I’ve always been fascinated by liminal and in-between spaces. There is something very rich and latent and a tad edgy about these spaces. It is a feeling of possibility and potentiality and of uncertainty and change. Liminal spaces are often described as transitional, and as physical spaces they can seem forlorn, emotionally they can feel as if you are in a washing machine and metaphorically, a leap of imagination which can happen to me making of an artwork. When I look back on my art practice, I can see that I often like to work with liminal spaces.
Some physical examples are often sited as hallways or an airports. I remember reading Kathka many years ago and I was struck by his short story about the dustballs in the corner of a room and not only corners, his whole story was a liminal reading experience! As a child I still remember sensing the most frightening animals under my bed in the middle of the night. River systems are a rich meeting place on the riparian zones, where both land and river merge. Here on the Clarence River in Northern NSW, it is still tidal at Seelands, 30km up from Grafton and about 70Kms from Yamba where the river meets the ocean. The intertidal areas form a rich moist area where native plants and animals flourish. In powerful floods here, where the River rises 20m in the height of big floods here, trees are swallowed whole and the River becomes a moving sea across the floodplains.
Emotionally it could be a life transition such as my eldest granddaughter who is now a pre-teenager, experiencing the highs and lows of a transitional period in her life. Ideas can feel liminal, when they are half-formed and just moments away from reaching or expressing them fully. If I don’t move on them, or write them down they just float away. I love to walk along the beach within intertidal zones, where the ebb and flow of the ocean waves deposit many gifts to the critters that live there. It is a rich place for crabs, pippees and sea birds to breed.
Liminal spaces cross time. I love to get up pre-dawn, to greet the day when all is quiet and no noisy neighbours. I feel into the day, seeing the night critters scutter away as the birds slowly wake to the dawn chorus. As the day closes, the colours of dusk upon the river, are quite magnificent with silvery glistening highlights and golden reds and orange painted across the water’s surface. I did a wonderful yoga session this morning and we spoke about the space between breath. Yoga uses breath and movement to tune in and be present. That is the lesson of liminal spaces, an awareness of change and ‘the now’ and at its best it is a letting go of the anxiety of the future and the pain of the past.
I’ve been pondering liminal spaces with Will Rodgers, fellow creative and fabulous sound ecologist who works with me on site-specific exhibitions. He was rather excited about fungi and their relationships to trees. Well, I was captivated straight away, and this is a project on the liminal list! Hidden down in the depths of the soils, these fungi are interconnected with the well-being of trees, breaking down matter for healthy soils and habitat.
Not far away from where Will lives, is the most magnificent, and patterned root system of a River Oak Tree (a future relationship to develop and become a Tree portrait). This Oak is perched upon a rocky outcrop below waterfalls on the Severn River. This river flows to the west, (the Clarence flows to the east) and it is found in traprock country. The Tree’s roots twirl around rock, gripping for tenacious life when the raging and powerful floods pours forth from the rocky outcrops to the River below. I had a few days away with him, up near Stanthorpe where they are totally off the grid and surrounded by 40 acres of beautiful bushland and I flourished amongst the beautiful trees there. They have a very thriving and healthy garden too. Encircled by netting to keep out the Wallaroos, it really emphasised how our gardens are an in-between space. A controlled nature, on the edge of native habitat.
When I work with watercolour, I use the river and the movement of the water with the pigment, as wet on wet and in the studio, wet on dry. There is a loss of control when using the flow of water and the pigment across the page. This is a transition period in the artwork, it moves and flows with the water. I can control some things like how damp the paper is or how loaded the brush is with a particular pigment, but the way the water moves and reacts across the page is of itself, with its own properties. This is what I love about my art practise, the testing, experimenting, and forcing myself to go beyond, which is for me a means to get out of my head and into my body and being present. As I work the pencil with the colour, there is a reciprocity between the processes. When I form a relationship with the Trees and really feel my way into the process and the paper matrix, I am present. When I am present, my imagination can travel and whisper to the Trees if I choose to hear them.