Author Kim Mahood comes into the desert with history and relationships as well as hardiness and skills rooted in her childhood on a cattle station. She renews her relationships with people and place in a context that is utterly changed. KIERAN FINNANE reviews.
A show of “light and dark”, of “quiet and intriguing discoveries”, that “answers questions and poses them”, is how Helen Maxwell OAM, art consultant and valuer, described Groundrush, an exhibition at the Araluen Arts Centre that opened last Friday. It grew out of the work of six artists who took part in a residency at the Groundrush mine in the Tanami Desert in 2007. KIERAN FINNANE reports. Image:Dancing on the Scats by Pamela Lofts and Nic Hempel.
In 2008 a flaked stone cobble was unearthed on the shores of Paruku, known in English as Lake Gregory. The latest dating techniques put the stone at 45,000 to 50,000 years old, its flaking (for tools) evidence of ancient human habitation at the site. It was a landmark archeological find but nothing surprising for the Walmajarri traditional owners: they knew their ancestors had always been there, since the Waljirri (the Dreaming). This story is but one of the intriguing strands of an exhibition and book, both titled Desert Lake – Art, Science and Stories from Paruku, launched at Araluen on the weekend. They are the result of relationship and collaboration, in some instances over many years, between traditional owners and visitor scientists, artists and writers, looking at meeting points and divergences in the ways of knowing that country. KIERAN FINNANE reports.
Pictured: Some of the Desert Lake team at last Friday's launch of the exhibition and book at Araluen.
When Australian novelist Kate Grenville opened Obscured by Light, a collaborative exhibition by Pamela Lofts and Kim Mahood showing at Araluen, she referred to the landscape that they have made their stage as the "scary stuff". It was lightly said but nonetheless an interesting echo of the long held popular conception of the Australian interior as a great and threatening unknown.
A merit of the Lofts and Mahood show is its playfulness and humour in counterbalance to this kind of apprehension, even if there is mostly a comically satiric flavour to their antics in the Tanami Desert. These are mostly enacted by one Violet Sunset (performed by Mahood), a parody of the feminine in gorgeous cocktail frock and kitten heels, created and directed by Lofts. Sometimes though, Mahood the artist and child of the desert peeps through and this sets quite a different emotional tone for the work.
Lofts' photographic images are as gorgeous as the frock – saturated colour, high gloss – and finely attuned to both the drama of the landscape and the story-telling nature of the enterprise. Lofts excels at work in this vein: viewers may recall her wonderfully evocative Country Love series, and more recently, the haunting Requiem for Another. KIERAN FINNANE reviews.