8 episodes

Making Art is a fortnightly podcast that takes an anthropological look at the process of making creative work. Each instalment features a casual and candid conversation with an Australian artist from a variety of disciplines about their individual journey, their own particular way of Making Art.

Making Art with Neil Pigot Making Art with Neil Pigot

    • Visual Arts

Making Art is a fortnightly podcast that takes an anthropological look at the process of making creative work. Each instalment features a casual and candid conversation with an Australian artist from a variety of disciplines about their individual journey, their own particular way of Making Art.

    08 Tom Holloway

    08 Tom Holloway

    Making Art – Episode 08
    Tom Holloway
    Episode Released 28th October 2018

    When his hauntingly moving and gently unsettling 2007 play Beyond the Neck was presented at Belvoir Street in Sydney Tom Holloway announced himself as a mid-career playwright with a powerful, distinctive Australian voice. That Beyond the Neck, which looked closely and empathetically at the lives of 4 survivors of the Port Arthur massacre, went on to receive the Australian Writers Guild Award, the AWGIE, for Best Stage Play confirmed what many good judges in the theatre world already knew, that we had an exciting voice that was deeply immersed in a sense of place and committed to telling our stories. His next work Red Sky Morning written in 2008 was awarded an R. E. Ross Trust Script Award and a Green Room Award for Best New Play. In 2010 And No More Shall We Part went one better winning both the AWGIE and also the Victorian Premier’s Literary Awards Louis Esson Prize for Drama.

    Anita Hegh in Beyond the Neck

    More original work has followed with productions of his plays presented here, in the US and in Europe. He has also completed the libretto for the new opera, South Pole, commissioned and premiered by the Bavarian State Opera in 2016 alongside a number of adaptions including the Australian classic Storm Boy for the STC and that terrific noir thriller Double Indemnity for the MTC.

    The story of Tom’s development from teenage theatre geek to internationally recognised playwright is a compelling tale of how, amidst what is increasingly becoming a culture crisis in this country, we miraculously got something right.

    Tom began acting in the mid 90’s after leaving school and came to the attention of that beautiful Tasmanian actor/director Robert Jarman. When Tom presented his first short work Jarman was there and astutely recognised Tom’s potential as a playwright. A relationship developed, an “informal mentorship” as Tom calls it which led to further support from Annette Downs who currently heads up Tasmania Performs. With a small amount of money and a lot of careful encouragement Tom progressed to the point where he was accepted into the writing course at NIDA in 2001. A number of plays resulted but it was Interplay that really “switched on the lights” and connected both he and a number of other young playwrights including Lally Katz to the rest of the world and allowed them broaden their practice by “looking internationally.”

    It was contacts that Tom made at the now defunded Interplay that led to him studying at the home of the new wave of British Theatre, the place that brought us John Osborne, Harold Pinter, Sarah Kane and others, The Royal Court in 2006. Interplay was a biennial festival open to emerging playwrights aged between 18-26 years old who were considered among the best of their age in their country. Held in Townsville on the campus of James Cook University, Interplay gathered young playwrights from around the globe to meet for an intense week of mentoring, criticism and encouragement.

    Forget Me Not-Presented by the Bush Theatre Shepherds Bush London

    I mention Interplay because the concept was initiated here in Sydney i

    • 1 hr 10 min
    07 Questions of Value

    07 Questions of Value

    Making Art – Episode 07

    Questions of Value
    Episode Released 7th October 2018

    The speed and perceived complexity of life in the modern world appears to be forcing a number of our time honoured clichés into retirement. “A bird in the hand is worth two in the bush” faces an uncertain future in our fast paced world where the idea of spending time catching birds in bushes is looked upon as just plain silly. And “Too many cooks spoil the broth” is teetering on the brink of extinction in the face of Uber Eats, prepackaged dinners and a generation of people who look at you with an expression that says “What is a broth anyway? In the creative world of course we like to think we have the greatest of all the clichés, the dog eared and dusty “Art mirrors life”.

    But beyond the apparent glibness of that particular phrase there lies, as there does with stitches and time, a number of simple truths. For example it is true to say that when we read a book, look at a picture, watch a play or listen to a piece of music from a particular period we can be, if we choose, transported to that certain time and begin to understand, in a profoundly nuanced way, something of the politics, ideas and social climate that led to its creation. In this way the art in question becomes the mirror through which we gain a wonderfully complex and deeply human insight into the lives of those in our past.

    Ray Lawler’s great Australian play The Summer of the Seventeenth Doll is a classic example. When it was premiered by the Melbourne Theatre Company in 1955 it offered up, for the first time, a theatrical work that was unashamedly Australian. A play that was not only spoken in the Australian vernacular but one that was set in an Australian city in a house populated by Australian people. Not clichés but everyday Australians as we were.

    Prior to The Doll, as it has become affectionately known, Australian plays had largely tended toward the fraudulently British. Strained drawing room comedies or genial, bucolic clunkers that were apologetically small in scope. Plays to be tolerated, curiosities, inferior copies of “real theatre” which came principally from Britain.

    Lawler’s play represents a seismic shift in Australian theatre that was an expression of, or perhaps a precursor to, a seismic shift in Australian identity. Rather than display a continued acceptance of the notion that we were just British people living a long way from home, Lawler put Australia on stage, not just in the language but also in the exploration of big themes that reflected the reality of an endemically Australian life, ideas that were closer in scope and energy to those explored by Tennessee Williams than they were to reproduction English farce.

    What The Doll reflected was a dramatic change in the way we were coming to see ourselves, a theatrical expression of the birth of a people, an artistic mirror in which we can observe our forebears coming to terms with the notion that they were no longer deferential inhabitants of a far flung British dominion but instead an independent people living in an different nation with thoughts and ideas about themselves that were their own. And that the play was a critical and box office triumph attests to a growing confidence amongst Australians to take hold of those ideas and publically express them.

    Born out of a connected relationship between a group of artists and the society they inhabited, The Doll was a fundamental part of a national conversation that resulted in massive social change that saw Australia and Australians define and pursue a very particular cultural imagining for themselves that by the mid 1970’s had become a vibrant reality.

    Cut to contemporary Australia wh

    • 1 hr 24 min
    06 Sue Thomson

    06 Sue Thomson

    Making Art – Episode 06
    Sue Thomson
    Episode Released 22nd July 2018

    “Creative Victoria is the state government body dedicated to championing, growing and supporting Victoria’s creative industries. We invest in the ideas, talent, organisations, events and projects that make Victoria a creative state”.

    So go the opening lines of Creative Victoria’s home page and it all sounds very positive and important until you stop and ask that simplest of questions, what does it mean? And the answer is, I am genuinely not sure.

    What I can be certain of is that those two punchy sentences, those two examples of poor syntax and grandiose superlatives which sound like the opening lines of a business investment prospectus are borne of an ongoing public conversation about art that reverberates beyond the creation of the work itself. Welcome one and all to the bewildered and bewildering world of public debate surrounding the value of art. And it was this question of value or at least our understanding of what value means in a cultural context that was on my mind as I left the home of the Melbourne filmmaker Sue Thomson.

    Sue makes films, often with little or no money, about the things that interest or concern her and if you have ever watched one of her recent pictures it would come as no surprise that when you meet her you are immediately aware that you are spending time with someone who cares. There are no punchy slogans, no soapbox statements, just a deep, heartfelt humanity of the kind that transcends glib clichés, a care that is an intrinsic part of her being. It’s the way she lives her life and it is as a consequence of this that Sue is one of those remarkably rare artists whose work is not separate from but rather a function of who she is.

    I confess that I have known Sue for the best part of 20 years. Our children attended the same primary school where I first encountered her in the school canteen. At that time, the mid 90’s she had made her first film, Boys with Balls, an irreverent but deeply human look at men and their obsession with ball sports. To some extent making that first film was all a bit of a fluke.

    “I’d never made anything and I wrote this script and sent it to the ABC and we were on holiday in the UK and I got this call saying that they wanted to commission it. I was stunned.”

    Someone once said that art helps us understand the things we think but struggle to say, that it can make sense of a world that lies tantalisingly beyond the reach of our own experience. Boys with Balls was the beginning of a creative journey that I suspect began with a simple curiosity about the world around her that has been honed over time into a desire to give voice to those that cannot speak, offerings that give us an opportunity to collectively understand those things that we see but cannot connect with.

    “I know that Arts and Culture make a contribution to health, to education, to crime reduction, to strong communities, to the economy and to the nation’s well-being but I don’t always know how to evaluate it or describe it. We have to find a language and a way of describing its worth.”

    So said the then British arts minister, Estelle Morris in 2003. It is a statement that gives a clear illustration of how the terms of the arts value debate were cast and over a relatively short period of time this nexus of cultural value and finding a way to describe or quantify it in order to justify government funding has come at a cost. Instead of a rigorous exploration of the complex issues involved in art making and its multi-faceted relationship to a community or society, a rather simplistic discussion has em

    • 1 hr 2 min
    05 Tim Dargaville

    05 Tim Dargaville

    Making Art – Episode 05
    Tim Dargaville
    Episode Released 8th July 2018

    When people ask, as they occasionally have over the past two and a half years, why I haven’t been acting much lately I’ve often replied that I’m “taking a breather”, “regrouping”, “resting and having a think about things”. Which is bollocks. The truth is three years ago I had a massive breakdown. I’d like to say it was a surprise and while at the time I was utterly bewildered by it, few that knew me were, and in retrospect I can see now that it was perhaps one of the slowest moving train wrecks in history. Over some months as I sat in my little room in the institution that I’d checked myself in to I came to realize that what had led me there was the fact that I found so many apparently simple things about life and living completely and utterly baffling. This compelled me to accept that I was 53 and thoroughly clueless.

    In recovery, once the acceptances are done, you set about undertaking what appears to be the insurmountable task of unravelling your own life’s puzzle, gingerly stepping out on an often painful, forensic search for Jungian self-knowledge. It’s a journey of discovery which is laden with euphoric “eureka” moments that with time often show themselves instead to be rather comical “duh” moments. It is from these sometimes embarrassing and always humbling experiences that, thankfully, some bigger questions emerge.

    One of my “aha” moments in those early days was the realization that despite having been an actor for thirty five years my relationship to my creative practice, such as it was, was perfectly bereft. I just didn’t know what it was all about. I’m grateful that I can say that particular insight has led me to a more interesting line of enquiry, namely “Do I really want to do it again?” And to answer that particular question any creative must ask themselves another more important one. Why?

    It’s confronting and tricky but sometimes you just need to have your eyes open and trust that fate will put someone or something in your path that will help you find an answer.

    And I met that someone the other day. Composer Tim Dargaville is of a similar vintage and as I listened to him talk about his life and work I got the impression that it’s a question he’s been quietly asking himself for a long time, one that has offered up a series of seemingly disparate clues delivered in unexpected moments. And those moments, along with the passing of time appear, at least from where I was sitting, to be honing the answer, each moment, each day making it clearer and simpler.

    “One of the things you understand better, or at least it has been for me. Is that as you get older and your view of your place in the world changes your practice changes quite dramatically. I can see works in my catalogue from the past that are me going ‘Hi. I’m here’. And you should expect that. When you’re young you’re trying to cook up recipes that have all manner of things in them that will attract people quickly. But as I get older I find I have dispensed with a lot of that and I’m much more interested in ordinary things but trying to express those ordinary things with a poetic sensibility. Ordinary things that are particular to me and the way I see things in the world. ”

    Perhaps one of the first of those seminal moments that shaped Tim’s creative practice and remains something of a creative foundation stone was the day when, as a teenager, he became aware that music had the power to render people speechless. He arrived home and on entering the kitchen found his mother, who was convalescing after an illness, alone, seated in a chair, listening to a recording of Elgar’s Cello Concerto wi

    • 1 hr 10 min
    04 Hannah Bertram

    04 Hannah Bertram

    Making Art – Episode 04
    Hannah Bertram
    Episode Released 24th June 2018

    As I leave an artist having recorded a conversation for this podcast series I am trying more and more to listen for an instinctive voice, a clue that might shed some light on the direction this companion article will take. What I guess I’m trying to do is allow something of that first impression, that quiet yet clear inner sense to guide the thoughts that will appear on this page, so that the article becomes more than just a didactic response to that interaction.

    To be honest with you, when I started to make this series of podcasts and write these articles I wasn’t really sure what shape this particular thing that I’m making would take. The idea that sits behind it is a simple one. A desire, on my part, to achieve some insight into the process of creating things, artworks, call them what you will because frankly, I’m not sure about my own process. And because I asked that fairly loose question, “What is it to make art?” as a stepping off point on this journey I feel I can engage in a little creative dance here. The truth is, I’m making it up as I go. I know I have a set of skills but “what to do with them?”

    As I search for what I am looking for in this series I seem to be getting closer each week to knowing what it will be by developing an understanding of what it will not be. And as I slowly develop a sense of what I am not looking for the process is beginning to change. Whatever these articles and the podcasts become will one day have a quality that I am searching for, although what precisely that quality is I have no idea. I am looking for something and yet I don’t know what that something is.

    This of course is an example of Meno’s paradox. Meno, a rich Greek fishmonger (I just made that up, he may well have been a green grocer) asked Socrates how you search for something you are ignorant of. Socrates replied that you can’t search either for what you know nor what you don’t know. One because you know what it is, the other since you don’t know what to look for. And so was born one of philosophy’s great paradoxes. How do you find something new when you don’t know what you’re looking for?

    I confess that I don’t know what I’m looking for and yet as I left the studio of the visual artist Hannah Bertram, all I could hear, all I could sense was a quiet voice saying “Its okay not to know.” To be, for a while in a place of discovery that may have no answer. A place that Hannah actively embraces despite at times finding it uncomfortable.

    Hannah Bertram in her studio

    I met with Hannah in her studio in Elizabeth Street and if I were to describe her to you in a word picture the first word that would come to mind is mercurial. When she approaches, you are aware it is a living thing that takes your hand, a person in “the moment” with a curious mixture of openness, vulnerability and confidence. You feel at once in the presence of someone who is having a life but one for whom having a life means being interested in others and allowing herself to be uncertain. She’s stands straight although not rigid, with a fast, enquiring eye that seems to be always looking for something. Something beyond the obvious. Sharp witted and yet deeply thoughtful, sometimes quick with an answer and at others slowing to think, in some ways she is a paradox herself, a person with whom you know straight away you should expect the unexpe

    • 55 min
    03 Maude Davey & David Pidd

    03 Maude Davey & David Pidd

    Making Art – Episode 03
    Maude Davey & David Pidd

    Episode Released 10th June 2018

    I would like to confess to a number of guilty pleasures. At the moment I’m enjoying chocolate coated digestive biscuits dunked in milk. So delicious. And good for you. I am also happy to come out as a closet Formula One fan. Yes indeed and perhaps as you’re reading this I’ll be sitting at home tuning in to the unfolding drama in Canada via the F1 app which I study with great intent during the race, keeping an eye on tyre degradation and sector times while cheering on my boy Dan as he tenaciously climbs his way through the field toward the chequered flag. Now in case you missed it, Dan won the last outing in Monte Carlo under great duress but unfortunately he may have to wear a grid penalty this weekend for an unscheduled mechanical change. Which is grossly unfair in my opinion but at least it raises the potential for an exciting race. I just hope Dan manages to avoid the Wall of Champions. (Follow the link to see famous racing car drivers hitting a wall at ridiculous speeds.)

    Digestives of course are random guilty pleasures. I buy a packet every now and then. Grand Prix’s are fortnightly and often past my bedtime. I do have a regular regular weekly weakness though and it’s The Two of Us, the article that appears like clockwork each Saturday in the Good Weekend. I’ve always loved it. It’s a quick read, you get a snapshot of how two interesting people met, find out a little about how they do what they do, how their particular relationship works. It’s insightful, can often be fun and to be honest I’ve always harboured a secret ambition to write it. What a gig.

    So here’s my audition. It’s subtly different, I’ve gone with a slightly longer introduction and I’ve left out their ages. Small changes but enough I think to distinguish the piece and just to be sure we avoid any inter-publication rancour I’ve decided to call The Daily Reviews’ version The Pair of Them. And this weeks’ pair are Maude Davey and David Pidd.

    Maude and David first met at a music gig in Sydney in the mid 1980’s. Maude had just graduated from the acting school at VCA and David was about to start. It was brief and they showed no obvious interest in each other beyond a casual curiosity.

    Maude went back to Melbourne and did what many talented young performers do, she made her own work. Together with her twin sister Anni, Karen Hatfield and Jane Bayly she formed the highly successful hybrib theatre, music, a cappella group Crying in Public Places which toured to great acclaim nationally and internationally for much of the 90s.

    In the noughties, she collaborated with Finucane and Smith and was one of the core performers in the shows The Burlesque Hour and Glory Box. It was a partnership that would last for over a decade with sell out shows here and overseas. Forever on the go, she is about to embark on an all new season of Retrofuturismus, the unnervingly artful, dystopian vaudeville meets cabaret meets burlesque show she conceived with Anni.

    Maude and Anni Davey

    David graduated from VCA in 1989 and while his early career was busy it would be fair to say that it began in a way that was rather more low key. In the early 90’s he worked consistently in his home state of Tasmania with Ri

    • 1 hr 3 min

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