memoria regionis: memories of country
Galleries 4 & 5
9 - 27 April 2014
Opening Wednesday 9 April, 6.30-8pm
For this project, I am using some conventional mapping to orientate the viewer with a specific location. This, however, does not always provide the experiences in the way that I believe an artist’s map does. The conventional map is emotionless, only directing our travels. I want to challenge the viewer to discover different ways to travel, not relying solely on the landscape symbolism, but to discover different approaches and challenges that may bring new interpretations to the understanding of a landscape.
I have travelled throughout the northern regions of Australia for the last 35 years, recording the places and experiences at numerous locations. This has principally been undertaken in a small plane visiting many remote Aboriginal communities in South Australia, Northern Territories, West Australia, Queensland and New South Wales. The stimulus these journeys provided has been immense and my responses have continued to vary over this period.
Each journey I have undertaken commenced with a conventional pilot's map, pointing me in a direction to specific locations. But beyond this, the map was unable to provide the means to solve the questions I was proposing. I chose the broad landscape of the north to understand more about how we as a people have reacted to, and used, the landscape, rather than just relying on the known symbolism on maps. The view from the plane window provided me with the idea of exploring our notions of mapping and how responses are formulated. The periods between each journey have provided a stimulus to re-interpret and re-evaluate much of what I had found previously.
The inclusion of fence lines, tracks and roads in some paintings belong to mapping experienced and our need for ownership as individuals or collectively. These marks become a means of accessing purely visual elements to convey an ownership. But this alone does not convey the emotive experience of being at one with the land.
By spending time in different remote communities, I am developing a better understanding of Indigenous culture, realising that their journeys can, at times, appear to be the same, physically, to our own but for the Aboriginal people, each journey provides a deeper knowledge and understanding for the participants, answering the challenges for their very being.
Much of what we see, but rarely understand in the different Indigenous works, is a reference to what they know about the land and how to survive in it. Often, non-indigenous viewers are attracted to the ‘secrecy’ of the lifetime of ceremony and culture within Indigenous art. We, as yet, have not fully developed the skills or understanding needed to recognise this. We bring different starting points and different responses to the colours used, to the markings and signs and to the significant elements embedded in the details of these paintings. Our landscapes have tendered to be a visual representation rather than a psychological one. Too often, we look only at the exterior space and do not see the internal space. We generally come from a ‘this is what it should look like’ response rather a more open and interpretive one.
The large body of work for this project contains some examples dating back to the late 70s through to the present; with additional new work created over the last few years, as part of my re-assessed responses to those earlier journeys. With the different time periods and range of work exhibited in this exhibition, I want the viewer to feel a challenge to explore these works through the ‘relationships’ of the included elements as well as accepting the more traditional elevational view of the landscape. If the viewer can move into the created spaces and understand their relationships and not rely on the elevational descriptions alone, they will find a different way of relating to the work. By this repositioning of the viewing point, it will enhance the ‘surround’ effect and subsequently, the essence of the landscape.
Graham McKenzie, January 2014
opening night wine sponsored by