Today I start my residency at Emerald Community House (ECH) in the Dandenong Ranges, VIC. I will be spending the next two weeks working at the old church which has been converted into a community hall to create a textile wall hanging that speaks of this site and of the Emerald community.
I would like to take this opportunity to acknowledge the traditional custodians of the land upon which I will be working the Bunurong people and the Woiworung people from the Kulin nation, and pay my respects to their elders past and present.
I am leaving the doors open for anyone from the Emerald community to come in and check out what I’m doing and even get involved. If you are in the area pop in and say hi! If not, stay tuned here as I will be posting regularly with updates on my progress and on the experieance of this unique residency which I worked with ECH to design.
As you can see below, this residency will also involve an 8 week community workshop series where I will be working with local community members on a collaborative textile wall hanging project. All this is linked and a part of my PhD practice led research into Cloth-Art as a Socially Engaged Practice. So look forward to updates about that phase of the project also.
Here is another of my favourite Australian artists – Elisabeth Cummings:
Elisabeth Cummings is one of Australia’s visual art quiet achievers, with a career spanning over 50 years and this major survey, examining her landscape works, is long overdue. Cummings’ landscapes are distinguished by heavily impastoed surfaces and luminous colour, whether depicting the glowing red and yellow ochres of the Pilbara region, the ruggedly spectacular Arkaroola ridges of the Flinders ranges, or the sands of Elcho Island in Arnhem Land. Cummings’ travels are distilled and brought to life in the sanctuary of her idyllic bush studio on Sydney’s outskirts.
– taken from the Australian Art Review
Margaret Preston is one of my all time favourite Australian artist. I love how bold and stylised her work its. Her focus on Australian flora and landscape. Her use of pattern and line. Her strength and individuality. The undeniable influence of the orient. Her shameless appropriation of Indigenous Australian Art. Her call to modernism in a conservative country. Her impulse for decorating…
“Decoration without ornamentation. Enough or too much, one of Preston’s many aphorisms, remained a primary objective and pre-occupation in her work. In 1913 she wrote to Australian artist, Norman Carter: I was very interested to hear of your decorative work – it’s the only thing worth aiming for this century – its really the key note of everything – I’m trying all I know to reduce my still lifes to decorations and I find it fearfully difficult.”
As you can see the quilt is of Aboriginal flag – only the band which is supposed to be black is actually a dark blue. What is harder to see in the photos is that stitched onto the entire quilt in thread that is the same colour as the background is the word ‘sorry’. Over and over the word ‘sorry’ is repeated in recognition of as a response to the statement stitched in black across the bottom of the piece: “Reconciliation starts with Recognition: White Australia has a Black History”. At the bottom right hand corner of the quilt there is an appliquéd crow; after reading that
“Waa (Crow) is the protector and one of the two moiety ancestors in the Eastern Kulin nation culture. We [the Wilin Centre] are very honoured to have Waa’s family watching over us at the Southbank campus, these birds symbolise our connection to the land and the Eastern Kulin nation.” – http://vca-mcm.unimelb.edu.au/reconciliation
and considering that crows are my favourite birds and that they also feature regularly in the work of my grandmother, textile artist Dawn Fitzpatrick, I felt it was significant to include a crow in this work.
The idea behind the design of this quilt – the way that it engages with its audience – is through giving people the opportunity to express their solidarity with the Indigenous and Torres Strait Islander people of this country by writing their names onto the blue band of the quilt in black marker. Importantly, once enough people sign their name onto the blue band it will become black – the colour which on the flag symbolises the Aboriginal people. I believe that the action of writing your name down as an act of solidarity is a symbolically powerfully one; The act of signing one’s names to something is certainly not something people do lightly, it is somehow official, even ceremonial, something people carefully consider. This prompting of careful consideration is exactly what I hope this quilt is able to do and in signing it I hope people are very consciously acknowledging the important role they can play in standing alongside Australia’s first peoples in their struggle for recognition, rights, autonomy and proper compensation.
The VCA Student Association has asked me if they can use it for a few more upcoming events after which we will donate the quilt to the Wilin Centre. This act of giving away my socially engaged quilts is an important part of my practice and one of my key strategies building relationships and community connectedness through my practice. In the coming months I will do a more work to documenting the quilt and the way it is used at events as well as the gifting of this piece to the Wilin centre. Hopefully this documentation will include feedback from people who participated in the work and a comment from the Wilin centre, so keep an eye on this space if you want to see more. In the meantime if you have any thoughts, comments or feedback about this work I would love to hear from you.
This Easter long weekend I attended a 4 day conference titled Marxism2014, this conference is an annual event hosted at Melbourne University’s Parkville campus by the Socialist Alternative, a revolutionary socialist organisation with a somewhat notorious reputation.
Having only just moved to Melbourne, I decided to attend this conference because for a long time I have been frustrated with Australian politics but to date I have not in any organised or formal way made any attempts to become politically active. I consider myself to be a left-wing humanist and a social democrat and so I saw this conference as an opportunity to explore and test my political ideas and values against those of my left-wing peers.
I found this event really challenging both in positive and negative ways which I have tried to articulate in a reflection piece titled “The Trouble With Utopia”. You can read this reflection by clicking on this link: Marxism2014-final and for those of you who do read it, I am really interested in your thoughts so please leave a comment or alternately you can write to me.