Ochre is country and that is why I incorporate it in my artwork. I am directly referencing place, identity and deep within that are very personal links to the patient teachers who have shared their culture and stories with me.
I am from New Zealand, but have lived in the remote West Kimberley region for five years. This body of work is based on personal reflections of my outback home and country of origin. The visual contrasts between these two homes are explored using a combination of digital, Wetplate, digital photography and printmaking techniques that incorporate natural materials, such as Kimberley and New Zealand ochre.
This project was born from a feeling of homesickness. Living in the remote West Kimberley and returning home to New Zealand several times a year means I move between two very different worlds, and neither really understands the other. I grew up in a valley in New Zealand where the sky was long and narrow and although I have travelled extensively, it was not until living in the flat savannah of Derby that the absence of hills and mountains became noticeable and overwhelming. The Kimberley is saturated in sunlight for most of the year. At times the sun and heat feel unrelenting and I long for winter. I began to have a recurring daydream of standing under mountains in the deep south of New Zealand. It was a subconscious retreat to a place I know.
I became interested in ochre through my work at Mowanjum Aboriginal Art & Culture Centre. We have colour charts of Kimberley ochre on the studio walls – it’s a palette that is really different from my homeland. Ngarinyin artists and arts workers harvest ochre and together we produced a short documentary called Ornmol (Ochre) that explored the cultural meanings, associated language and uses of ochre. Ochre is country and when it is used in artwork it symbolises a connection to place.
West Australian author Tim Winton wrote in his book Dirt Music about the red earth staining the skin and soul. I feel a constant push and pull between the two places I call home. Over Mitre Peak I have layered Kimberley ochre, which acts as a stain or filter, symbolising the dichotomy of home and belonging.