Beneath the surface

Post by Adriana Alvarez.

It’s opening night at What Lies Beneath, a group exhibition currently showing at Burrinja, and the crowd is lively and sociable. We are greeted by gorgeous fruit platters, nibbles and wine at the entrance. Inside a woman painted white and wearing an eco-dyed wedding dress mingles in the crowd. The works around the gallery offer a myriad of sights and sensations waiting to be devoured. It’s shaping up to be a great night for this group of artists.

What Lies Beneath is an exhibition of works emerging from a series of eco-printing workshops lead by local artist Jacqui Grace and soul crafter Rebecca Funk. Eco-printing engages the pigments in leaves, natural fibres, metal and heat to create prints and imagery that resonate with an organic and unpredictable nature. The workshops were held over two weekends in Winter. “We did the workshop so we could let people engage in the process of eco-printing to take some time to see what would emerge as they stayed with a theme” says Jacqui Grace. “And because from previous workshops I’d done such an amazing body of work comes out just after one day. I thought what would it be like just to display this and let people curate their story. So that’s why we did the workshops and an exhibition at the end.”

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At the opening night a dance performance and poetry reading is followed by the unravelling of a large piece of silk, a collaborative piece made by the group during the workshops and which had been sitting in the dye until this moment, waiting to be unveiled. Everyone had contributed with words written on paper and other pieces gifted to the creative process. “It’s amazing how cohesive the group was right from the beginning,” says Michelle Morgan one of the artists. “I felt like there was a real community of support, it was really quiet beautiful.”

This exhibition has a lot of heart and emotion. Beautiful, strong organic colours mingle with subtle natural imprints in the works. The theme What Lies Beneath lends itself to a lot of probing and questioning. As ‘what lies beneath’ is usually something we try to keep hidden, buried deep.

Works such as Amanda Scott’s Little Books of Experience – Perfectionism, Depression, Fear and Joy, which viewers are invited to look through portray the idea of a guarded inner life. These are paired with an installation of a silk dyed dress, a lace umbrella and a birdcage, which express the feeling of fear turned to joy at the unexpected outcome of the work.

Kate Heron also offers an interactive experience with her work Unravelled, which has a set of boxes to open and look inside, illustrating a complex journey of emotions such as fear, shame, disappointment and cowardice, all emotions to be overcome. A mantle sitting on a wire cage shoulder mold extends the piece, acting like a ghostly figure in the space.

Michelle Morgan whose work includes a dyed wedding dress, which she wore on the opening night as part of the performance, agrees that it was an emotional experience. “Every step of the way it was a real process of fear and risk and having to step over that fear edge, it was quite amazing. So for me the dress is kind of an embodiment of being able to take creative risks. And kind of living that through the workshop is now flowing into my life as well. So noticing those moments where I’m in fear of doing something in my life and actually going, ahh this is another moment of risk and actually having the courage to do it. So I’m so grateful for that… what happens inside the workshop flowing into my life.”

Journey’s also feature heavily in the exhibition, such as Cassandra Barrett’s work which shows the journey of What lies beneath. From the beginning circle of gathering which embodies the group energy through the impediments on the journey, digging deep for insights; to a dream catcher that incorporates pieces from her grandmothers and mothers sewing kit, linking to the past then leading to the final pieces which were the jewellery attached and woven through wire and silk. Many of the works, like this one, incorporated elements from the dyeing process including rusted metal parts, organic matter, scrolls, papers and twine but with their own individual touches. Cassandra’s work includes encaustic wax, photography and drawing to create transparent evocative effects.

Kate Borradaile, whose works include photography, botanical matter and the elements of the process said, “the theme of What Lies Beneath intrigued me and I jumped in, eager to discover more about the eco-printing process and about myself. My pieces in the exhibition show parts of my process; the initial gathering of leaves, discovery of age-old rage within, of impossible and fleeting beauty in the eco-printing process and of the transcendence from tragedy to seeds of knowing. Such discovery!

The thing that strikes me about the exhibition is that all the works are beautifully differentiated, despite sharing the same process of creating works through the eco-printing process. Many have used wedding dresses, which were sourced by Jacqui from a supplier that was closing down, but they are all presented and crafted in very different ways. Some like Diane Glendale’s The Bridge of Time as installations with multi media, film and painting. Others like Jacqui Grace’s includes a book of process made from silk and sewn with poetry. Her dresses embellished with fur, rusted frying pans, chicken wire and rose thorns.

Rebecca Funk agrees “the container was eco-printing but definitely everyone took it in such different directions.” Her work of a standing figure with a hole at it’s heart that you can peer through was dictated by a wool scarf that she had dyed with a heart on it. “It lead me to a whole exploration about armouring, my defensive postures in life,” says Rebecca. “So a piece emerged about peeking through my armour to my heart and it’s actually been a piece where I can stand at the heart space and look out and looking out it’s such a limited perspective, I kind of want the armour to move back a little bit. So it’s entirely dictated by what came out of the eco-printing, I didn’t set out to make a certain piece.”

There’s so much going on in this exhibition it’s difficult to mention every work and story. What’s clear is that it was an intense and emotional journey that included both individual awakening and a spirit of community. This exhibition contains all my favourite things. Beautiful fabrics, paper, words, organic colours, natural processes, the delight of the unexpected and the spirit of collaboration, making this an exhibition well worth visiting more than once.

What Lies Beneath is showing at Burrinja until August 7.

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Photos by Kate Borradaile  www.kateborradaile.com.au

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