Skyfire studio residency

Written by Justin Morrissey

As I embarked on this creative residency project, I tried to bring certain elements together in a way that created meaning. There are obvious motifs that are referred back to within the works such as economy and the landscape. The artworks hope to remind us that we often overlook the material used in the everyday items we collect and cherish within our homes. I’ve relished referencing the games that have entertained generations of families in their domestic life and used primarily as an escape from the mundane.

Atlas Bailing Out, 2016, is a work which reflects upon the many family holidays we took as kids and times we spent piecing together jigsaw puzzles with both sets of grandparents, and how the puzzle was a challenge to find harmony that we all enjoyed together. The cuttlefish we collected on the beaches were, for me at least, these bizarre objects washed up on the shore, that were neither from the land or the sea. The density of the cuttlefish bone consisting of many layers, assumably created by many years of growth. When objects are washed up on the shoreline it reminds me that the time in which we inhabit is only very temporary.

At a residency in the USA, in July 2015, I undertook a cuttlebone casting course with a very talented metalworker Michael Bonadio (Bones). He introduced me to the softness of the cuttlefish and its ability to leave a trace of the layered texture upon the molten pewter.

Solitary Confinement, 2015, was the first exploration of this material, poured overseas and set into the piece of coal in Katoomba, Blue Mountains. Coal is an extremely hard, and compacted material, when you carve it, it creates a really fine dust, which is really toxic to your health. The smell whilst carving it even with a facemask was unmistakable. As I drift off to sleep most nights, carriage after carriage of coal, flows over the Blue Mountains and the sound of the coal carts bumping together puts me to sleep; so it is little wonder that I am drawn to this material.

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With the exception of Solitary Confinement, 2015, all of the pewter was poured at Skyfire studio throughout January. I would adorn my mask and breathing protection, heat the pewter objects collected randomly throughout op shops from Leichardt, Tathra, Katoomba and Bermagui and pour into cuttlefish molds, lodged in a sand bucket.

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Outbreak, 2016, is so titled because the pewter literally broke the mold. When it was poured it filled the mould and then enveloped it. I liked the way it felt a little like how a cuttlefish might look as it drifted in the sea.

It has been a great experience working here at Skyfire Studio and my thanks must go to Paige Lampkin and Philip Crandall. My thanks must also go to Caoife Power who worked alongside me to create her works.