SJ Botham on Travelling Light - ABC Up North
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Artist Statement

Initially, Travelling Light was to be a body of work about travel based on well known tourist destinations. I wanted to explore the concept of virtual travel and draw upon the internet resources that are available for people to virtually explore destinations on the other side of the world - without leaving their homes. I decided that I would pick the destinations for this Iconic World Tour from destinations that are well known and that also offer some personal appeal for me, but that I have yet to visit. I also picked some destinations that I find really appealing but due to current safety concerns I am unlikely to visit anytime soon.

 

All the pieces in “Traveling Light” were made December 2016 - March 2017. During this time, US President Donald Trump issued his Executive Order “Travel Bans” and overnight people began frequently discussing freedom of movement and the closing down of borders to tourists. It seemed to me, that at this point in time it would be irresponsible of me to have an exhibition about travel that didn’t also address the fact that dependent on their nationality (generally determined by 'luck of birth') people have very different access to international travel. Whilst making the work, I also started looking into the varying power different passports had when it came to accessing other countries. The reality of passport power was sometimes quite surprising! Those with an Australian passport are indeed very lucky by international standards!

 

The work in this exhibition has also been influenced stylistically by my travels for the first time in 2016 to both Iceland and Japan as well as my ongoing obsession with light and shadow.  

At the beginning of 2016 I participated in a two month artists' residency in Reykjavik, Iceland. During that residency, I began experimenting with making larger scale sculptural works that were collapsible, light weight and easy to travel with and store. (These things are an ongoing concern for transient artists). For this body of work I have experimented and expanded on these ideas. The initial concept was a whole exhibition that could travel in one suitcase but as always, I didn't end up traveling quite as light as I initially had planned. Yet, these works, definitely travel and store more easily than more conventional art formats and I plan to continue experimenting with and refining these techniques in the future.

 

In September 2016 I went to Japan for the first time where I fell in love with beautiful handmade papers and a Japanese minimalist aesthetic which shows real reverence for the intrinsic beauty of natural materials. Prior to “Traveling Light”, I had never really worked with paper, but I returned from Japan with a big tube of beautiful papers that cast awesome shadows (I had tested this in the shop in Kyoto with my headlamp). I decided to try to blend these papers with some techniques I had been using previously to “draw with light” after a lot of experimentation I developed the technique used in many of the pieces in 'Traveling Light'. It's also apparent that the finished product also owes a little to my life long interest in stained glass - although it travels much easier than glass would.