Tuesday, 18 April 2017


The weather has been neither too hot nor too cold for gardening here lately, so instead of cutting back layers of fabric, I've been cutting back branches & in some cases pulling whole plants out.  The process of gardening often allows me contemplation time, & during my Easter weekend gardening I was thinking about ghosts!  More specifically, plant ghosts of what filled these gardens in the past!

Running parallel to these musings have been my facebook feed.  Rich with workshop photos from both tutors & attendees, I've particularly enjoyed those that have been about memory & place.  Wonderful explorations into how mark making can represent a reality or an event & thus trigger memories.

As if this wasn't already ample food for thought, my bedtime reading is currently Kim Mahood's 'Position Doubtful'.  In the section I'm up to, she has taken a large meterage of canvas, camping supplies & a convoy of experts up to the Tanami desert area, where she has begun the process of mapping the land.  Her mission is to not just map the physical landscape, but to map & record the stories & memories of the land onto the physical map. The experts include a geologist, who is able to read the physical landscape & describe the story of what happened in it's history to shape it to the landscape it is currently, and she has both male & female members of the Aboriginal custodians of the area.  It is important to have both, as they contribute both different stories & different perspectives to the same stories .  There are also the stories of the church missions & the cattle station families, of which Kim contributes from her own experience.

I am finding this a fascinating read, especially as it is so foreign to my own experience of 'home' & belonging to a specific area of land.

Having lived in a few different countries & having made several places 'home', words like; home, settle & belonging all prod at the deeper part of who I am.

Time to show you what I did with all this contemplation!!

I have always enjoyed maps, whether they be ones drawn up by the children at kindy, or the topographical ones that we wrestle with on walking trips!  Therefore, I decided to have a go at mapping my front yard!

This is where I start most days, it has been the site of family gatherings, easter egg hunts, children's birthday party treasure hunts & my son's engagement party.  It is a little piece of dry, weed infested land that I belong to... at the moment. (Nothing is permanent afterall!)

I began by sitting on my front porch, an A3 art pad on my lap & not worrying too much about scale as I started to map what was there, as well as the 'ghosts'...the things that were once a reality but are no more, the memories of what has happened in this space.

Overlapping layers of meaning.

A mishmash of time.

It was not an inspiring resource until I added some colour!  This proved to differentiate the different areas & gave some form & direction to proceed further with.

When I have given talks or run workshops, I have often referred to my 'pattern' as a 'map', because it isn't just a design.  Not only do I record   where I'm going with an art piece there  & how to deal with what I expect to encounter, I also ask questions, I erase & rewrite, constantly evolving my idea alongside the challenges of the technique.

Time was spent simplifying my mapping data back to a design that I could use for art making.  I chose the colours, then the fabrics...and then got on with layering up, before cutting back!

My very first layer, with such a simple few lines of stitching gives so little away.  What could be lurking underneath waiting to reveal itself?  What memories is this cloth going to be the keeper of?

A few cutting back efforts later, & it is starting to look like a map.  I rather like it at this point.  The combination of curves & line capture me...but maybe that is because they are recognisable...they mean something to me!

Further cutting and more detail is revealed.  It may seem an odd choice to choose green for the garden & ochre for the lawn.  However, in this little patch of the planet, the only green to be seen is growing in the gardens & the lawn is so dry, that when my husband mows the few remaining weeds that grow there, he causes a dust cloud!

At last I paint in the memories, like ghosts...long passed but still present in my mind!  The ones I have chosen to record here, are the croquet hoops from games with family & friends during my son's engagement party, the wiggly net & shuttle cocks of badminton games with my daughter, a water bomb fight with my nephew & the rain shapes lower middle are from the rain dances my children would do when they were very young as the rain would fall after a long dry period of summer heat!

A few more details & it is complete.

I am so happy with this!  I realise it is not pretty.  Nor is it proportionally accurate.  If my family were to sit down to discuss this map, they would each layer into it their own memories & perceptions & remove some of what I have kept safe in this map.  An ongoing palimpsest!  What fun!

I'll leave the closing words to Kim Mahood;

"You can move your stock over it, you can fence it in, you can steal the livelihood of a people, but you cant steal the memories and the family histories and the conception sites that connect people to their country.  These things persist wherever the people themselves persist."
Kim Mahood
'Position Doubtful'

No comments:

Post a Comment