thinking about my alveoli

Claire Bushby, Untitled, 2017, water-colour and ink.
Claire Bushby, Untitled, 2017, water-colour, ink and pencil.

This year I have been plagued by sickness, starting with pneumonia in February which left me with a couple of months of costochondritis, repeated chest infections throughout the year and asthma flare ups. I am currently recovering from another bout of bronchitis right now and this has all got me thinking about my alveoli doing their very best under difficult circumstances.

I was a sickly child with chronic asthma, in and out of hospital throughout my childhood. I was one of those toddlers that had to be put into an oxygen tent, something that was probably far more traumatic for my parents than for me.

So many of my childhood memories are at the Princess Margaret Hospital for Children in Perth, and actually my memories are quite fond because I liked the fact that I got to meet other sick kids like me there. As opposed to most kids in my primary school who had no trouble running the perimeter of an oval while I puffed and straggled behind them in Phis Ed class.

In my early twenties I had a major kidney illness that was mis-diagnosed until I landed in the emergency room being told a couple more hours off and I might not have survived.

I often think about how if it weren’t for modern medicine I just wouldn’t be here today.

Recently while sick with bronchitis my friend sent me a link to an online course, Medicine and the Arts: Humanising Healthcare. She suggested I might enjoy it, and she had just done the course while home sick with a lurgy herself.

The course “explores the intersection of the arts, humanities and healthcare”. It is a fascinating course and I highly recommend it to anyone interested in the links between Art and Medicine, and how the medical field can embrace more humane approaches to patient care.

Some of the course readings are from this e-booklet, Where does it Hurt? produced by the Wellcome Collection. This is also an excellent read.

I’ve been painting these little homages to my inner workings in water-colour and ink. Contemplating how our bodies are an incredible thing, often mysteriously working away till something just can’t keep up the good work anymore, then we become aware of that inner world in ways we just aren’t when healthy.

Claire Bushby, Untitled, 2017, Water-colour, ink and pencil.

A Portrait of Taiwan in Perth: Reflection, Connection, and Collection

Over the past few months I have been participating in a community arts cultural exchange project, A Portrait of Taiwan in Perth: Reflection, Connection and Collection facilitated by Ashley Yihsin Chang, International Projects Manager at Turner Galleries. This community art project brings together local Perth artists with Taiwanese women who have made Western Australia their home. A Portrait of Taiwan also runs alongside the Taipei + Perth Curators & Artists Residency Exchange Program between Turner Galleries and Kuandu Museum of Fine Arts in Taipei.

The Taiwanese women who live in WA are asked to share their personal stories and cultural connections by focusing on an object they have brought from Taiwan. The local artists are asked to make a portrait of their Taiwanese partner and discuss between them the chosen object and what it means for them creating a text together which connects the two partners.

The aims of the A Portrait of Taiwan in Perth are:

  • Providing a platform for people to meet, share stories, break the culture or language barrier, encouraging conversation and understanding, and to have the opportunity to discuss culture, arts, education, and social issues.
  • Stimulating interest and discussion about cultural alignment and contrast and identifying common interests in Western Australian art to artists, curators, academics, and art collectors in Taipei, Taiwan and Perth, WA.
  • Providing opportunities for overseas Taiwanese communities and the broader Asian community here, (especially women) to engage with society and people through participation in arts and cultural projects.
  • Providing exciting opportunities through inclusiveness, with the potential to enhance and add value to the community and to personal and professional lives, ultimately making our world a safer and richer place.

– Ashley Yihsin Chang

My partner’s name is Ada Hsin-Ling Lee and Ada’s chosen object is her photography books from Taiwan. I visited Ada at her at her home in Northam and spent an afternoon getting to know her and her three children.

Ada is a self-taught photographer, using photography books bought from Taiwan, Ada has used photography and these books as the connector between her past and her present. Ada told a story of discovering her talent when photographing a friend of her husband’s, for a portrait series he commissioned. Having photographed her children growing up she had not previously considered photography as a profession; but this portrait commission gave her the confidence to pursue her interest more seriously.

From this first commission Ada earned enough money to buy herself a ukulele which she still has in her home today, I found this story of discovery especially touching and I was so inspired by Ada’s incredible drive to learn.

While we sat drinking coffee and eating Taiwanese biscuits over the afternoon Ada showed me through the books she has learned from and gave me a real time demonstration of some of her skills in photoshop.

The portrait I created of Ada uses a photograph taken of her by her friend, Sylvester Wong that I have stitched into with coloured cotton and metallic threads (the metallics unfortunately don’t show well in the reproduction below!).

Hand-stitch on a photograph of Ada Hsin-Ling Lee by Sylvester Wong.

I wanted to illustrate Ada in the process of thinking and using the skills she has learned from her photography books. I used the colours of the light spectrum and metallics to represent the combination of Ada’s concepts with the light refractions within the camera, creating a photograph.

While Ada and I talked around her computer and browsed through some of Ada’s past works on her website her daughter, Neytiri drew a portrait of us conversing around the computer. A lovely addition to the A Portrait of Taiwan discussion I think!

A portrait of Ada and I looking at Ada’s website by Neytiri.

See Ada’s photography work at:

First quake

This is my first blog post in a long, long time, I was an active blogger between 2009-2012. I’m feeling the urge to write so I’m going to jump on that feeling and go with it today! I’ve recently had a long period of illness, physical and mental and starting to feel like I am on the better side of that experience, ready to engage again in things I have left behind for a while. Having said that post-viral fatigue is a fickle beast and I may not have the energy to do this again for a while, only time will tell…

My main aims in starting to blog again are:

  • to keep people updated with projects I am working on and to give them a little insight into my creative process
  • to document my projects, and explore them through the process of journalling
  • to further develop my writing skills, something I enjoy but am not confident about
  • to engage with likeminded people and elicit feedback and/or be directed to other relevant reference materials

I think that is a good starting place for Thoughtquakes.

The blog title, Thoughtquakes comes from a current mini exhibition I have showing at Gotham Studios‘ Peek-a-boo Gallery titled, Thoughtquakes: WIP 2016-17 which features small works in progress that refer to moments when ideas begin to rumble and surface. Sometimes ideas spurt out through cracks and are hard to catch, sometimes they spill out like lava.

In deciding to start blogging again, I’ve been doing a bit of reading about blogging in 2017. It seems there are many articles about the death of blogging.  I’m curious to know what the real differences are today compared to 5 or so years ago. So if you happen to be reading this and have some thoughts on this subject, or know of some useful articles please do comment them below.

So welcome to Thoughtquakes and thanks for reading!