Thursday, July 8, 2010

Kate Fernyhough and Jim Schofield

Artists who carry out their craft do so in idealic circumstances. They have the peace and tranquility they need to be at their creative best. There is ample time and space for them to practice their skills. Nothing can distract them from their task. Life is bliss.
Kate Fernyhough and Jim Schofield live with their three children in suburban Darwin. They are as far from the ideal of the artist’s life as one could get. Yet, within their suburban space is a naturally creative flow that works. Kate shares her painting space with the children. Jim shares his guitar making space with …. well, no-one actually. How does that work? Admittedly Jim has room for no more than a cockroach in his four-by-four shed; the outflow from his work spilling haphazardly into the garden beyond. Kate’s space is larger but trebles as a play and meeting place.

Kate and I chat about her art in her shared space. There is the occasional interruption from the demands of her twins. They, too show signs of following in their parent’s footsteps.
The table before me is scattered with cards printed by the children, ready for the next craft show.
A few of Kate’s paintings adorn one wall; small portrait-like images in strikingly bold colours in a style I have seen on numerous occasions. I ask Kate about the ‘style’ concept, hoping the conversation will lead me somewhere. What I know about art could fit on the tip of an oily brush. A cold look from disapproving eyes leaves me searching for a new conversational path. So much for my artistic perception.

She describes her rejection of the formal education in art she received in the UK for her personal philosophy: ‘art for real people’. She is almost apologetic in her efforts to praise or sell her work. My crass commercial thoughts are hard to hold back. We joke about the life of the artist. The phone rings and a child’s voice calls for immediate attention. I make my way to the shed thinking Kate could alter her phrasing to ‘real art from real people’.

Jim is self taught. He had been imbedded in wood since his youth. There is mahogany in his muscles and hot horse glue in his veins. He is firm in his beliefs and confident with his knowledge and skills. From the depths of timber and chisels he draws out a mandolin. He is critical of his own work. Second best is not an option here. He provides a rendition of an unfamiliar tune on the mandolin. This is where his craft is complete; hearing the sound this instrument makes is the gift he gives us. It’s a bonus. Few crafts go beyond the visual. Jim covers all the bases.

We talk of wood and glues and what works for his craft. He lets me inspect the surface of a guitar neck for flaws. If I were one of the children, I would be playing in this shed, I thought to myself. Best not to express that out loud I also think, least it be taken in the wrong vein.

Unseasonal rain brings me back to the here and now. As I leave this family of artists I contemplate their separate and collective futures. Living the artist’s life is real enough for them. It’s much like yours and mine. Idealism doesn’t raise children in the suburbs of Darwin but these kids are in good hands.

Thanks Kate and Jim.

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