Monday 27 June 2011

A spot of navel gazing

I had the wonderful opportunity to hear fibre artist Nalda Searles talking about her work and life journey this past weekend at the Mosman Gallery. Nalda is an artist I have admired for over 20 years, since I was fortunate enough to have learnt basket making techniques from her in my first year of art school. She was remarkable then and she certainly is today. Her humble, poignant and honest descriptions and stories certainly resonated deeply within myself as I was transported to the dry saltlakes and rural landscapes of her native Western Australia.

She made me reflect that I am at my core a rural west australian also, rather than the larger and less specific title of 'australian'. This is something that was slowly dawning on me in these last six months since I have been integrating at a very slow pace into my new home of Sydney. Sense of place and where is home is such a complicated matter in this day and age where it is rare to spend your whole life where you grew up, or even to pass your entire childhood in the one spot. Obviously jobs have a lot to do with this (perhaps more so in europe), as does the modern desire to see what's on the other side of the fence. There is also a sadly prevelant belief that life is always greener on the other side, rather than realising that if you are unhappy within your shoes here, you will most likely be unhappy in them there also, with added complications.
Growing up with a passion for art and english literature, plus a fascination and romantic vision of my grandparents former lives in Britain and Italy, I guess I was destined to travel and leave my home town in the south west of WA. When I try to dissect my inner self and decide just who am I, and where is my home, I guess I am rather like my beloved paperbark. (perhaps that's why i have been obsessed with this tree since my teenage years and high school art projects; a desire that is still trying to be aptly expressed in my textiles artwork in these later years.) I am many layers of experiences from then until now, that have built up with sediment, eroded in some places with the winds and rains, and are now grafted onto another completely foreign branch which has led me to take on the title of french as well, through entwining my life with that of my beloved and creating another generation of even more diverse roots and experiences in our wonderful children.

And so where is home?
In my past 11 years living in France, learning the ways of the regions, becoming a part of an ancient culture that has so many twists and turns, so much legacy to do with people more so than landscapes... I felt an enormous longing for the wild dry open spaces of Western Australia. Despite my youth being spent in the gentle coastal setting of Geographe Bay, it was the dryer landscapes on the way to Kalbarri or further north to Exmouth, plus the Goldfields and salt lakes from childhood exploring and art camps that really felt like my Australia that was calling to me. Now sitting in comfortable suburban and green Sydney (how much rain does this place get?!), it still doesn't at all feel like my home, despite being a very nice place to be poised. I guess it's just another layer of the bark, to grow, peel, shed, make homes for insects, feed the soil, give shade, clean the air and be a part of the greater journey of this larger environment that I attempt to step lightly amongst on my way...

oh dear, I've burnt the dinner again. Mistress of the burnt pot... contemporary life is just so complicated, non?

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