an exhibition at manly art gallery
For more than six months - even before COVID hit - I’ve been hunkered down in my studio making artworks for a group show with two fellow designer-artists, Jo Neville and Fiona Chandler. It’s called History Repeats and it’s at Manly Art Gallery and Museum (MAG&M) in partnership with Q station. You can see it live from December 4 to February 14. (And you can see and purchase my artworks right here on my website.)
Inspired by time spent exploring Quarantine Station and our varied experiences of the pandemic, each of us committed to make 40 artworks to signify the traditional 40 days of quarantine, all of them 60cm x 60cm.
It was a big task in a stressful time - I was edgy and foggy to begin with, but we all now know that it takes a while to adjust.
Over time, themes emerged. I found myself making artworks that tell stories about living spaces and surveillance, and the signs that insist on boundaries and rules. Stories that point to inequities drawn along class lines. To suggest the differences in people’s experiences of quarantine, materials I’ve used include fine Irish linen, salvaged pieces of plywood and yellow tongue, found perspex, and cardboard from those huge boxes that contained the beds and TVs that people had delivered during lockdown.
I also made still lives that depict the almost iconic things we need and fetishise when we are dealing with the threat of contagion, whether it’s Spanish Flu, or TB or Coronavirus. 2020 is a year that’s changed our relationships to many things - soap, of course, alcohol and medicine, and strangely, toilet paper.
Some pieces I’ve made are maps like long exposures of the routines that mark our constricted space and days, the repeated walks from the kitchen to the bedroom to the studio to the lounge room - the Groundhog Days of lockdown. It’s not all blah and drear though; on the upside, there is something about limitations that actually promotes creative thought - within constraints we can often take risks and renew our creative practice.
Making work for this show has given me the opportunity to experiment with methods and techniques. I’m first and foremost a printmaker, but as well as stencil printing, for this show I’ve painted, built some of my 60cm x 60cm canvases from scrap materials, and I’ve very much enjoyed the slow rhythm of hand-stitching onto some of the works on fabric. Traditionally, hand-stitching was ‘women’s work’ denigrated as a homely pastime, but COVID calls on us to reconsider the value of this slow labour. Being in flow, being still and creating something with our hands is a simple privilege we can all experience.
Sometimes when history repeats, it reminds us what’s good for us.
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Acknowledgement of Country
I acknowledge the Dharug and the Gundungurra people, the Traditional Owners of the land where I created this work, and the Gadigal people of the Eora nation, the Traditional Owners of the land where this exhibition is shown.
I recognise their continuing connection to land, water and community.
I pay respect to Elders past, present and emerging.