Mikaela Castledine’s short story All the Devil’s Weed Plants will appear in our 2016 short story collection, we knew Mikaela was a talented sculptor as well so we were delighted to hear her piece ‘Intention’ won the Rio Tinto Sculpture Inside Award at this year’s Sculpture by the Sea.
We asked Mikaela to share the story behind her sculpture.
‘Big Intention is an installation consisting of six Buddhist stupas, it was inspired by a small work called Intention, which can be seen in the Sculpture Inside show at Sculpture by the Sea. This in turn was inspired by a beautiful place in Burma (Myanmar) on the shores of Inle Lake. (I use the term Burma rather than the modern name of Myanmar as the trip was intended to take me back into the past to the place that my mother knew as a small child.)
In 2014 I used the prize money I had received from Sculpture by the Sea Cottesloe 2013 to travel to Burma, the country where my Grandmother grew up and my mother was born. I was collecting inspiration to prepare for an important solo exhibition at Linton and Kay, Subiaco, in July 2015.
When I go out in the world – from simply stepping outside my door to travelling overseas, I keep my mind, like my eyes, open. Little things interest me, small ideas, strange juxtapositions, interesting new ways of being. I use my art to help me understand these things, to make sense of the world and to explain myself to the world. As an artist, sculptor and a writer I find some of theses things need colour, some need shapes and some need words and so seamlessly go from one medium to the other in my explorations.
One of the things that really inspired me on this trip were the lovely golden stupas which are present everywhere you travel through the country. They are actually the first thing you notice about Burma when you fly in; little golden shapes like drawing pins fastening down an undulating blanket of green. Stupa is a Sanskrit word which means to heap up and refers to domed or hemispherical buildings. In Burma you can find them as large buildings housing huge statues of the Buddha, shrines which may contain relics such as hairs or teeth of the Buddha, or small solid structures which have no easily identifiable purpose. On doing a little research I discovered that building a stupa can give you merit which will help you on your journey to enlightenment – but only if it is built with the right intention. For me this thought married perfectly with my ideas about art – that you can only gain merit from art if you do it with the right intention.
This is my answer to the question that is often asked: What is art? For me art is anything that is done with the intention of making art. It is not about whether it is good or bad, whether it works or doesn’t, art is art if the intention was to make art. To use some famous examples, the difference between Duchamp’s ‘Fountain’ and a urinal or Tracey Emin’s ‘My Bed’ and our own unmade beds is the intention to make art. It is the difference between tiny children or elephants making colourful abstracts and an abstract painter, the difference between a painter’s drop sheet and a Pollock.
With the idea of intention in my head I set about making some stupas out of crocheted nylon paracord. The process of crocheting for me is all about meditation and repetition, of making each stitch properly, of placing it correctly to form an intentional shape. Some stupas in Buddhist countries contain relics – so you might place something important within a stupa. For me the things that get stitched into my stupas are thoughts and feelings. Sadness, joy, hunger, anger, weariness, satisfaction, all these things get bound up in the knots.’