Ochre + Light (2018)

This body of work was born from a feeling of homesickness. Living in the remote West Kimberley and returning home to New Zealand once 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 traveling extensively, it was not until living in the flat savannah surrounding Derby that the absence of hills and mountains became noticeable and overwhelming. For the first time, I realised the comfort those mountainous land formations created.

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.  The Deep South, southern end of New Zealand, is where my family settled in the mid 1800s and where many of New Zealand’s renowned artists and writers have drawn inspiration from the lands gothic noir undertones.

Natural pigments became an interest of mine while working for Mowanjum Aboriginal Art & Culture Centre, where ochre colour charts hang from the studio walls. Over the years I have harvested ochre with Ngarinyin people on Wilinggin Country and together we produced a short documentary called Ornmol (Ochre) that explored the cultural meanings, associated language and uses of ochre.  Across the world, ochre has many uses including decorative, medicinal and ceremonial. Within the Kimberley, ochre is harvested and deeply symbolic and the colours are different t­­o New Zealand Kokowai (ochre). Initially, I referenced ochre within my artwork as a way to compare my two homes, to visually translate a feeling of belonging and nostalgia for each place and to reference the patient teachers and elders who have shared their culture and stories with me. Permission to integrate and reference ochre in my artwork has been given by Ngarinyin and Worrorra elders and artists.

In the book Dirt Music, author Tim Winton wrote about the red earth staining the skin and soul and this metaphor resonated with me. I feel a constant push and pull between the two places I call home. Through photography, I am not interested in recording what is visible; instead I want to recreate what I feel.