The Presence of Absence I, 2016.
The Presence of Absence I, 2016.
A hand-embroidered motif into paper, one of a pair.
An extract taken from my thesis, Mnemonic textiles: Sustaining life-long attachment, 2016, discusses the work that emerged from my research.
The act of renegotiating my personal relationship with the farming land of my family as a non-indigenous person while making this series triggered a feeling of concern. Through acts of mapping and documenting the landscape that formed the backdrop of my childhood, it became apparent that there was a gaping absence of awareness of the traditional owners of the land - the Wiradjuri people. The quilt [Topography of Memory] became a vehicle of disruption where I realised there is so much that I don’t know and will never know, and the need to take responsibility for this into the future as an artist who refers to the landscape. This was an unanticipated but potent narrative that has emerged from this work.
Alison Ravenscroft discusses these absences in her book The Postcolonial Eye: White Australian Desire and the Visual Field of Race (2012). She suggests that we must learn to read the silences and omissions that are inscribed in all writing, and as white people living in Australia, we ‘must observe our own silence’ (Ravenscroft, 2012, p. 20). The making of the [Topography of Memory] series that refers so often to the land, has revealed how little knowledge I have of the area before white settlement. The process of making has opened up a space for me to find ways to acknowledge this history and celebrate the beautiful land owned by the Wiradjuri people. The making of the series has been for me an‘act which brings us into knowledge, but one that puts our knowledge under pressure until we can say: “I do not – cannot – know the other.” And then to hold with this willingness to be an unknowing reader a willingness to read anyway’ (Ravenscroft, 2012, p. 20).
My inability to ‘know’ can be seen in the empty circular motifs, enclosed, or partly enclosed with stitch applied to the quilts [and distilled for The Presence of Absence]. Ravenswood eloquently describes the representation found in this type of motif: ‘This is a circle made of objects – that is, it is comprised of the speakable, the visible, the knowable, the representable. These objects are drawn into a circle so as to refer to the space of the un-representable. Not to give it specific content, size or shape, but to suggest its existence. In turn, this space, or gap, renders new meanings to that which can be materialised’ (Ravenscroft, 2012). There is as much content within the ‘empty’ circles as there is at their outlines. They appear empty, but in fact are respectful signifiers of the absent and unknown. It is recognition that I hope to continue in my practice and through my actions. To begin, I would formally like to acknowledge the Wiradjuri nation and their people of yesterday, today and tomorrow, as their unique and beautiful country has inspired much of the making of the [work].
Paper and stainless steel thread.
Unframed 28cm (w) x 39cm (h)
Framed 46.5 cm (w) x 58cm (h) x 3.2cm (d)
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