• BÁB-BARRA: Women Printing Culture

    4 November to 16 December 2017

  • BÁB-BARRA: Women Printing Culture

    4 November to 16 December 2017

  • BÁB-BARRA: Women Printing Culture

    4 November to 16 December 2017

  • BÁB-BARRA: Women Printing Culture

    4 November to 16 December 2017

Sediments: Karen Mills and Sarah Pirrie — 6 to 27 May 2017

6 May to 27 May 2017
 

Sediments


Sediments reaches to the past, present and future. For over two decades Karen Mills and Sarah Pirrie have collaborated with master practitioners and colleagues on intercultural collaborations often in response to endangered environments or contested places. Sediments is an artist-selected exhibition of works on paper. It honours Darwin's unique artistic meeting ground on paper and by all manner of mark and printmaking, to uniquely fuse Indigenous and non-Indigenous influences. As Karen Mills says, "Paper is a way of understanding the ground as a very developed surface, a place before you put your mark on it."

Karen Mills's prints, made in collaboration with Basil Hall, mediate on the artist’s study of her homeland in the vast alluvial plains and waters of Sturt’s Creek in East Kimberley in a northeast corner of Western Australia and include ancient stone flakes and stone tools, while Sarah Pirrie's exquisite watercolours depict 'conglomerates' found by the artist on Darwin's urban shoreline. These random geological formations fuse together rocks of all ages and include today's detritus. The pressure of the extreme Top End climate is the formative agent.

For over two decades Mills and Pirrie have worked with master practitioners and colleagues on intercultural collaborations often in response to rare and endangered environments. Their paths crossed in a small frontier town where every humble place has a layered and contested history. Their collaborative exhibition is one of a long-running series of exhibitions at The Cross Art Projects about independently developed conversations and exchanges.

In a philosophical sense Sediments acknowledges how nature is used and acculturated. Sarah Pirries's watercolours are an endearing "garbolocial analysis of the world", paradoxically making reference to the admired Vestey's Beach shoreline outside the Museum and Art Gallery Northern Territory, associated with the annual National Aboriginal and Islander Art Awards, but reaching back to the Frontier Wars, to a zone excised from a town plan in order to house local Indigenous people and colonial cattle empires. Later the site was part of a famous land rights struggle to create the Kulaluk Aboriginal Community.

Karen Mills's painterly prints made in collaboration with her friend Basil Hall link to her time shared with senior Kimberley painter Kitty Mararvie, linking their joint family genealogy to flints found across the great mud plains of Sturt Creek, a large drainage basin to Lake Gregory, the traditional land of Malarvie's Jaru heritage. Theirs is a story about recent colonial history, about surviving dispossession and diaspora from ancestral land, now part of a large pastoral lease. 

The artists' conversation began twenty years ago at Charles Darwin University when Karen Mills and her drawing lecturer Sarah Pirrie sketched at Darwin's Botanical Gardens. These were remarkable times in Darwin and at the university where studios and gardens hummed with the presence of groups of Aboriginal artists from the Kimberley, Arnhem Land and Central Australia. Mills and Pirrie were inspired by talks with visiting artists Queenie McKenzie, Rover Thomas and Freddie Timms, pioneers whose unique synthesis of gesture and form and symbol exploded onto a world stage. Their world was alive with the mix of colleagues and lecturers. There was Judy Watson who with Emily Kame Kgnwarreye and Yvonne Koolmatrie comprised the all woman exhibition at the Australian Pavilion in Venice in 1997 to honour the thirtieth anniversary of the 1967 national referendum on Aboriginal citizenship. There were leading Indonesian artist and activist Dadang Christanto and master printer Basil Hall at Northern Editions Workshop.

Adding to the ferment was the revolutionary ''Kuljia/Business Conference and Workshops', a massive conference involving all remote Contemporary Aboriginal Art Centres (organised by ANKAA, now ANKA) expanding creative practices and considering Indigenous Art within the complex categories of Culture and Industry. As a record, participants created the Meeting Place Mural (toured by Artback NT in 1998).

In 2015 Karen Mills and Sarah Pirrie were part of a small interdisciplinary team of artists and botanists assembled by Darwin curator and educator Angus Cameron for the exhibition Secret World: Carnivorous plants of the Howard sand sheets at Nomad Art Projects. The Howard sand sheets, located on Darwin's doorstep, are threatened by sand mining. The sands host many unique and threatened plant and animal species including rare carnivorous plants (Utricularia species) and the Howard River Toadlet. Yet the pink sands make for quick and easy excavation of sand to mix the foundations of Darwin's politically expedient "jobs and growth" development at all costs culture.

Mills and Pirrie continue their dialogue and support for each other's practice and investigations as each artist brilliantly prompts us to consider site and sight, vision and meditation, memory and idea and point to the need to keep hold of tradition and originality.


Karen Mills
 
Karen Mills was born in Katherine, Northern Territory, in 1960, and grew up in South Australia. After leaving home Mills returned to the Northern Territory to reconnect with family and her Indigenous cultural heritage. She lives and works in Darwin. Her work has been featured in exhibitions nationally and internationally and is currently part of The National at the Museum of Contemporary Art, Sydney. She featured in Tarnanthi – Festival of Contemporary Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Art (2015), at the Art Gallery of South Australia. Mills’s paintings and etchings explore concepts about identity, connection and disconnection with culture, geology and Australian history. She creates layered, textured surfaces to depict experiences and memories of being in different places, journeys across country and observation of the landscape. Mills is a descendant of the Balanggarra people of the Oombulgurri and Forrest River Aboriginal Reserves, near Wyndham, Western Australia. The history and landscape of the East Kimberley is a significant influence on her work.
 
Sarah Pirrie
 
Sarah Pirrie is a Darwin-based artist with an innovative and cross-disciplinary art practice that embraces conceptual, site-responsive and often collaborative projects. Sarah’s artwork has referenced a range of social and environmental issues and is often shaped by local activity and phenomena. Her current research focuses on transformative acts of waste and notions of environmental damage and looks at contemporary notions of environmental aesthetics. In 2014 she participated in a collaborative exchange and reciprocal residency with internationally renowned Indonesian Arts Collective ‘ruangrupa’ producing bus stop interventions as part of 2014 Darwin Festival project ‘Temporary Territory’. In 2014-15 she was part of Botanica, a large exhibition presenting the work of Indigenous and non-Indigenous artists from Darwin, Alice Springs and the Katherine region whose imagery focuses on plant forms, native flora and the minutiae of their immediate environment. (Curator Cath Bowdler. Katherine and at Chan Contemporary Art Space, Darwin Festival 2015.)

Sarah Pirrie artist biography and website www.sarahpirrie.com.au

Thank you

The Cross Art Projects thanks Karen Mills for initiating the exhibition, Sarah Pirrie thanks Nomad Art who originated her Terra Forma works and Karen Mills thanks Basil Hall for his inspiring collaboration on her works.
 

 

Sarah Pirrie, Wreakline, 2017. watercolour & pencil, paper 28 x 28 cm

Sarah Pirrie, Marine transgression, 2014. watercolour & pencil, paper 28 x 28 cm

Sarah Pirrie, Lithified detritus, 2014. watercolour & pencil, paper 28 x 28 cm

Sarah Pirrie, Accretion, 2014-2017. watercolour & pencil, paper 40 x 40 cm

Sarah Pirrie, Lava, 2014-2017. watercolour & pencil, paper 28 x 28 cm

Sarah Pirrie, Bioturbation, 2014-2017. watercolour & pencil, paper 28 x 28 cm

Sarah Pirrie, Rift, 2014. watercolour & pencil, paper 28 x 28 cm

Sarah Pirrie, Sediment trap, 2014. watercolour & pencil, paper 40 x 40 cm

Karen Mills, Untitled, Etching 25 x 25cm

Karen Mills, Untitled, Etching 25 x 25cm

Karen Mills, Untitled, Etching 25 x 25cm

Karen Mills, Untitled, Etching 25 x 25cm

Karen Mills, Untitled, Etching 25 x 25cm

Karen Mills, Untitled, Etching 25 x 25cm

Karen Mills, Untitled, Etching 25 x 25cm

Karen Mills, Untitled, Etching 25 x 25cm

Karen Mills, Untitled, Etching 25 x 25cm

Karen Mills, Untitled, Etching 25 x 25cm

Installation view: Sediments, Karen Mills and Sarah Pirrie, The Cross Art Projects

Installation view: Sediments, Karen Mills and Sarah Pirrie, The Cross Art Projects

Installation view: Sediments, Karen Mills and Sarah Pirrie, The Cross Art Projects

Image left: Karen Mills collaborating with Basil Hall Editions in 2015, Braidwood NSW. Basil Hall describes the works as: “The medium is very painterly and the fact that etching is a layering process also suits Karen’s way of image construction”. Photo Basil Hall. Image right: Sarah Pirrie and Karen Mills, Darwin April 2017.

 

Links

Installation view: The National, Karen Mills, Museum of Contemporary Art Sydney

The National: New Australian Art, is a six-year initiative presenting the latest ideas and forms in contemporary Australian art. It is a collaboration between Sydney contemporary art museums AGNSW, MCA and Carriageworks until 18 June, 2017.  Karen Mills’s work in Museum of Contemporary Art is described by artwriter Andrew Frost as: “The most successful room in the whole of The National for me is the combination of Rose Nolan’s Big Words – To Keep Going Breathing Helps (2016) – an installation of an extended spiral that makes up words on a screen from coloured dots – and three abstract paintings from Karen Mills’ Floodline series that explore her ancestral connection to the Australian landscape.
These two sets of works are not necessarily connected by idea or even theme, yet formally they cohere in a way that resonates aesthetically. This is, I think, the key to producing a successful survey show – the happy accidents and coincidences that bring something extra to the survey view.”

Read full review of The National in The Guardian - https://www.theguardian.com/artanddesign/2017/mar/31/the-national-review-happy-accidents-shine-in-major-australian-contemporary-art-show

References

Samantha Wells, Town Camp or Homeland? A history of the Kulaluk Aboriginal Community, Report to the Australian Heritage Commission, 1995.
Hotsprings, Daena Murray, ed., 2012, Sarah Pirrie, pp 108-112. > Download as pdf
Botanica 2, exhibition catalogue, 2014, curator Cath Bowdler, Godinymayin Yijard Rivers Arts and Culture Centre, Katherine and Chan Contemporary Art Space, Darwin. > Download as pdf