helen nodding


Welcome to my blog


I'll endeavour to keep you posted with my latest ramblings, new projects and exhibitions, info on artists that inspire me, as well as anything else I think might be worth a share.

By helennodding, Dec 3 2015 11:31AM

I am absolutely delighted to announce that I was awarded the 2015 Stuart Black Travelling Scholarship from the University of Melbourne (Faculty of VCA and MCM).

'The Stuart Black travelling scholarship is awarded to enable a graduate from the school of art, who specialises in drawing, to undertake travel overseas.'

You can find out a bit more about my proposed plans here...

By helennodding, Nov 27 2015 05:46PM

Earlier in the year I was flattered to be asked if one of my pattern designs could be made into t-shirts for the immensely talented singer/songwriter Pixx. I didn't hesitate in saying a big fat YES, and if you haven't heard her latest EP yet, I highly recommend a listen immediately!

Anyhoo, it got me thinking and when a good friend's birthday came up a few weeks ago and I was asked to design a logo for the (slightly) imaginary but (erm) highly acclaimed band we haven't quite got together yet... I set to work on another t-shirt design.

The inspiration stick has well and truly hit me, so if you have any ideas for you very own unique t-shirt design give me a shout. I'll quote you a reasonable price if you agee to let me try and make some further cash off a small print run. Just tell me a few of your favourite things that you'd like to be included in the pattern and I'll see what I can come up with...

Here's a few of my first designs to whet your appetite...

T-shirts will be printed using the fantastic services of TShirt studio... its def worth checking them out if you've got some designs of your own that you're keen to start modelling...

By helennodding, Nov 27 2015 04:12PM

Liminal Spaces

Contemporary theorist Gil Doron refers to spaces that urban planning has somehow disregarded, devoid of utilitarian purpose, “places of resistance”, where nature creeps back and an urban wilderness can begin to proliferate. It is towards such spaces that a growing number of writers, artists and many other city dwellers seem magnetically drawn. In seeking out meaning within the overlooked, liminal, spaces of the city: the weeds that flourish in its back alleyways and cracks, offer an ideal springboard for a poetic contemplation that enables access to an alternative psychogeography of the city.

Gil Doron expands upon Foucault’s (1967) introduction of the idea of ‘heterotopia’ into architectural discourse. He uses the term ‘dead zone’ to encompass urban spaces outside the realm of planned urban architectural space, for example:

"the spaces between the industrial park and the residential neighbourhood, empty car parks, edges of shopping malls, spaces between tower blocks, between lines of transportation (highways and railways), at the edge of highways, under bridges and at river banks, and parks at night, pavements and so on.

Threshold spaces have traditionally been a fertile space within art, literature and film. The threshold, or liminal, space is ambiguous; dissolving; enigmatic and psychologically loaded: a moment of physical pause, fuelled with imaginative potential."

G. Doron, Transgression and Urban Activism

The threshold space can be suggestive of the prelude to a tale, or a narrative to be unravelled: a means to encourage the senses to reach out across the boundaries of language, history and culture. In essence, the experience of such spaces may be likened to the creation of a film still, on to which the viewer might project a fantasy (ignited in response to a series of aesthetic cues).

A threshold is both a literal and a metaphorical passageway, where the reader’s journey begins and the possibilities for imaginative adventure are almost infinite.

The City’s threshold spaces and unplanned vistas are ubiquitous: swathes of terrain vague, hidden passageways, secret doorways, overgrown railway arches and remnants of its industrial past. Such disregarded aspects of the city are fecund with narrative potential, acting as a palimpsest to disclose hidden histories and forgotten tales.

In celebrating the forgotten and overlooked within the fabric of our everyday urban surrounds, the enchanted landscape of the post-industrial romantic truly begins to unfold:

"The story I tell is of a contemporary world sprinkled with natural and cultural sites that have the power to “enchant”… Enchantment is something that we encounter, that hits us, but it is also a comportment that can be fostered through deliberate strategies… To be enchanted is to be struck and shaken by the extraordinary that lives amid the familiar and everyday."

J. Bennett, The Enchantment of Modern Life: Attachments, Crossings, and Ethics

By helennodding, Nov 27 2015 04:08PM

The Dérive

"Question everything’ as a means to ‘escape from the rigidity of mental habits formed by contact with familiar experiences."

G. Bachelard, The Poetics of Space

Walter Benjamin identified, in the nineteenth century writer and poet Charles Baudelaire, the character of the flâneur: “the idle stroller free to daydream, observe, ponder, cruise”. The idea of the flâneur, exploring and ‘experiencing’ the streets through a process of observation and discrete interaction has remained a popular means to creatively engage with the City . The Situationists used the technique of the dérive as a method of re-assessing our routine relationship with the modern metropolis, identifying zoning systems and exploring psychogeography as a:

“tactic for finding out the relationship between experience and built form.”

S. Pile, The Filmic Metropolis

"The dérive as a practice of the city re-appropriated public space from the realm of myth, restoring it to its fullness, its richness, and its history… the dérive was an attempt to change the meaning of the city through changing the way it was inhabited."

T.F. Mcdonough, Situationist Space

Through the act of the dérive the Situationists’ promoted a way to engage with over-looked aspects of urban geography, enabling the individual to break away from their habitual activities and forms of journey making. Like the strolls of the flâneur, the dérive became a search for authentic experience; identifying a kind of parallel universe that may co-exist with more dominant myths that perpetuate the City’s architecture and fabric.

The idea of ‘walking as agency’ was theorized by Michelle de Certeau in his 1970s essay 'Walking in the City'. Here de Certeau suggested that although urban planning defines the city, it can be transformed by the act of walking:

"Linking acts and footsteps, opening meanings and directions, these words operate in the name of an emptying-out and wearing away of their primary role. They become liberated spaces that can be occupied. A rich indetermination gives them, by means of a semantic rarefaction, the function of articulating a second poetic geography on top of the literal, forbidden or permitted meaning. They insinuate other routes into the functionalist and historical order of movement."

Although much contemporary theory attributes this manner of generating creative experience to the popularization of the Situationist dérive it might, instead, be argued the group merely theorized an activity that has a wider historical heritage. As Iain Sinclair bluntly summarizes:

"I’ve been doing what everybody else has been doing for years, but now there’s a convenient label, a franchise: ‘psychogeography.’ It goes back to De Quincey, the Romantics. You wander this landscape without necessarily having preconceived notions, follow your impulses and drift into the street."

With Sinclair’s words in mind, I invite you to enter the world of post-industrial romanticism. In drifting across the city, we will seek out the overlooked and overgrown: drawing our focus upon the omnipresent liminal spaces that punctuate our everyday urban traverses.

By helennodding, Nov 27 2015 03:14PM

The Beach Beneath the Streets

It’s the start of the working week. Droves of commuters pour into the city en masse. Squeezing onto a crowded train, queuing in traffic or weaving around the streets on a bike, there is a familiar sense of dread that accompanies Monday morning’s alarm clock. In many instances our connection with the city is based on efficiency; as we follow the same routine paths to work, the gym or the supermarket.

In this way architecture can become a form of wallpaper, or a backdrop, where our everyday repetitive actions unfold. Order and structure is imposed onto city dwelling as a measure of control. By adding a cult of consumerism and the seduction of media saturation into the equation the everyday environment of the urban inhabitant is geared, seemingly, to promote uniformity whilst stifling individuality and creative expression.

"The document known as The Athens Charter, which became a profound influence on urban planning after World War II… compartmentalizes human activity into three main spheres of action: dwelling, work and leisure. Circulation is assigned a crucial role in making the urban machinery run smoothly and efficiently."

M.Zardini, 'Actions: What You Can Do With the City'

Decrying the ‘Spectacle’ of modern society, the Situationists’ alluded to a crisis of urbanism that relates to our movement through the city and the desired lifestyle that it promotes through advertising and the media.

The result” according to Debord, “is a dismal and sterile ambience in our surroundings".

Ken Knabb, Situationist International Anthology

As far back as 1903, German sociologist George Simmel, in his essay The Metropolis and Mental Life, identified that the over-stimulation of the senses that the city provides might induce its inhabitants to adopt a blasé outlook as a form of defence mechanism. Architectural theorist Neil Leach talks of the city as a site of intoxication through which we manoeuvre in a trance-like state. It is this sense of the ‘blasé’ that, perhaps, reduces our ability to engage with the city in a more creative way, thus making us more vulnerable to the underlying authoritarian tone that belies much corporate architecture and urban design

"Just as an immoderately sensuous life makes one blasé because it stimulates the nerves to their utmost reactivity until they finally can no longer produce any reaction at all, so less harmful stimuli, through the rapidity and the contradictoriness of their shifts, force the nerves to make such violent responses, tear them about so brutally that they exhaust their last reserves of strength and, remaining in the same milieu, do not have the time for new reserves to form."

Neil Leach, The Anaesthetics of Architecture

However, within these established yet invisible authoritarian rules, a wealth of subculture and ‘incidental’ activity is also identifiable. It would seem that an imposed framework either acts as an oppressive force or as a springboard for inspiration. As Henri Lefebvre suggested in 'The Production of Space':

‘…space… also serves as a tool of thought and of action; that in addition to being a means of production it is also a means of control, and hence domination, of power… The social and political (state) forces which engendered this space now seek, but fail, to master it completely…’

Urban explorers and climbers, skateboarders and practitioners of le parkour: these are the pioneering faces of a growing revolutionary force that unlock the potential to experience the fabric of the city in playful new ways. For the less athletic amongst us, walking (or drifting), offers an equally imaginative form of engagement.

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