ARTSPACE MACKAY, 2011
The intense and poignant year following the death of my mother five years after that of my father gave rise to this body of work using items painstakingly salvaged from my family home in Melbourne. In making art I strive to find a balance between the personal and the universal. Whilst death universal, the particularity is personal.
My parents, European refugees from Vienna in 1938, brought with them some furniture, rugs, old diaries, photographs and other personal and domestic items, some originally belonging to my grandparents. In their Australian life my father went on to become a professional photographer, my mother a linguist and wonderful cook, both also sharing diverse cultural interests. Since they both lived to see their centenary, I was surrounded with this and much other accumulated material for an unusually long period of time.
The old Persian rugs, originally from the home of my paternal grandparents in Vienna, gave birth to the idea of the Tree of Life as a basis for the structure of the exhibition. The patterning of Islamic carpets frequently draws upon this central idea/image which appears in some form across almost every culture, with multitudinous interpretations and incorporating symbols of Paradise, ascent, imagination, light, expansion, flight, illumination of consciousness, the desire for self-realization and regeneration. Indeed the ancient mystical Jewish Kabala speaks of the seed containing the tree and the tree containing the seed.
Sorting, sifting, placing, removing, replacing, reducing – this was the process – my studio floor and every possible surface a sea of materials from my parents’ home. Attached directly to the walls to add a sense of potency and immediacy, these installation works serve as symbols of translocation, transition, continuity, a sort of personal genealogy and as a means of honouring my late parents and the grandparents I never knew.
TREE OF LIFE
The first in this series of installations: spread out before me on my work table are hundreds of bits of memorabilia from my family home-of-origin. I have become an orphan but am surrounded and filled with memory, generational. The colourful 1960’s Maltese drink coasters draw my eye to little squares of coloured card used by my father to index his vast archive of travel slides which become the abstracted branches of the ‘tree’; my Viennese paternal grandfather’s old financial diary covers together with old photo album covers become the ‘foliage’.
A translocation of place, a journey through time, a small genealogy, a lot of love.
PHOTOGRAPHER OF THE YEAR
Referencing my father as a successful photographer and humourist, the starting point and title of this piece was the ersatz, satiric mayoral chain presented to my father by friends, celebrating a success.
Amongst the things I inherited after the death of my parents was a lovely Biedermeier side table which had come from my paternal grand-parent’s villa in Vienna and remained, until my parent’s death, in our family home in Melbourne. It was only after I inherited it and we were placing it in our Whitsunday home, that I discovered it to be a card table. On unfolding the leaves, we discovered several decks of beautiful old playing cards and score pads. I had not known my parents to be card players, so it was somewhat of a surprise discovery, which was augmented by a later find!
My father, a charming man who wrote little poems and ditties to my mother and others, had made a small imitation ‘deck’ of cards, which proved very revealing. On the outside was written: ‘To The Bridge Queen’, which suggested that my mother had been a very good Bridge player and below, ‘24.8.43’, the date of their 6th wedding anniversary. Inside were four ‘cards’ which appear to have been a ‘wish list’. On the Diamond card was written ‘An enlarger to print on’. On the Heart, ‘Two armchairs to sit on’. On the Spade, ‘A bed to sleep in’. On the Club, ‘A block of land to build on’.
This moving little item became the starting point for the work.
My mother always spoke of how she had never cooked until she married. Subsequently she gained a considerable reputation for her dinner parties with a beautifully laid table, wonderful food and superb cakes. Her recipe collection, starting with recipes of her mother, was a vast work-in-progress, continuing well into old age. This installation speaks of food and cooking, of memory and love.
MEMENTO MORI: BOX WORKS (i-iv)
For my mother, Gerta
MEMENTO MORI: BOX WORKS (v-viii), 2011
For my father, Hans
IN MY MOTHER’S HOUSE – IN MY FATHER’S ROOM
A love poem for my beautiful late mother. She was highly intelligent, strong, impatient, elegant, loving, a linguist, traveller, nature, art and music lover, an incredible cook, loyal friend to many, loving wife.
IN MY FATHER’S ROOM – IN MY MOTHER’S HOUSE
As fortune would have it, my father was a great hoarder leaving a rich inheritance for art-making. This work is a love poem for my father and serves to honour the man, his work and interests, his life.