With nature


24 June 2016

“I will bring you the still moonlight on the lagoon,
And steal for you the singing of all the birds;
I will bring down the stars of heaven to you,
And put the bright rainbow into your hand.”

“No,” she said, “bring me tree-grubs.”

Oodgeroo “Gifts”

This issue of Garland continues to navigate the creative life of our region, in order to appreciate how we make something out of where we live.

Nature provides a readymade expression of place. Sometimes this has been framed as a romantic attempt to go “back to nature”, leaving behind the corruption of civilisation. The concept of the Anthropocene is one that both denies us the route back to a pristine nature, but also embeds our fate firmly within the natural world. In this context, we might hope more for a partnership with nature. As shown in our online exhibition, artists have much to tell us about relationships we might have with other life forms.

As we venture into Queensland, we find contemporary artists who draw from traditions that involve custodianship of land, particularly the rainforest. Abe Muriata tells of his life with the jawun, this issue’s craft classic. We learn of the creative bounty of Australia’s north-east, including Napolean Oui’s art from shields, Grace Lillian Lee’s vibrant fibre fashion, Carla van Lunn and Eliza Jane Charmichael’s island collaborations, and printmaking through Inkmasters and backstage in Editions Tremblay Print Workshop. The Queensland focus includes the inspiring exhibition Apprenticeship at Artisan, and Mary Gole’s wonderful ceramic pot from Papua New Guinea collected by Queensland Art Gallery.

We glance across the north to find non-indigenous jewellers making precious ornament out of the detritus of the Pilbara. And from the centre, the Indigenous Jewellery Project presents a collaborative setup that shows the potential of new designs from Ernabella.

These dialogues—indigenous & non-indigenous, nature & constructed—unfold more fully in Kim Mahood’s quarterly essay about the memorial objects made my Sally Simpson from the demise of a manmade lake. Mahood tracks the non-indigenous journey through country, seeking some mythic foundation in non-belonging.

Trinidad Estay’s appropriation of Chilean horsehair weaving expresses our theme in a fairy-tale like manner. The essay from Aesthetics in Time of Emergency by contrast frames art making directly in the context of climate change.

We continue the interest in regional craft development with two essays from South-East Asia. Sarah Thomas’ account of Mitsein provides a Vietnamese parallel to the jawun. And Ansie van der Walt’s profile of Studio Naenna in Laos presents a picture of possibility.

Finally, we round off this issue with a couple of heavyweights in craft thinking. One of the most lyrical writers about craft in the world today, Jasleen Dhamija, shares her eulogy of the legendary Kamaladevi. And finally, the much-lauded craft theorist Glenn Adamson tells us what initially attracted him to craft, which resonates strongly with our guiding principle, a belief in the story behind objects.

We’re grateful to those who welcome us to Queensland, including Jenuarrie and Sonja Anderson. Special thanks to Michelle Boyde and our Garland intern, Tanya Dutt, who has spent her Indian summer in an Australian winter for the sake of this issue.

Let’s feed the tree-grubs.

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