Perpetual Pigments

A Cultural Poetic of Di | Re - lation

Professor Gabrielle Fletcher – Gundungurra. Director, NIKERI Institute.

Acknowledging the Wadawurrung Peoples as the Traditional Owners of the land, waterways and airways within which this exhibition is held, and paying deep respects across time to the Ancestors and Elders – past, present and emerging. Celebrating First Nations Communities as sovereign story-tellers and our relationships to place, belonging and knowledge.

The impetus of this exhibition, ‘Perpetual Pigments Sustainable Colour Continuous Culture’, seeks to dilate the circuity of explorative conversations and navigations around both economic sustainability and arts practice. It is a participatory nexus of art and science to test the effectiveness of the use of recycled pigments in visual art works. Six notable First Nations artists (Elly Chatfield – Gamilleroi; Nicky McKenzie – Wadawurrung; Dr Jenny Murray-Jones – Yorta Yorta/Baraparapa; Brandi Salmon – Wiradjuri/Tongan; Norm Stanley – Kurnai/Wotjabaluk and Kiri Tawhai – Noongar/Tuwharetoa) have been extended an invitation to enter into this experimental space, drawing from their own cultural groundings, multiple subjectivities, a variousness of thematic foci and stylistic diversities to work with the novel form of these extracted pigments. The notion of the perpetual is underscored in both the title and the processing of the creative endeavour. I take the opportunity to invite you to consider this as both story, and as storying, in preparation to understand and then receive these extraordinary works as, in part, a kind of cultural poetic of both dilation and re-lation. And perhaps to consider your own activated role in this perpetuity as re-turn of Country and narrative sovereignty. I will honour your place here too with the self-conscious device of personal pronoun, and speak from the tense of a present continuous. And so we are together.

To provide some backdrop to the sourcing and form of the pigments, Deakin University’s Institute for Frontier Materials (IFM) has developed a process to extract pigments from discarded textiles and fabrics made from natural fibres. This process has been applied mostly to cotton and wool which is the focus in this exhibition, however there remains the possibility to use any natural fibres such as jute, silk or animal hair. Any textiles, new to discarded, are utilised as long as colours are not completely faded. The process involves separation of sourced colours and fibres, including selected natural and synthetic blends, although the preference is for consistent single fibre products. The textiles sourced range from new to end-use, with the aim to utilise post-consumer textile wastes to avoid land-fill refuse, where materials cannot be recycled.

The extractive process itself involves grinding textiles into powder which retain the original colour of the sourced textile. The pigment products are micron size particles which are used as colour fragments for printing textiles and other forms of colouration including the works in this exhibition.

Let us for a moment consider this notion of extraction. What else might be extracted beyond and within the pigments. Upon the textiles – who wore them or used them. In their original forms, what else has been absorbed or witnessed. Known. Indeed, what might these colours remember? How is memory held or where might it go? Can ‘things’ remember at all? Reflect further, from a First Nations standpoint, every ‘thing’ is knowledgeable, and this is the nature of Country. A web of interconnectedness without centre. This cultural conceptualisation and respectful acknowledgment expands and compounds the sediments of encounter that these expert First Nations artists are immediately exposed to. There is possibility of a colonial politic and ideological staining in confronting the potential of such memory. Both metaphoric and material saturations that are unexpected. And may clutch with cultural, political and personal affect that are not visible or necessarily articulated. Nonetheless deeply felt and tangible, as part of process for these featured artists in this cultural poetic of di | re-lation.

This contemplation foregrounds the nature of knowledge that informs practice – both cultural and artistic. The First Nations artists featured in this exhibition explore form, texture and density of a novel pigment medium through a process of relational discovery and a reframing of expectations, against and within individual historiographies and personal experience. There is use of colour wheels and cultural wheels, additions of other media and meditative inquiry. This is not a process of assimilation – rather one of reciprocity – Knowledge exchange and a new form of materiality as freshly-ancient collaboration. For these First Nations artists, this is a kind of simultaneous pedagogical undertaking – learning and teaching/ guiding and being guided through art and science in di | re-lation and an opportunity to make visible the complex nuancing of an emergent and connected cultural poetic. All agents (human and more-than) are responsible and equal in the relational counter-point – this deeper knowing and understanding is part of this process. It is one of respect, translation and celebration. Nothing is forced here. The work on the canvas, that which is visible, begins with the axiological – values and ethical orientation – to then move through Ways of Being, Knowing and Doing. This creative artefact, the textual production, is palimpsest as cultural poetic. And testament to the talent and creative poise of these artists. The circuits continue – Country, culture, respect, selves, expression, encounters, sustainability and sharing. These are the sedimentations of Truths. In our together, be open to what is narrated; be aware of the presence of co-narrators; and be clear in appreciating the narrative.

Remember you are approaching Truth. Your encounter is not one of seizure, rather your own di | re-lation and response to this innovative and exciting opportunity. Your relational activation is the invitation. The next step is to now listen deeply to the artists, through the commentary on what sustainable colour and continuous culture means to them, their work and expression of being in the world.

Thank you.

Professor Gabrielle Fletcher – Gundungurra.
Director, NIKERI Institute.