Intimacy Stages / Active Empathy


Intimacy Stages / Active Empathy – a show of feminist, gender queer embodied drawings, sculptures and drawing sessions. Studio One – Toi Tu, at 1 Ponsonby Rd, Auckland, open 11am-7pm for three days, 23, 24th, 25th Feb, 2017.

Tonight Weds 22nd Feb we opened this show of drawings and sculptures at Studio One Toi Tu at 1 Ponsonby Rd, Auckland. It is a collection: drawings from We Don’t Have to Be The Building, from Self-Portrait, and also new works. When I started collecting the works to bring, some of of them said I’m not ready. So we spent more time together, layering our bellies, finding our knots. We rubbed and added and tore and lay together. All of the self-portraits of all of the beings, here now.

For the next three days I will be drawing 14 people who will sit with me, move, breathe, be. I’ll draw whatever they offer me, and however they are. It is another form of intimacy through this drawing and creative process. It is an honour.

When you do not see your body, desire or sexuality represented, it is imperative that you represent it yourself, and as honestly and in as much of its complexity as you possibly can. This show at Auckland’s Studio One brings together individual reflection and collaborative making in a mass of drawings, experiments and trials. Acknowledging the complexity of our genders in queer, feminist and gender queer bodies.

Resisting censorship and taking risks, because intimacy involves so much risk; the pressure; the invitation to strangers; the trust; the vulnerability; the offer; the hope are on offer.


Farm recovery


For the last month, my partner and I have been farm sitting. We saw the request on a gay list, and it sounded like the most ideal post project recovery I could imagine. One labradoodle, three cats, two guinea pigs, a kune kune pig named Marmelade, and a great a wonderful number of chickens and ducks. It’s been magic. We are moving into spring, and as we have moved, so the blossom have opened, releasing gorgeous scent, the lambs have been springing, and the calves are everywhere. There has been rain, and mud, and a pig very happy in it. We found tadpoles, conjured an eel, and I sat with my back against an olive tree watching chickens happily wriggle in a dust bath. That twenty minutes felt like the first time in my life I had made a conscious decision to just sit and do absolutely nothing. While I was there, all of life was happening around me. Kereru crashed fatly and happily into one another on fragile branches. Chickens clucked and pecked, and then one came rushing madly squawking across the paddock. I have no idea what was up, but I felt simply part of it, and it was incredibly relaxing.

I’m trying to learn about doing less. My acupuncturist calls it Yin energy, and my meditation teacher calls it awareness. He says it’s that which has always been there, and is never gonna get anywhere, because there’s nowhere to get to, just here to be. I think of it as trust that all will be well, regardless of my panicky efforts to make it so. Simply to yield. Usually I can’t ever remember that word, and this week I linked it to ‘yes’. Yes to yielding.

As an artist, I am always planning, writing proposals, thinking about how the work could be shown in the world. Which is all good work, and necessary. But I want less fear in my life. I want to believe that there will be the right places for showing it, and that they will arise naturally and plentifully. Fear is not good for making art, and not good for just enjoying life either.

So after the chicken hang out, I decided to go hang out in a temporary outside studio, with a herd of cows. We’d been there the week before, but I didn’t have my sketchbook. This time I took a box of pencils and charcoal, a hat, and two dogs. I made my way to the perfect tree stump I’d seen last time, and settled there. The dogs cruised around, sometimes yipping at the cows, but we settled in. I’ve never drawn cows before, and like any new form, it takes a while to move out of the imagined, simplistic short cuts, and into what you can really see. In my drawing classes I often say drawing is two thirds looking, one third drawing. But it’s also about presence. Really paying attention to what is there, and not getting stuck in what your mind thinks is there. It’s about the unknown, and lived reality being eternally new in every unexpected moment.

There was nothing I had to offer them, and nothing I wanted from them. They came closer, breathing and looking. The feeling was of simply being there, of being with other living beings. Creek would call them gentle beasts.

The most encouraging thing I have ever seen to keep on being an artist is the film Cave of Forgotten Dreams, which documents cave paintings from 30,000 years ago. I remember watching it and having to figure out how long that is. It’s a really long time ago. And we were making drawings like this; of the animals around us, their simple and complicated forms and movement. We have always done this, and it is part of being human. When I get tangled up in art world fear and concerns about what I am doing, this is one of the things I try to remember. Drawing the cows brought me to a realisation I haven’t quite had before; that maybe this is the point of drawing, and maybe it’s enough. To be quiet, and pay attention, and be present with what is right now. I’m gonna try to remember it.



Here is where I put my audio


Here is my new SoundCloud account that feels very exciting! I’ve been doing quite a bit of talking about We Don’t Have to Be the Building, and so it was time to start collating the audio and putting it in one place. Also I have been doing more and more performance over the last couple of years, and I want to have one place to put recordings of that too. Look out for more glitter bang assemblage poetry, performance, talks and thoughts soon!

Where all the posts are for now!


I’ve been quiet on here for a while, so just wanted to say it’s because I started a new blog for my current project – We don’t have to be the Building. It’s a large scale community engaged, experimental research and making extravaganza, focusing on queer activism and queer female sexuality. It’s radical and exciting and totally new, and if you’d like to follow its progress, you can do that here;

We don’t have to be the Building – Boosted!

Drawing, Drawings, Gender, installation, process, Queer, Uncategorized

My current project, ‘We don’t have to be the Building’, is exciting (and terrifying!) for me because it brings together my art making practice, writing, and community engagement, in a new form of research and public presentation.

I am looking at queer activism around Homosexual law Reform 30 years ago, and what queer activism is today. I’m looking for my own whakapapa through layers of written, drawn, and embodied history. Some of it is challenging, beautiful, sad and brave, and there’s still so much to fight for. I want to represent it all as a series of many truths all together, and they will be in the lightboxes on Courtenay Place from 1st August.

It’s a huge process. I am looking through the Lesbian and Gay archives, interviewing activists from then and now, drawing people, running hui, discussions and doing interviews. I’m generating both academic and what I’m calling embodied research – creating intimacy through korero and presence in drawing and making together across identities and generations.

Much of queer activism is based in telling our intimate stories, about our bodies, and our sexualities. It’s brave, challenging and vital work. This project will show some of my story, and those of others. It will weave together an assemblage of art making and writing not to create answers, but to offer diverse truths and experiences through drawing, collage, photography, and words.

Every part of this project is both an offer and a call out, to see who answers. I’m reaching out to my community, in all its diversity, fragmentation and glory. For a fairly private studio artist, it’s incredibly vulnerable, but I know it’s the right thing to do, and that I have all the skills to do it. But I do need a little help.

I have been generously funded by Wellington City Council, Creative New Zealand, Rainbow Wellington, and The Armstrong and Arthur Trust, so my production costs are covered, but I need help to create time for myself to do it all. I need to work on this between now and August, so I’m asking for $7500 through a Boosted campaign to support me which you can find here;

email8Crop studio shotBoosted is a funding platform for the arts run by The Arts Foundation. Any donation you make is fully tax deductable.

I am hugely grateful for all support offered, great and small.




Drawing it Out

Body, Drawing, Queer

Image credit: Harry Culy/Enjoy Public Art Gallery

Part of Wellington Pride Festival | Tū whakahīhī e Te Whanganui-ā-Tara

Drawing it Out invites lesbian, bisexual, queer, femme, butch, takataapui wahine, trans*, and female-identified people to participate in an embodied research project on our sexuality. If you have experience of female-identified sex, now, in the past or would like to in your future, then this is for you!

I’ll draw whatever people offer me. It might be your finger, arm, dildo. The resulting collage will help form a sense of what we want to show/conceal.

Drawing sessions are available between 11am and 8pm on March 7th, 8th & 9th, 2016; please contact me to make a booking.

This is part of a wider project, We don’t have to be the Building, that uses HLR30 as a prism to reflect on queer female sexuality and activism, in our past, through our whakapapa, and today. The drawing becomes a site of acknowledgement. A consensual survey of our bodies and sexuality. A document of intimacy and sharing.

The drawings will form part of the artwork exhibited in the WCC lightboxes on Courtenay Place in August 2016.

Bookings: Phone or txt 021 1080 540 or use the contact form below to send me an email. (Your details will not be displayed here.)

A feminist proposal

Body, Drawing, Drawings, Essays, feminism, Femme, Gender, process, Queer, Uncategorized, Writing

This post is a beginning and end of a show, ish. The work began before the proposal, and it will continue beyond this show. But I wanted to be generous, and share what I wrote, and then what became of it. I made a decision about a year ago to start writing proposals that really said what I mean, what I really want to do, and use the language I really believe in. This is the result;

Sian Torrington – Proposal for Feminisms in Aotearoa, Enjoy Gallery

(Show later titled ‘Enjoy Feminisms’ at Enjoy Public art gallery, Wellington. Artists were; Dilohana Lekamge, Single Brown Female, Sian Torrington, Fresh and Fruity, Ann Shelton, Faith, Leafa and Olive Wilson. For more details about the show go here

and for my collaborative writing with Creek Waddington to accompany the work, go here

I wish to discuss female sexual aggression and dominance. I want to draw out my own queer body, which expresses its sexuality through diverse genders. I want to address the fear, shame, blockages and discoveries which accompany a series of coming outs around gender and sexual expression. I want to do this in the context of a feminist show because I also want to explore and address the fear of no longer belonging within feminism, of being a ‘bad feminist’. Of returning to the body and finding it changed and changing; an inconveniently uncategorizable process, and so linked to a process-based making.
Uncertainty, passion, expression, weight, effort. Self made, self defined.
And if I can only come when I close my eyes and my cock is half way down your throat, am I still a feminist?
When you do not see your body, desire or sexuality represented, it is imperative that you represent it yourself, and as honestly and in as much of its complexity as you possibly can.
The problem is still the body. My body is queer, kinky, strong, genderqueer, bolshy, sick, sensitive and hungry. It is excessive and intuitive and gut driven. It is all the things it is not supposed to be in a cool, irony driven art world. My life has been a series of coming outs. Feminist, artist, lesbian, queer, femme, dominant, activist, masculine, brute. The work I want to offer for this show is another coming out; of my body and my mission to explore its many rooms, through figurative and abstract drawing. My body and the things that are attached to it which are not imagination; parts of my body which you cannot see but I can feel.
I have always identified as a feminist. I believe that feminist thought, in its centering of the body, has the capacity to disrupt phallogocentric ideals of rationalism, objectivity and straight lines which have no relation to any body. And yet the body feminism represents can, and has, excluded many embodiments that still need and deserve its strength and protection. My feminism is queer, femme, genderqueer, body and sex positive, and includes all who identify as women, have experience being treated as women, and who claim femininity and femme as a place from which to speak.


I find myself feeling like I need to rein things in; rub out the finger prints on the edges of drawings, keep a clean space around the edges and select less rather than more. Galleries are white, clean, and there is an assumption that if you put a lot of things in it, you didn’t make enough decisions. Even though mass is a very deliberate and bold decision. It’s not that you just accidentally ate too much; it’s that you want to feel your body and this is the only way you know how to find your way back to that; to say yes to everything you want to eat. It’s not that you are not bothering to be feminine; it’s that you always felt secretly sexy when you are strong and lifting and building your own way, regardless of whether anyone wanted that. It’s that you are trying to explore something which doesn’t want to be regulated.
Artists make many things, but when we show in galleries, we hide the many in favour of the one final work or body of work. In doing this we exclude failure, accident and the trying energy of practice; the fact that making involves many repeated tryings and failings.

The work I want to make for your show is about being an aggressive, queer, tangled up, sexual, dominant emerging from fear and a busting-out genderqueer feminist person. I propose to make a large-scale drawing on the back wall of the gallery, compiled of many pieces, which shows body, appendages, fucking, being, remembering, becoming. The drawing will be assembled of many pieces which move through figuration and abstraction. The drawing will also be made from partial sculptures, which will extend the work into three dimensional space. I want to acknowledge the slippages, strangeness and mass of simultaneous embodied experience in sexuality and gender. I want to cease censoring and controlling the body and also the work, by including a mass of drawings, experiments and trials.
The drawings and sculptures I am proposing use my body as subject; active, embodied, messy, aggressive, self-formulating subject. The marks and gestures draw and repeat actions that are made in sex; in battling this body, these genders, this sexuality, out of itself. Through intimacy, reflection and interaction with itself and other bodies, it becomes known. Through the process of making, it becomes visible. But what is represented is from the inside. I cannot speak for anyone else, only for me, from me. In this I reflect the highest value of consent; that to be a fully consenting adult, one must be fully informed, and know oneself as fully as possible.
I am involved. I am implicated.

Thanks to Enjoy Gallery and Harry Culy for the images.