Exhibition Essay: Remembering: April 2012



When I stand on my old people’s land, I go back on a journey that navigates its way through my heart and brain, and connects me to all of these fantastic memories that have been laid there by the oral history of my family. Sitting around a campfire, poking it with a fire stick, surrounded by river stones drawn from the creek. Talking, laughing, sharing, - there is no better time to be experienced. I can assure you it is a long way from the complexities of city living. A long way from negativity, competition, and almost claustrophobic consumption that inhabits Sydney, where I have lived since 1981. Home is Lionsville, a small collection of humble dwellings that speak from the past with stories told and untold. Times where my family engaged with pain, love, childbirth, death, and the continuous cycle of survival. These touchstones of subliminal memory propel me into the past, where I feel and see the visions of my family in their lives. Pa, off gold mining, sinewy and strong; and my Nan, preparing the buggy to take hot bread down to the boundary river for the others less fortunate than us. The wellspring for my artistic practice is derived from my multiplicity of visits back to Lionsville every year. The feeling that you have when you enter into the soul of the country cannot be described well. It is almost like a time warp that situates you back into a slow rhythm, that soothes the soul and nourishes the heart.

Painting is not that fashionable a thing to do in 2011. But it is what I do. I reside in my painting. I am consumed by the surface and image that I want to create, and the image that I am preparing for others to experience through my personal visual portal. This journey of art that I have been travelling is all about sharing. Along the way, I have learnt about so many different aspects to my life. Getting older allows you time to accumulate experiences which become the rock on which you lay your time on this earth. Creating art is without a doubt one of the most pleasurable and enduring events in my life.

One of the challenges for my continued artistic growth has been the lack of flexibility attributed to an artist's development and , from my perspective, the influence of those people who would like to see the “star factor” in the initial stages of development. I have been impatient with myself for continuous experimentation around my art experiences, exploring new mediums, and playing with new techniques, instead of just playing it safe and embracing the status quo. This impatience is now well justified as I perceive my artistic practice as being about development.

I have always maintained that I would become a capable painter as I grew older. I have also held a strong position that the artist needs an apprenticeship that allows them to explore the cavities of creativity. Original thought cannot be that, unless the thinker/painter/artist has traversed the landscape of their own minds.

The work that I have been developing/creating over the last three years has been a revisiting of personal and family touchstones that are vital to whom I am as a person and an artist. Simple things, like my youngest child turning twelve or that my two elder children are mature, dynamic, and substantial people in their own independence. This now allows space for thought, for creation, and basically more hours to actually get to the works in progress. The imagery that I am developing around family and our country are links to the past. If I can assist my family to have a visual and spiritual link to the past through my work, and through interpretation and connection to country then I have succeeded as an artist.

The last three years have been a time of revisiting past works, finding old poetry, archiving old photographs and mentally collating ideas around the formulation of my thesis titled, “Passion, Power, and Politics of Aboriginal Arts” where my major focus has been to highlight the inequitable situation that exists for NSW Aboriginal Women artists existing in Australia today. The purpose of this extended study at the University of Western Sydney following my double masters degree at Sydney University, was to allow some time to assess my own art practice and also that of the wider community that I live in and that affects me.

I have constantly reminded my fellow citizens that NSW was first colonised and as Nations within a Nation, we are the last to be recognised. This can make people uncomfortable but it is the truth, and our families are living testimony to this statement. It is my intention through this study and my retrospective at CarriageWorks in 2012 titled “Passion, Power, Politics” to highlight the sustained and diverse artistic practice that I have engaged in since completing my degree at Canberra School of Art in 1981.

The story-telling aspect of my work practice is not 'Once upon a time' stuff. It is about reclaiming the space that is ours. It is about challenging, representing, and creating imagery that connects others and each other to another understanding.

I am a Djanbun clan member and my family are the traditional caretakers for our land. We are from NSW and a large majority of the women are artists. This is the passion that drives me to achieve recognition for my fellow artists and is connected to my energy in support of Boomalli Aboriginal Artists Co-operative, to which I have dedicated my skill, training, and commitment to for the last two years. This culminated in the successful transfer of the Flood Street property to Boomalli after a “hero” struggle by a multiplicity of volunteers to save the organisation so that it is able to celebrate its 25th year in existence in 2012.

This is what I have been creating in my art practice since inception, that is, learning how to tell a story with images, with the humorous aspect to it all that I write an essay (with words) to support this exhibition.

This exhibition brings you images that tie directly to the present, that link to the past, and that highlight my family and their lives. It allows me to honour them and this hopefully will achieve a greater appreciation of our struggles