We've all had those moments when we have wanted to freeze time.
When we've wished we could just hold onto the special moments spent with family and friends. And it is often the case that these times are the beginnings of defining moments.
In light of that, it seems fitting that Benjamin Shine's latest exhibition at Grainger Gallery is titled Defining Moments. Featuring his signature tulle work, the internationally-renowned, Canberra-based artist effectively freezes a single piece of material in time.
As if by magic, Shine moulds the tulle - a material that is often linked with femininity through its use in bridal veils and ballet tutus - to form an image, usually of a woman's face. Shine manages to create incredibly detailed images simply by layering what is, essentially, a transparent material.
"I love the fact just from a construction point of view the tulle is transparent, which means you can create tones for creating images, and you need the tones to do that," Shine says.
"If you bunch up a piece of tulle, you're going to already have eight or 10, or more tones. It's sort of all primed and ready to go as a medium.
"I've always loved that very poetic, simplistic way of creating. But on top of that, to me, it sort of speaks of ideas of energy. And I love that it's like a bridge between two worlds - the physical and spiritual."
Shine's works pay tribute to mindfulness and meditation. Not only is the creative process one that is a form of meditation for the artist - who can spend hours just perfecting one element of the artwork - but it also has meditative qualities for those viewing the pieces. It's very easy to be captivated by the ethereal nature of the works.
While logically you know that the works are solid, they still have a liquid or smokey nature to them. Shine says he isn't happy with a piece until it transcends the appearance of tulle and takes on the visual nature of something which needs a vessel for containment.
But despite its diaphanous appearance, there is also a strength to the work that comes from how it was assembled.
"Tulle has that inherent structural quality," Shine says.
"The more that you bunch it or layer it, the stronger it becomes because it's just a net so you're reinforcing the strength of the actual material.
"I use an iron which I pass over the material, which has the effect of heating it which softens it momentarily and then actually hardens harder than it was originally. So it actually stabilises the fabric on top of that."
While the exhibition will still hold some of the image-based works that he has become known for - and has seen him work with the likes of fashion house Givenchy, high-end department store Bergdorf Goodman and music megastar Beyonce, among others - they will be presented alongside abstract pieces.
It is a first for the artist, who usually - even when working on commissions - creates definite images in his work.
"For the most part, up until now, most of the work I've done with this material has been image-based, and what I enjoy about that is the construction challenge - trying to achieve an image out of basically a single piece of tulle," Shine says.
"But what I've always wanted to do from the very outset, was simplify that even further. Even though it was possible to create images, there are inherent qualities in the fabric and the sort of emotional feelings that it would convey, that I just loved by itself.
"But I never really had the balls to go there. I always felt I needed to do something a little bit more relatable for people to connect with before going to that kind of extreme.
"This year it all came together and I figured out there were a couple of very, very refined simple ideas that I'm very excited to show."
It shouldn't come as a surprise that Shine knows how to create masterpieces out of material. The artist studied fashion at Central Saint Martins in London, and it was while he was studying there that he decided he would one day do something impressive with tulle. And that he did.
He has made a career out of tulle and tulle-look works, like the sculpture he created of him and his wife for their wedding. Resembling two floating white tulle ribbons meandering through the venue before their faces emerge, Entertwined was made out of metal mesh.
But despite almost two decades working with and being inspired by the material, he is still finding new ways to create with it.
Take the two different types of works in Defining Moments. The image-based works have a definite goal - to make a piece that resembles a person - and Shine goes about using an iron and thread to produce that. The abstract works, however, are all about capturing the material in its natural state.
"I throw the fabric in the air and wherever it lands that is the composition," Shine says.
"I then use blocks and they go exactly where they have to go. It's dictated by where the fabric has landed so that it secures that organic shape permanently. And that all plays into this idea of defining moments and suspending a moment in time.
"There is as much thought that goes into both, but they're very different practices."
Even the more image-based pieces in Defining Moments err on the side of abstract.
Yes, the works resemble faces, and yes, all the features are in the right location.
But, Shine is very intentional in creating faces that don't resemble anyone in particular.
This is perhaps because a lot of the works will - after being exhibited at Fyshwick's Grainger Gallery and in other locations in Europe - eventually have a life as public art in a Monaco hospital. The hope is the works will bring sense of calm to what can be a stressful space.
"They're anonymous faces and that's the point of it," Shine says.
"What I've done to sort of strengthen that concept is to make sure all the eyes are closed, because I do a lot of portraits as well and the eyes are probably the number one thing that makes a person feel like they are someone real and recognisable, and it gives them personality.
"When you close the eyes, that seems to cut that whole thing off. And that's very important for these works.
"I didn't want it to be about a recognisable person that we know or we get a real sense of. It's supposed to be a lot more suggestive and just indicative of someone at peace in that calm."
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