By Kendrea Rhodes
‘Embedded Landscape’ is a South Australian Living Artists (SALA) exhibition, featuring artist Jane Skeer. This exhibition responds to an emotional twelve months for regional Australians and emerges from Jane’s own reactions to her experience of a changed landscape.
Politicians like to remind us that we are all in this together—in this time—but ‘place’ requires nuanced thinking for that generalisation. Contrary to current news headlines focussed on coronavirus, activity in the Adelaide Hills remains around bushfire recovery and day to day living. There are still fences to mend, houses to build and people to support. And as an unwelcome anniversary looms in December, we might still be saying the same thing.
For over twenty years, the SALA festival has celebrated visual art and artists, inviting art enthusiasts to travel far and wide. In 2020, the aims of the festival have not changed, but the ideas of creative thinkers (busy planning covid-safe SALA exhibitions) have unfurled a burst of innovative approaches that deliver art in new ways.
Fabrik’s feature artist, Jane Skeer, pursued the idea of healing after a Country Arts SA art residency on Kangaroo Island this year. Her artwork emerged from her experience of the new landscape that should have been familiar to her. But nothing prepares you for an unrecognizable home; it creates a divide between knowing and seeing as landmarks are gone, people are changed, and emotions are amplified. By exhibiting at Fabrik, Jane links the experiences between the Adelaide Hills and Kangaroo Island, two areas that shared the same smoke-filled sky in one dreadful summer.
Melinda Rankin, Director at Fabrik, asked Jane to exhibit after she saw images on social media of Jane drawing with Xanthorrhoea stumps on Kangaroo Island. Melinda said, “For me it felt like a really good way to connect two fire affected communities, and acknowledge that, even though the focus from the bushfires has turned to covid, these two communities are still grappling with their recovery.”
“The way Xanthorrhoea regenerate and shoot out these huge flowers in Lobethal Bushland Park provides such a symbol of hope for us,” she said.
Jane collected the burnt Xanthorrhoea stumps around Kangaroo Island but found herself so emotional that she took a hammer to one of them. She was stunned to see reds and oranges, colours reminiscent of the fires, jump out of the tiny root fragments as she struck them. This process created the marks on the works called Why? on exhibition at Fabrik. There’s so much more to this exhibition, please visit Fabrik’s social media accounts or website for more information.
FABRIK and Bushfire Recovery
Immediately after the fires, Melinda Rankin started exploring Fabrik’s role within the community and her first response was to offer Fabrik’s exhibition space as a Bushfire Recovery centre.
“We started to explore ways of presenting our programs in other parts of the Fabrik site,” Melinda explained. “Then, once the covid restrictions occurred, we explored it all over again, asking questions like: ’How can we help people connect when we can no longer gather? What impact can an arts organisation have in a community during such challenges? How can we help people gather within a creative context?’”
There is no playbook for this pandemic and creative thinking goes a long way to maintaining sanity and connections within communities. It’s as simple as having a reason to connect, even if socially distanced, and to do/create/play/produce something with your hands while you talk.
Fabrik support the community in many ways through exhibitions, workshops, and gatherings. The ‘What I Hold Dear’ online exhibition, inspired by stories of what people took with them when they evacuated, will showcase community photographs of what people value in their lives. Submissions are open to everyone (and don’t need to be bushfire related). The exhibition will be launched soon, visit Fabrik’s website at: https://fabrik.org.au/sala-gallery.
There are so many offerings of community gatherings and workshops at Fabrik, it would pay to visit their Facebook page or website for more information. You can also sign up for their newsletter (Subscribe to News button) so you don’t miss out on events in the future.