Land Holds Memory at Caloundra Regional Gallery
At Caloundra Regional Gallery’s upcoming exhibition, no landscape is neutral. Georgia Beard explores how artists and their artmaking perceive the deep memories held by Country.
“I’ve been moved by the tireless sea a-churning
And them scarlets of an inland dusk
When a close friend has died
I turned away and cried
As they laid ‘em down and shovelled in the dust.”
When Murri singer-songwriter Kev Carmody penned the words to I’ve Been Moved, he did not follow human footprints trampled through dust and scrub. Instead, he went where his Country urged him to walk.
As the waters, wind and wildlife sang for themselves, he relinquished his own understanding and listened. His revelation? Country does not belong to us, but we belong to Country.
Such is the challenge for every artist moved to capture the landscapes in which they live. Their encounters with nature are often clouded by the overlap of culture, belief and emotion, and that is what their art becomes – an expression of themselves.
Searching for Country’s voice and silencing their own, Uncle Kev and UniSC Adjunct Professor Dr Lisa Chandler followed five artists into three landscapes across Queensland.
Deep in the Bunya Mountains, Girraween National Park and Carnarvon Gorge, Joanne Currie Nalingu, Joe Furlonger, Pat Hoffie, Peter Hudson and Euan Macleod shifted from observation to sensing of sites – their scars and songs, their death and rebirth.
Now the culmination of three years’ work, Land Holds Memory showcases their paintings, drawings, photographs, recordings and writings in response to Country.
Exhibiting at Caloundra Regional Gallery from 20 October to 3 December, the exhibition immerses us in culture and place as First Nations connection clashes with ‘whitefella’ intrusion.
According to Curator Nina Shadforth, artists commenced each site visit by connecting with and listening to the First Peoples of each location before embarking on their art-making.
“For First Nations Peoples, these locations are places of deep connection, sacredness and sustenance,” she said.
“The sites are significant for their geological presence both in the physical and spiritual sense, as a source of inspiration, and as important places carrying the histories and stories of those who have walked these lands for many thousands of years.”
Inviting both indigenous and non-indigenous artists onto Country, the project reflects a vast tapestry of perspectives and interpretations.
“An image of a landscape implies a person viewing the landscape, so that the ‘see-er’ and ‘seen’ are bound up in a relational engagement,” said Dr Lisa Chandler.
“This involves both the lived experience of being in that location and the cultural perspectives that enable or disrupt, orient or disorient perceptions of place.
“Consequently, several of the exhibition works explore this entangled relationship.”
In The Functionalism of Landscape (Astigmatism), Pat Hoffie imagines soaring trunks of Bunya Pines as cathedral pillars, dissected by shafts of jewel-like light to imitate stained glass windows.
As a Scotland-born immigrant to Australia, her religious imagery is inherently European, a bias distorting her vision of an indigenous landscape.
Meanwhile, First Nations artist Joanne Currie Nalingu draws on her memories of childhood on Queensland’s Maranoa River to encompass waterways as metaphors for change and connection.
Her resulting works – Morning Glow, As the Evening Falls and Evening Flow – link each of the three sites with dissecting rivers where generations of plants, animals and people have gathered and passed through.
Perhaps one of the most sensory works comes from New Zealand-born artist Euan Macleod, whose Kev at Carnarvon positions Kev Carmody with confidence and calmness in the centre of the canvas.
Euan forgoes a hard outline to blur the edges between the subject and his natural surrounds, allowing him to emerge from the landscape while remaining interconnected with it.
Kev himself captures this reciprocal relationship between the human and the non-human in his sound piece, Painting the Silences.
As he disperses fragmented poetry between the cries of birds and animals, instrumental rhythms, percussive pulses, stillness and storms, Kev urges us to unearth the stories in the soil of Country.
This soil is where our voices, memories and histories are laid to rest.
What remains are the marks we leave on the land, from ancient art carved into rock shelters to swathes of suburbia rolled out over the environment.
Once we bear witness to Country and our place within it, we will realise our relationship with nature is always one of exchange.
When one speaks, the other listens. What do you hear?
LAND HOLDS MEMORY
New works by artists reflecting experiences of walking, listening, and creating in the landscape.
LAUNCH: Thursday 19 October, 6-8pm
EXHIBITION: 20 October to 3 December 2023
Caloundra Regional Gallery
22 Omrah Avenue, Caloundra