Sunday, August 5, 2018

Social ethos in wellspring of art

L. Phil Nizette and R. Jennifer  Jones

Canberra Critics Circle in Conversation with Wellspring Environmental Arts and Design - 30 July, report by Simone Penkethman.
JENNIFER Jones and Phil Nizette joined the Canberra Critic's Circle in conversation on 30 July 2018. 
Jennifer and Phil have worked together, making placed-based public and community art, since the early 1990s.
Their business, Wellspring Environmental Arts and Design, draws on their combined expertise in ceramics, sculpture and landscape architecture. They work locally in Canberra, nationally and internationally. There is a strong social ethos running through their art and their business; they say that their work is all about wellbeing and how the arts can improve quality of life.  Being a business from which they both make a living  means that they are always hunting work; but when they do secure a tender or contract, they make the project fit within the Wellspring philosophy. 
Wellspring works with communities and places. Whether in a dementia ward, the outback or Southeast Asia, Phil and Jennifer say they  feel a responsibility to foster creativity in everyone.
 Gubur Dhaura Heritage Reserve in Franklin ACT is one example of their local work. The reserve is on a partial hill which is ancient ocre collection site. Jennifer and Phil worked with local Ngunnalwal people in the design and installation of sculptural entry walls, 'Ground Maps', pedestrian barriers made from re-purposed farm equipment from the site. Seating and interpretive nodes occur throughout the reserve, relating aspects of its Aboriginal and rural past. They also used clay from the site to make bricks and engaged local Ngunnawal people to make decorative ceramic tiles for the work. It was interesting to hear Phil muse that sometimes local residents visit the place and don't necessarily recognise it as art. 
There is an inclusiveness and lack of ego about the art of Wellspring.
Phil and Jennifer often work in temporary of ephemeral art installations. Discussing their experiences in this space, brings new energy to their conversation. Jennifer said that there is pleasure, fun and freedom to be had in creating temporary works because they don't have to be durable and relevant for decades. They recently completed a six week installation of three temporary spaces in Canberra's city centre. 
In both their temporary and permanent work, Phil and Jennifer make use of recycled and repurposed materials. Whether the work is temporary or permanent, Phil is always looking to find ways that artists can work with larger teams to shape public spaces.  He says that artists need to be working with the planners and designers of buildings, towns and cities.