You don’t get used to this. This tiny hovel with its downward pressure on your position within the community. Enforced poverty. The decimation of the potential not just in my life but in the lives of all the people like me. It was forcibly brought home to me when I discovered this image.
Back in 1996, 97 and 98 I was studying at the Ourimbah Campus of the University of Newcastle and was easily and regularly producing large works of charcoal, acrylic, graphite and chalk on paper. This one is two meters long. Since then the rising prices of rent have driven me deeper and deeper in an impoverished position on art making. You may not need a lot of space or equipment to make this kind of thing but you need some. Being trapped in this refugee camp for low income tenants and living in what is barely a bus stop with a stove and toilet all the skills that developed and produced such work then filled my life with potential are gone or going. Every morning I awake sick with dread and loss fearing that I will die without ever making the art my soul craves.
Last night one of those freakish wind, rain and hail storms snuck under the roof tiles and found that old pile of rat’s turds, dust and leaves. It soaked it then it blew it down through the gap where the bricks and the ceiling meet, covering the bed in black mud.
I remember now. That was the suspected outcome of such an event and the reason the bed is there instead of a pile of drawings. Much easier to fix me and some bedding than lose another artwork.
The Stelitzia series of works is still being produced. It gets difficult to be excited about these despite some beautiful surfaces and textures emerging from the work. It still feels like colored mud. Perhaps when the understanding of colors this is helping to develop is transferred to some other types of work the importance will be felt.
The sense of discovery needs to be reinvigorated within this series to keep it interesting. I know from the periods of employment as an artist that good art practice is built on the discipline that keeps an artist plugging on when their whole sense of being resents it. One of the decisions to make here is about exhibiting the Strelizia works in the future. I spoke about preparing an exhibit and these works will all need framing. It will be quite an undertaking in money and transporting them about. I have dreams that a decent gallery owner or curator arrives in my life to point out what future directions should take and what is worth showing. The possibility of that is another fading possibility in the face of social housing realities
The size of the power bill still rankles. Basically it is $120 a month for a single pensioner in a hovel. Too much! It is especially too much when I spent a winter with no heating at all, took two showers a week, barely washed any dishes and only toasted a few things on the grill. There is still a steak in the freezer but when it is gone the stove will be covered and used as a work table. I have been testing how I feel about sandwiches and microwaved vegetables. No problem. The stove can go away. There is a butane camp stove if the need for cooking arises.
I would do the same for the fridge but we have a brutal summer coming. The idea may be to revisit taking some of the appliances off the grid and using a 12v camp fridge on solar power. There are 150AH of gel batteries here to be wired into a storage array. It should pay for itself in the first year. I dont need a normal fridge with no more cooking going on. I do need lights to see what is being painted and a stereo to make music to stay in the creative brain space.
The computer/s is another tool that is important right now. It is often the only human contact I get for days at a time. Mostly I follow politics and try to make informed comment in case anyone cares. There are some artists on Twitter and cartoon/pen and ink groups on Facebook that are inspiring and a pleasure to share with.
Still studying every day. At the moment the subjects revolve around work by Isabel Bishop. Color relationships. Pen and ink mark making. Unless I am too ill to even sit up in bed I study when ever there is a moment that I can face thinking about it.
An NDIS provider has connected up and the contracts are signed. Still nothing physical is happening. I did get a phone call and there is a growing urgency to get a visit to the art supplier and the plant nursery. The plant nursery needs to be visited to get the front grassy verge and the plants out there ready for the next year of crippling heat. The fountain grass needs to be repotted and have its clumps split up so it can come back green. The lawn looks awful and needs weeding and feeding and so on. It needs to be done before the spring gets it all growing again.
Finally the contracts from the provider arrived with a Meals on Wheels menu although the menu is called the NDIS Menu and the organization is Coast Cuisine because you all need some posh name to feel good about stuff I guess.. All I can say is wow. It is a good menu with every class of thing from diabetic menu to diet to vegan and all the other things that people can have to prevent allergies or need in their daily intake of nutrients. Wonderful!
To interest me it would have to appear without a human attached. It would have to find its way into in the barrel I keep by the door and it would have to do it at odd times of day or night when I feel well enough to deal with things. I will stick with intermittent sandwiches and stuff for now. There is probably more but you must be sick of me. It is a blog not a novel!