at an image through a device creates. When I peer through a pair of binoculars – in awe of the magical power of the lenses – bringing the far away so close to my eye, I let go an ’ooooh’ sounds in fascination. If a friend is standing next to me, I feel them eager, anxious to have a go and see what I am seeing. But I don’t see them, I don’t see anything, my face is hidden, absorbed by the binoculars, I’m teleported far away, here is what I am looking at. I am making a pair of viewing boxes, each containing an enigmatic image of the back of an eye. You will be able to see the blind spot, the light reflecting at the back to the retinas, a single eye staring at you through the peeping hole.

Keeping a drawing journal to test out ideas, reflect on conversations and shows, as well as document my creative process is really helping me to push my practice in a new direction. I would like to find a platform to share those drawing, but I am unsure of what is best suited at the moment.

I made a couple of small wood prints that will be presented at the next exhibition at Fortyfive Downstairs Gallery, ‘Small’. A ‘Pie and tomato sauce’, and a ‘Daruma doll’ woodprint. the opening is on the 29th of November, come and check it out! I have also been listening avidly to Pro Prac Podcast: it’s a podcast where artists talk about their professional practice: concrete things – like how to have a sustainable practice and a balanced lifestyle! It feels good to hear artist talking about their practice in that way!

December 2019

I had a quiet month at Testing Ground and I have mostly been focusing on drawings, collage and digital illustrations. I have some exciting outcome coming up early next year with a solo show at FortyFive downstairs gallery and launch of a new magazine, Resource, for which I have been working on the graphic content. I also started a collective with three other artists: The Sandwich Orkestra. We are working on a project together: ‘The one time only incredible reading machine’, which is a reading booth making a short story accessible one time only. In the ‘One time only incredible reading machine’, participants walk inside a reading booth for half an hour. They are offered a story to read on a scroll that they activate with a crank. The story unfolds in front of the visitor as he discovers it, for one time only. Once the reader reaches the end of the story, the mechanism blocks, with no way to scroll back. You can only read it once. Once the visitor leaves, the machine is reset for the next reader. At the end of the first phase, the story-scroll will be destroyed from existence (we’re thinking fire). In the next phase of the project, participants recollection of the story will constitute a one-off closing event in the form of an exhibition showing the story

The desire to start working collectively emerge organically from conversations with friends and ideas we want to see happen. But it is also a will to be stronger together, share the workload, and emulate one another. With the ‘One time only incredible reading machine’ we wanted to bring together the writing of Micah Higbed, in a spatial and immersive experience put together by Eric Jong, Julia Goldworthy and myself. We wanted to investigate the value and attention given to reading in a digital age when everything is available at all time everywhere.

Working collectively is a different and exciting approach to a creative practice. It is stimulating and motivating.At the moment in the collective, I am working on the illustrations and design for the visual identity of our group, to help Eric Jong build our website and internet presence. Julia Goldworthy who is a production designer is working on ideas for the making of the reading booth. Finally, Micah has been working on the short story and is applying to writers festivals to show our project, and I am helping with the admin aspect of our group as well. The limits of our role in the collective are fluid and we organically pick up different tasks and swap roles. We are a young group and in the future, we might take a more structured approach, but at the moment that exploration and building phase is suited to what we do.

I also want to tell you about ‘Tree Paper Gallery’ – Formerly ‘Tree Paper Comics’ in the Docklands. It is opening a new space in the Campbell Arcade, under Flinders Street Station. It is a temporary occupation of the space for 7 months before construction work begins in the arcade. The gallery is opening on the 14th of December, with its first group show in early January. The space is also a Risograph printer and will run workshops and show focusing on zines, prints, and independent comics culture. Tree Paper printed my first Graphic Novel ‘FYFM’ in 2018, and I’ll be working again on new collaboration in 2020.

February 2020

In January I worked on my solo exhibition that took place at Fortyfivedownstairs Gallery in the city. I was showing a glow in the dark installation, and even though it’s a work I had already shown as part of my PhD final exhibition, it had never been shown outside of the Art School and I was curious to try a new iteration of the work. I experimented with using Glow in the Dark paint for printmaking to produce a small edition of prints to go along with the mural installation. I also offered a glow in the dark printmaking workshop as a public program along with the exhibition.

For my zine and comics practice, I made a new zine called ‘A 100 French songs for my friends in Melbourne’, that I launched at the Festival of the Photocopier on the 8th of February. It touches on the connection between music and politics in French culture and the cultural shift I experienced by relocating my life in Australia 6 years ago. I am also running a Zines workshop at Testing Grounds on the 13th of February.

With the Glow in the dark mural and printmaking practice, having a new iteration of the work at Fortyfivedownstairs, have opened up a lot of possibility on how to push this technique further. I wish to rework the design to make it weirder and spookier. I also wish to play the ‘Reveal moment’ when the lights turn off and the installation starts to glow. For my graphic narrative practice, working on this new zine on French music and politics has opened the possibility to creatively explore my personal experience of moving to Australia and the cultural shift that accompanies that experience. The version I launched at the Festival of the Photocopier is a beta version and I am going to print in risograph next months.

I am testing out different ways I can use glow in the dark in installations or prints. I am sourcing glow in the dark powder to incorporate in printmaking ink, but also to use for a spatial installation. It is a very playful technique! I am also working on designing a new pair of sculptural viewing devices. I wish to push the production quality of my sculptures and I’m currently looking at the type of wood I am going to use for it.


March 2020

Last month I did a zine workshop at Testing Grounds, focusing on 10 different ways to fold a zine. I researched and discovered new ways to play with paper and learnt even more new ways to fold from some of the participants at the workshop! Having been running arts workshops more regularly lately, I am trying to articulate those with my art practice, participate in building community and find creative ways to run those workshops, moving away from just teaching content.

Following my exhibition in January with a large glow in the dark installation, I am thinking of new approaches with this medium, focusing on audience interaction and the creation of a theatrical spooky atmosphere. I will present a new iteration of my glow in the dark mural at Testing Grounds in late April, in collaboration with my musician friend Thom Schmocker.

Working on this collaboration with a sound artist, has allow me to push certain aspect of the work : building an ambiance, incorporating the time factor more, thinking more about audience interaction with the installation.

At this stage, with Thom, we are keeping the ideas open and focusing on building the atmosphere: what will glow in the dark? What iconography will be use? How will the audience be positioned? Which stories will it create?

I will run a ViewMaster workshop in April at Testing Grounds, where participants can create their own ViewMaster reels. This will also be the launch of a collaborative art project called Looping, where I will give to artists blank ViewMaster reels them to design a series of 7 images to be played in a loop in the ViewMaster. This will be followed by an exhibitions of all the ViewMaster reels in different viewing apparatus.

April 2020

As usual, my mind is working in too many directions, so I have a few projects in the pipelines. But let me tell you about two of them, that originated during my time as a resident at Testing Grounds in 2020. First, I’m still exploring glow-in-the-dark installations: sadly due to Covid19 we didn’t get to present our collaboration with Thomas Schmocker at the Great Rehearsal closing event of our residency at Testing Grounds. But Thom and I haven’t given up on the idea: working with a sound artist have added the time factor to my glow the dark installation, which allow playing more with the ‘reveal’ moment. I am also working on developing the community aspect of my creative practice: during my time at Testing Grounds, I started running more arts workshop in conjunction with exhibition or residencies. I’m now planning a show that will incorporate community and transmission more. This is also going hand-in-hand with a reflection on how to make my art practice sustainable, particularly financially. So my next exhibition ‘HotCakes’ is thought with a public program series.

Our glow in the dark sound installation with Thomas Schmocker is ready and we are looking for a space to present it. We would like to explore a non-traditional venue and see what’s the consequence if has on the interaction among the audience. I’d also be interested in collaborating for the stage and developing glow in the dark set design. ‘Hotcakes’ exhibition is ready and is also looking for a space to present the work and run a public program series.

Glowry third iteration needs a cool space that can create pitch darkness to be shown. We’d like to test out the installation in a non-traditional venue. For ‘Hotcakes’ exhibitions and public programs series, I’d be interested in collaborating with other artists on exploring new form of engagement, transmission and community practices.

You can contact me anywhere: my webiste (emilouwalsh.com), email (emilouwalsh@gmail.com), instagram (@emilouwalsh)

Being a part of the studio program was great! Makes all the difference to be part of a group and have a dedicated space. I particularly benefited from the monthly studio show. I wish it lasted longer!