The Arboreus Quilts 2014 - 2016
Arborea are fern-like structures, a bit like a modern Sea-pen. Their fossils are found in the Flinders Ranges, and rendered here as lace, with the fragile fronds swaying before a ghostly future-landscape. A very worn and thread-bare silk scarf forms the yet-to-be landscape, with numerous lace motifs applied against it. The complete lack of colour suggests the darkness of the seas wherein this organism thrived, an imparts something of an air of mystery too. This work won Art Quilt Australia 2015.
Several other works have been made on this theme, some to do with evolutionary time. For the fractal organisms like Arboreus seem to vanish from the record with the arrival of bilateral mobile creatures, such as Dickensonia.
Heart Sparks Collection 2015
Heart Ache 2
The Heart Ache Comforters 2016
Spring Ladies of Cox's Scrub 2015
The Mungo quilts: 2008
The Arid Zone - Ruins and Monuments 2007 Darwin
Ruined and abandoned cars litter Australia’s remote landscapes and in their slow decline to rust and mud tell of failed effort, thwarted ambition, and technologies pushed beyond limit. They are evidence of journeys never completed amid harsh environmental challenges. Yet they have a beauty and a presence ot their own, and become monuments often well appreciated. The Model T was found in a forgotten swamp near Balranald ( not so far from Lake Mungo). But the Silverton Cafe ruin has pride of place within a walled garden, dragged there out of the salt bush as an ornament. The wall opposite has a collection of rabbit traps.
20 pieces in mixed media made up this collection, mounted over rice paper onto 12inch canvas.
Dust Drought and a Northerly 2006 Art Quilt Prize
This work recalls fearsome childhood dust storms during drought in the mallee, when even the bath was filled with grit. in 1947 our family moved form the Adelaide Hills to Concord, a remote settlement out from Loxton. Simple pleasures like taking a hot bath would have been a once-a week event for the farmiong families in our district. Water was always an issue.
The quilt is made on a recycled 1940's blanket, with hand and machine embroidery over layered hand-dyed cottons with phototransfers of discarded utensils, and the bath motif has multiple layers of digital stiches.
Size: h81cms x w92cms.
Morn's First Ecstasies 2005
The title of this quilt came form the poem" Break of Day" by John shaw Nielson, 1907. Each day began in those pioneering times at dawn, with extra stong black tea, served in large enamel panikans.That same ritual exists today, but usually with colfee not tea.This is hand stitched on voil over old blanket, Kantha style, but with digital motifs added. Size 112cm x 50cm, Artists collection.
And Night Shall Die 2004
Shown here are the full quilt and a detail. this work is developed from the kantha style of quilt-making from India, where layers of cotton fabrics are closely stitched with a simple running stitch. this was the first of a number of works that combine kantha with digital motifs of domestic objects. Precious little of Neilson's private life is actually known, but in his notebooks a number of hands record his poems. The poet often composed poems in his head whilst at work, writing them down by candle light at night, but only if no-one else could do it for him.
Text is from "Break of Day" 1907: size 112cm x 50cm, Artist's collection.
About the Neilson Collection 2003 - 2006
John Shaw Neilson was a pioneer poet 1872 - 1941. He was born in Penola, but moved to Nhill, and lived in a number of places in NW Victoria, know as The Mallee. The wonderful poems were the initial focus of this collection, but I soon found resonances with my own chilhood in similar country to the west in south Australia. However there is a quite shocking contrast between the beauty of the poems, and the reality of a harsh and often tragic life: Cliff Hanna tells the tale so well in the book "Jock" (QUP 1091). Neilson lived too often in povery, with long absences from home with arduous and relentless work. He suffered the emotionally scarring deaths of his mother, a baby brother, and two sisters. But the poetry is often a song of exultant joy, a celebration of the natural world illuminated with colour and light. They are a constant source of inspiration.
Oh Spring! Neilson Collection 2003
The Poet is shown hugging himself amid a profusion of spring growth, and quoted is a little fragment from his 1909 notebook: " and mad maid teach their lovers to be keen/ Oh time of tumult when all choir sing/ Tempest of colours fierce and clean/ Oh days of blazing merriment/ Oh Spring" The Notebooks are very fragile school exercise books of the time, and a notebook was always kept on the kitchen table. They contain much more than fragments of poety, for mixed up with the poems are rainfall records, lists of items for the farm to be bought, and of money owing. Mixed media used here include cyanotype, dyes, applique and transfers with hand and machine and digital stitch.
size 70cm x 111cm. Private collection
The Green Lilt of Spring: Neilson Collection 2003
At the time Neilson wrote the poem 'Girl with the Black Hair' he was madly in love with the very young Florence Case, but sadly this romance came to nothing. Neilson much admired Botticelli's 1478 'Allegory of Spring', and so both the poem and this wonderful painting were the inspirations, though I did have to carefully draw the feet of a young neighbour. One stanza of the poem goes: "Her lips were a red peril/ To set men quivering/ And in her feet there lived the ache/ And the green lilt of Spring"
This work is in batik on silk over hand-dyed cotton, with painted organza applique, machine stitched. size 66cm x 50cm. Private collection.
The Fence: Neilson Collection 2005
Here is represented the contrasts in Neilson's life, the lyrical verse anbd the hardships of work. The poem "Love is a fire if form Neilson's 1906 notebook: "It was a rippling day in rising spring/ Soft was the grass. I could not hear your feet/ You walked close to the barley by the wheat."
But in real life, there was a contract to build part of a 40mile border fence, and nearly cost neilson and his dad their lives. Working in a remote area in extreme January heat, they ran short of water and only just made it out. they did not complete the contract, and even abandoned their precious tools in this extreme situation.
The 100 year old fence near Nhill that provided drawings for this piece has sadly been replaced by star-droppers and mesh. Monoprints and hand-dyed cottons were used.
Size 104cm x 130cm, Art Quilt prize, Private collection.