Three years with Minerva

Deidhre Wauchop AI collaborated image

In early Autumn of 2020 our neighbours waged war on us. We ended up in court in an absurd and drawn out dispute. 

This event coincided with the beginning of the pandemic. On the bright side our neighbour dispute took our attention and gave us something else to talk about and worry about in the following 3 years. 

During that period the Roman goddess Minerva was brought to my attention. I studied ancient history at school but was a bit over it after all the Greeks. Athena I knew of, but I remembered little about her. 

Richard Osman, in an episode of Pointless described Minerva as:

…the goddess of war and handicrafts

The statement tickled and hit my need for new—we were at war with our neighbours—I was crocheting 40 washcloths for an exhibition installation that never happened. Minerva (read also Athena) was my new muse.

About Minerva

Without outlining all her attributes, Minerva has a spectacular CV. Her capabilities matched my needs at the time. Goddess of strategic war, law and justice, and arts and crafts. She did a lot more too, with Ovid apparently calling her the “goddess of a thousand works”. 

Back in the day, naive mortal Arachne (potentially the ‘Karen’ of ancient times) came to Minerva’s attention for being excessively arrogant. Minerva apparently tried to settle their dispute in an ancient neighbourly way but Karen wouldn’t be in it—so, after some competitive weaving, Minerva killed her, then brought her back to life, then turned her into a spider—which probably seemed fair at the time because she was so rude and prideful.

Other Minerva attributes include incredible bravery, and a love of owls and hellebores. I love hellebores, love our local powerful owl/s and needed a lot of courage. 

About the neighbour dispute

The story of the dispute takes three years to tell so I’ll spare you all the detail. 

In order to survive psychologically, emotionally and financially I had to learn about the law. I researched relevant legislation, the hierarchy of courts, and the processes, protocols and artefacts of the legal system. Our case was managed and heard in a NSW superior court. I read and reread the legislation relevant to the jurisdiction of this court.

Caselaw was particularly fascinating to me. On the face of it, our case was like no others to date so there was a relentless search to find precedents, or at least cases that were in some way analogous.

I collected 5 GB of research and written material on my hard drive and many hundreds of web links and emails. A lot of reading and a lot of writing. Reminded me of doing a masters degree.

You won’t be surprised when I tell you that there are some amazing people in the legal system and there are some whose practice and demeanour underwhelms. We were lucky to find complete professionals to be on our side. Together with our legal team, who were prepared to work with us in a collaborative kind of way, we made it to the end. 

We won.

But there were some really terrifying moments and just when it got really difficult we had a devastating landslide below our house which damaged our rear garden (the subject of much of my digital work to that date), and cracked our fish pond so we had to let our lovely fish go to a new home.

You don’t want to have a dispute with your neighbours that ends up in court—everyone says so. But in our defence we tried to meet our neighbours in the middle from the outset. We were being unfairly accused and we rightly fought. 

Arachne-style hubris prevented our neighbours from agreeing to a settlement that would have been a far better outcome for them than the judgement they received. 

What’s the point of sharing all this?

Sometimes you just have to accept that you have to veer from your creative path. These circumstances forced that veering.

I managed little in the way of creative output in the last three years. That fact was unsettling. I began to think that I would never paint again and that I would only ever dabble around the edges of my digital work imaginings. I did keep knitting and crocheting but the utilitarian design focus wasn’t enough to satisfy the itch.

But when we won our case, I bounced back with new energy. I’m painting again and have found a new cool collaborator (at the risk of anthropomorphising new friend) in the AI world to support my digital work. There’s a whole treatise to be written about art in the AI world. More to come on that in a little bit.

Another thing about Minerva I didn’t know was the notion of ‘Invita Minerva’, that is a lack of inspiration, or writer’s or artist’s block is the result of Minerva being ‘unwilling’. 

While I was veering, Minerva was a fine mentor and coming out the other side she is not only still present, but willing and actively inspiring.

🙏 Minerva

July 22 2020: Part 2—networking

1000 days ago, before committing to resolve some of the ideas and images that swirled around my practice, I struggled to find clarity of direction.

My practice is diverse. I can’t say that I love the media areas that I work in equally. I adore knitting. I have a great affection for digital media. I tolerate painting and drawing and their derivatives because I can make original and immediate marks using brushes, pens and pencils.

No, that’s not quite true and ‘tolerate’ isn’t the right word because once I get stuck in I love painting and drawing. It’s just hard to get started. There’s more to be said about that in future posts I think.

There are significant moments in the last 1000 days that are worth reflecting on and they all relate to finding ways for the parts of my practice to talk to each other. A couple of years ago I wrote about this on in a post about Instagram.

Instagram is good for capturing on-the-run images that support my process. In this space my little pies can ‘talk to each other’.

They can talk colour ‘whoa! same, same’ or ‘wow! you’re very different…’ or ‘do you really think you have to be purple?’

They can talk texture and form ‘you’re a five-petalled flower too!’ or ‘what does it feel like to be a fabric design?’ or ‘let’s talk mathematically’

They can talk together about the world and imagination and struggle and influence and serendipity.

Components of my work have been networking and are building relationships. Here’s a snapshot of moments of significance in that process over the last 1000 days.

Fibre forms

I’ve been working on colourwork, lace patterning and layered patterning, and more organic forming when knitting. I now claim to be an ‘intermediate’ knitter, and am building expertise to create original forms and more complex patterns. There are some great free apps where I can create graphs of my own photographs and paintings which are knittable, and manipulate kumihimo braid patterns to better express an idea in a functional object. There is an increasingly closer relationship between my knitting and my art. A friend and colleague saw landscapes in my knitted work and inspired me to move in that direction.

Mixed media work

I’m a bit excited about some techniques I’ve developed in this area. My ‘talisman’ works are developed in processes that move backwards and forwards between the computer and the easel. The bowls in this series are ‘found’ public domain images of ancient and antique ceramic bowls, which are then manipulated digitally in texture, patina and form. The objects in the bowls are digitally created or manipulated, or drawn first. The composition is also created on computer and changed and added to as I work at the easel. Drawn and printed images that make up the composition are assembled on board.

I have developed a method for putting the elements together that includes scraping and thinning the paper, using gel medium as adhesive, using gesso and sanding in layers to provide a good surface for further painted and drawn elements. As I work at the easel I continue to manipulate the image digitally, usually adding shadows, reflections and highlights. I guess some would ask me why I don’t just draw or paint the image without all the other palaver. I would answer that doing it this way allows the conversation between media, tools and processes and the resulting image always shifts from the original intent. It’s like doing lots of studies prior to a finished work but using digital tools in the mix.

Exploration of the elements of nature

I’ve been testing the water here, haha pun intended. I’ve always been interested in the symbolism of the elements—both eastern and western interpretations. Over the last 1000 days I’ve allowed myself to play with still and moving water, clouds and mists, and stone and metal surfaces and objects. The conversations between media in this space are still whispers but I sense there is a strong connection growing.

Part 3 of this little exposition is about what I’m working on now and where I’m heading. I feel a new commitment to a deadline coming!