Dr Julie Montgarrett

Tensions of Place: one wild country

The late Phillip Hunter, contemporary Australian landscape artist, said that portrait format rather than landscape enhanced the illusion of depth we perceive into the picture plane. In this work, the horizon-eye-line is present, with storm-cloud skies borrowing Hunter’s premise for similar reasons but with exaggerated verticals. I’ve intentionally used cloth discarded from the relentless wasteful cycle of fashion and chance. These industrially designed patterns were once a stylised homage to the beauty of the natural world, yet their manufacture was central to the destruction of the same exquisite order in the fragile landscapes that sustain us.

Emblematic of domestic realms, of grey blanket enforced mission life, war-time rations, and summer bushfire risk car trips of seasons long past, the cloth also carries the traces, scars and colours of country. The 3 panels register the weight of gravity, the slow turn of time passing, of light and air, the green-gold stain of mistletoe and the deep grey of iron bark, now fragile remnants of once-wild places before the determined invasion and relentless demands of industrial-scale agricultural development. These textiles point to the unseen energies of country. The fragments, stains, layers, rhythms of mending and salt wicking refer to the building blocks and logic of complex fluid ecologies and energies of life. This textile is as tenuous and fragile as the country’s own survival–the resilience of both is strained to breaking point.

Grey wool, army blankets; various found textiles, bush-dyed silk and wool; ceramic bowl, salt.

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