Sunday, November 19, 2006

The lost world of Australia

A recent exhibition Coathangers at Shepparton Art Gallery was a reminder of how distant contemporary Australian culture has come from the idioms of local flora and fauna that once were conventional symbols of national identity. The country crafts that feature gumnuts, kookaburras and platypuses (?) seem almost baroque now, in their distance from urban life. Not that there aren't animals in contemporary decorative arts, just that they are almost all European -- deers, owls, wolves and rabbits. The time is ripe for a radical move within the arts to use local flora and fauna for shock value.


Nalda Searles said...

How can one embrioder a beautiful kangaroo onto cloth and then look at road kills of these same animals?
Is a dingo any less wise than a wolf, probably not.
Visiting the Taronga Park Zoo some years ago, my aboriginal companion sang the Piwe tjukurrpa song to the tawny frogmouths in the nocturnal section. Though there was a glass front to the enclosure one of the birds immediately flew down to the front of the glass up againt my friend.
When we came to the dingo enclosure, a very large island with a few trees on it, my friend started to cry. The dingo was her own fathers dreaming.
She called out to them and they both turned and looked at her.
Further when were were travelling in the Western desert we came upon a dingo walking across the road. We stopped and she called out to it and ears alert it looked right at her.
There are so many wonderful flora and fauna to be resourced as design for arts and crafts. In the use of grasses we are seeing magpies, goannas, numbats, kangaroos, dingos and eagles coming to life, it is a modest restart to expressing our identity through local liveness.

Kevin Murray said...

Yes, thanks Nalda. We need a fresh vision like yours.