Dirty Dozen exhibition: De-Construction/Re-Construction – The Silver Lining to an Exhibition Postponed

Creativity Cluster is a group of nine Melbourne women artists. Unlike many art groups, we each work in different mediums. However, what we do have in common is an interest in engaging and interacting with the wider community through our exhibitions, workshops, and artist talks and tours.

Our group was very excited to be presenting our exhibition De-Construction/Re-Construction in the Dirty Dozen in May. We had chosen this theme for two reasons. First, we are experiencing this process on the very doorstep of the Dirty Dozen, as Melbourne undertakes the Metro Tunnel Project. Second, we also go through this process whenever we create our art, but in different ways for each of us because we work in different mediums. This exhibition combined these approaches, enabling us to explore the urban environment or the creative process – and for several artists, both.

Introductory window: Welcome to the Creativity Cluster exhibition, De-Construction/Re-Construction, at the Dirty Dozen. These 12 display cases in Campbell Arcade under Flinders Street are managed by Creative Spaces at the City of Melbourne.

We were just completing all our works for the exhibition — and then came the Covid restrictions. Fortunately, Creative Spaces was able to accommodate our request to postpone the exhibition. To counteract our disappointment in having to postpone, however, there were three wonderful opportunities that came our way. 

Window 1: Julia Zöllner, Urban Unruliness. Julia focuses on the chaos of Asian cities through water colours and alcohol ink.  

Window 2: Nancy D Lane (NancyDee Sculptures), Arising from the Waste. Nancy’s assemblage sculptures use recycled builders’ waste to mimic urban infrastructure.

Window 3: Luna Cameron-Parrish (Amethyst Moon), The Whole Is More Than the Sum of Its Parts. Luna constructs movement and action through mixed media mosaics.

First, we applied for and received a grant from the City of Melbourne Covid-19 Arts Fund to put the exhibition online as we awaited the opportunity to exhibit in ‘real life’. This provided a wonderful psychological boost. It enabled us to develop a group website with the assistance of Elle-May Michael from Incube8r Gallery. In addition, she was able to provide training sessions to help us improve our use of Instagram. We formally launched the exhibition website and online exhibition in July. Please visit our website.

Window 4: Penny Sharples, The Cracks That Bind Us. Penny’s acrylics are influenced by the ancient Japanese practice of repairing cracks in broken items with seams of gold.

Window 5: Mardie Whitla, Light at the End of the Tunnel. Mardie creates ceramic lamp bases with a message: Look towards the future when the lights go back on. 

Window 6: As Nature Decomposes. Works by Carolyn Morwood, Deidre Ogilvie and Mardie Whitla. In nature, the process of deconstruction sets up the next cycle of reconstruction, which leads to deconstruction –perpetuating the infinite cycle of life. 

Second, Creativity Cluster was featured in Seniors Week reimagined – an online reconfiguration of the normal October event. The group facilitator, Nancy Lane, was interviewed at her home by the interviewer, Bec Reid, who was in Queensland, all by Zoom, with each of the two videoing themselves. The producers then combined the two videos, along with many still photographs from the online exhibition. The video is on the Seniors Festival reimagined website, as well as on YouTube.

Window 7: Metro Mix. Works by Julia Zöllner, Nancy Lane and Lindsay Hussey. These artists depict the change in the ‘look and feel’ of cities as they undergo growth and transformation.

Window 8: Structured Layer by Layer. Works by Luna Cameron-Parrish, Pat Duncan and Penny Sharples. The artistic process involves constructing layer by layer, informed here by geology and by land, sea and sky.

Window 9: Carolyn Morwood, Transition. Carolyn’s digital images of the constructed world emphasise strength underscored by perhaps self-defeating rigidity.

Third, we had started a Conversations with Artists program for the Melbourne City University of the Third Age. Each Creativity Cluster artist planned to talk about their artworks, and then demonstrate or show slides of the processes they use. Unfortunately, because of Covid, this too was cancelled in March before we could complete the series. However, U3A was quick to convert to Zoom, so we were able to continue the series in August. Several of the artists had made notes for their talks, so these interviews were added to our website.

Window 10: Lindsay Hussey, Triptych: Towards a Better…? Lindsay’s starting point for her machine embroidery textile collages was Melbourne’s rail system maps.

Window 11: Pat Duncan, So Much More Than All of Its Parts. Pat has re-created components of Marc Chagall’s stained-glass window in oil, water-colour and alcohol ink. 

Window 12: Deidre Ogilvie, De-Construction/Re-Construction Takes Many Forms. Deidre works in oil and water-colour, showing how we demolish and rebuild, but also preserve and repair.

At the start of November, we were very happy and very relieved to finally install the exhibition. We hadn’t expected that Covid would ‘de-construct’ our plans as it did. However, we are very grateful to Creative Spaces, the City of Melbourne Covid Arts Grant, Elle-May McMichael, the Seniors Festival reimagined and Melbourne City U3A for enabling us to ‘re-construct’ these plans in new and interesting ways.