PIGGOTT, Rosslynd, 1958
painted medium-density fibreboard, wood, glass, wool, Japanese obi silk
119.0 cm x 200.0 cm x 28.0 cm
Courtesy of Sutton Gallery, Melbourne
Q: Your experiences of travel and interest in other cultures is often an important part of your work. How does this relate to Pillow?
A: Yes; Pillow is strongly influenced by my experiences in Japan. In 1997 I spent four months in Saitama, north of Tokyo, as the Sai-no Kuni artist-in-residence, which allowed me a brief but intense insight into Japanese culture. Since then I have returned at least once or twice every year, to be in touch with their culture that is so familiar and so elusive. I responded in particular to aspects of their old culture, which is fast disappearing. One cannot help being affected by contradictions in this society. In relation to works such as Pillow, I have been interested in a profound darkness of the Japanese psyche, that has been especially informed by the writings of Yukio Mishima.
Q: Could you please tell me about the obi silk in Pillow?
A: The Japanese obi silk l sourced in Melbourne. It comes from a silk black obi with black clouds woven into it, with the most delicate silver trails around some clouds. The black obi would have been used to wear to a funeral. To me, the fabric seemed perfect to use on a pillow, denoting Night and Void. Black clouds on a black sky, using glossy and matt silk fabrics. Both sensuous and catastrophic!
Q: Could you please comment upon your incorporation and reference to traditional materials and processes in Pillow?
A: Pillow references a traditional Japanese wooden sleeping pillow. It looks uncomfortable, but is probably very functional. The form is almost architectural. The architecture of sleeping, perhaps - or not sleeping. It speaks more of a certain level of the uncomfortable, the exotic, attraction/repulsion, unfamiliarity, yet familiarity of the past time space. The plinth of Pillow is a quasi-lacquer. It was actually made in collaboration with a car spray painter, to emulate traditional lacquer. The top surface of the plinth is highly reflective and functions as a black mirror. The viewer is simultaneously reflected back to oneself and dropped into a deep black space. The two black holes at the far end of the plinth are measured from the artist's eyes, they are entrances into a deeper space. I suppose I could have used plastics or resins to create that effect. As it was I could not use real lacquer - it's now too expensive and too poisonous - but to emulate it expresses something of the time present in those techniques. I'm often interested in surfaces, materials or spaces that are resonant with time and memory. Meaning becomes imbedded in such surfaces - more laden and more subtle.
Q: How does Pillow relate to your other work?
A: Pillow belongs to a body of work, This moment in Nature: objects recording Night, which is related to a previous body of paintings, This moment in Nature: paintings recording Night. During 1999-2000 I had a lot to say about loss, sadness and weight, as well as being influenced by the heavy deep blackness of Japan and examining notions of void. My own body, eyes and heart were residing in Night. More recently, in the studio, the paintings have turned to light. The two states, however, are not necessarily opposite.
Rosslynd Piggott in response to questions from Elena Taylor, September 2001
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