Gathering these things to remind me of home
Vault, Bundaberg Regional Art Gallery, Queensland
8 December 2010 - 16 January 2011
In the Vault space at Bundaberg Regional Art Gallery Melbourne artist Penelope Aitken presents an ethereal rock garden made of wire, light and air. The installation alludes to the intersections of nature and culture found in art and landscape design, craft and cultivation.
Beginning with a curiosity about the fashion for naturalistic 'native' rock gardens constructed in the Australian suburbs in the 1970s, this project has expanded to include an interest in rocks that have been moved by natural forces as well as by the hard manual labour of convicts and indentured workers in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries.
"Imagining all of these moved rocks as immigrants or travellers I add patterns to their surfaces that suggest culture and traditions carried from other times and places. In the place of lichen and moss, these rocks wear homely handicrafts."
In this installation the rocks are made of macramé – a craft that reached its height in popularity during the 1970s at the same time the native garden aesthetic was in its ascendency, especially in Eltham, a semi-rural suburb of Melbourne where the artist grew up. There, many people built mud brick houses that aimed to nestle into the landscape. Inside they featured wood and natural furnishings and often objects made of macramé. On the outside the natural looking native gardens were actually quite constructed and frequently filled with rocks imported from elsewhere.
Under low lighting these objects are isolated in space, further disconnecting the rocks from their imagined sources. And lacking the solidity of stone, Aitken's rocks also suggest the impermanence of civilisation if viewed over a geological timeframe.