Coming to this place has called up another for young artist and musician Claire Wieland. It’s not that she isn’t seeing and listening to this one – her Emu series and recording of local voices and songs are charming testimony that she is. But time spent in the western desert, volunteering in the women’s centre at Kintore, and then here in town where she has rented a studio at Watch This Space and mounted an exhibition in its gallery, have got her thinking about family and home.
The sense of those words for her stretches across the globe, to the native Switzerland of her father. She was born in Australia but the Swiss-German connection is strong, not so much through her direct experience as she has only been there a few times, and only once in young adulthood. It’s more a matter of cultural osmosis, for instance, through the kind of objects that were around her as she grew up.
A few of these form part of the exhibition: a milk pail of woven wood, made and given to her at birth by her Swiss grandfather; her mother’s handwritten cookbook; a rustic door-latch and drawer handles made by her father. A lifelong familiarity with the processes and products of individual fabrication has given her confidence to her own abilities to work with her hands. Proof is in the beautiful wooden utensils she has made – ladles, spoons, spatulas, each fashioned in harmony with the colour, grain and texture of the different timbers used.
The imagery in this show, titled Familien, reveal her to be a fine draughtswoman but in keeping with her desire to honor craft and tradition she has chosen to make lithographic prints (the stones used are part of the show). The lithographs transmit her subtle drawing style beautifully and have allowed her to compile some of the images in artist books, bound in “swag” (canvas). The books evoke a favourite childhood storybook of her father’s and are full of tenderness and a youthful idealism.
This feeling is also there in the sound installation: you hear her singing tentatively in German with her father; a woman teaching Arrernte at Centralian Middle School (Wieland has used Arrernte names for some of her Emu series); a woman met by chance at John Hayes Rockhole, singing with her daughter an old Italian lullaby she had learnt from her father.
Wieland is sitting the exhibition until it closes on October 27 (gallery hours Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, 11am-4pm, Saturday, 12-4pm). Watch out – she’ll soon have you yearning for simpler times, old melodies, the touch of natural materials, the sound of un-miked music, the images of childhood memory, the aura of parental love.
Pictured: Top right – Claire Wieland in the gallery. • Above left – her ‘family’ of hand-made objects. • Right – Her artist books of lithographic prints, edition of four in black and white, three in colour.