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Dena Ashbolt is Montsalvat’s latest artist in residence.  She arrived there over a week ago and will be there for six weeks in all.  She is a video artist and a painter.  She intends to create a work using both mediums while she’s there.

Today I had the privilege of talking with her and checking out the progress of her work in her lovely Montsalvat studio space (above).

She not only has access to the studio but also to “Sue’s Tower” (below) where she can rest and write and take in the view of Lil’s house and the garden. Incidentally, the tower was principally used by Sue Vanderkelen in the early days of Montsalvat. She was the daughter of a wealthy diamond merchant and came out to Montsalvat as a student of Justus Jorgensen.  The tower is now affectionately named after her.

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Dena is no stranger to the experience of artist in residence.  Several years ago she and partner, Guy Lamothe, had a residency in Clifton Pugh’s paint studio at Dunmoochin (Cottles Bridge). This was an expansive experience in several ways.  It brought into focus ‘the creative experience’ and exposed her to a whole different creative energy. She was equally drawn to the energy of Montsalvat and describes it as peaceful and focused.

While obviously conscious of creative energies, it’s the idea of perception that excites her most. In her own words,

“I’m interested in perception, all it’s follies and fancies and how it trips us up. How it relates to memory. What you’ve seen and what you think you saw.”

This interest includes a study of how we see, particularly of the eye itself, which she describes as a very clever organ.

She started learning to draw twelve years ago. In 2001 she began painting with teacher David Moore (at Montsalvat).  She has also been a regular attendant of Jenny Rogerson’s weekly “Life Group”.  These combined interests grew into a Masters in Fine Arts at Monash Uni in 2004. On completion of that, Dena has been investigating the idea of “Image Immersion” through a PhD.

Capturing images has been a part of her work life for many years. She previously worked as a freelance commercial director. So has extensive experience in film production. She has more recently taken her work with video into the realm of art. Her video art work stemmed from her drawing practice. Of this development she says,

“Drawings are an interrogation of space.  Video allowed for more interrogation.”

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Montsalvat offers a rich array of spaces for Dena to “interrogate”.  The subject of this initial drawing is the view from her studio window (see photo below).

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The view from the other side of the studio(below)…  as you can see, it’s a heavenly working environment.

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Look out for a progress report on Dena’s work next week.

If you would like more information about Dena Ashbolt, go to her website.

If this gig looks the least bit tempting to you, go to the Montsalvat website to see what’s required to make an application for their artist in residence program.