exhibition Helen S. Tiernan - Farming Without Fences
From 14th November to 17th January 2015
29 November 2014 - 17 January 2015
Floor Talk Saturday 29 November 2.30-3.30pm
Helen Tiernanâ€™s new paintings explore the Australian landscape through three elements: traditional Aboriginal, and contemporary land management, and idealized depictions as seen in the colonial home interior.
Her major inspiration has been Bill Gammageâ€™s revelatory book, The biggest Estate on Earth: How Aborigines Made Australia. Through subtle controlled burning, working progressively from the edges, Australian Aborigines transformed the forest into grassland. A benign, yet stark equivalent to the torching, clear felling and bulldozers employed today.
In these paintings, Tiernan further develops stylistic themes in which baroque forms were woven and embedded with veiled romantic patterns, referencing printed wallpaper, pressed metal ceilings and relief printing (interior design elements familiar to the colonizing power). The gold mark making encased around the edges and sides of her canvases referred to the way in which gilt-edged frames further romantisised the versions of the country in the eyes of those with power and influence, just at the very time their way of life threatened to eclipse that of the original inhabitants.
The aesthetic link between these three seemingly disparate ideas is the patterning on both the internal and external environment: forms formerly created through Aboriginal land management, and seen in the traditional Western interior, that now exist only in memory.
In works that allude to Australiaâ€™s colonial past, Tiernan borrows stylistic elements from George Stubbs, Joseph Lycett, John Glover, Otto Pareroultja and Sydney Long. Her main symbolic elements are fire, kangaroos, grassland, the edges of the forest and the earth mover. The process of fire stick farming created corridors, pathways, and lush grassy fields. The bulldozerâ€™s tracks are scars rent and ripped: all leave readable patterns on the land.
Here Tiernan merges the Aboriginal understanding of exterior beauty with the Western ideals of interior beauty. Her paintings are unpopulated by man. Only the imprint left by two quite different cultures can be seen. They are peaceful, yet subtly imbued with the life and signs of the countless past generations that have given us modern Australia.
In these new works Helen Tiernan makes a connection that most would not recognize. Traditional land management and romantic depictions of the environment through interior design. Her work is free of judgment. They are a mediation between two parts of herself, and two cultures sharing a country. Both our external and internal environments have undergone creative change. Here, both the home, and its natural environment, are used to reference subliminal beauty- a beauty lost, but not forgotten.
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