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Exploring Between Earth and Sky

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Last year following the ‘black summer’ of 2020, textiles artist Sharon Peoples and glass artist Jenni Kemarre Martiniello were invited to the Ready-Cut Cottage in the Gudgenby Valley to watch the landscape as it healed.

The unique artist residency is part of the acclaimed Craft ACT-ACT Parks residency program in Namadgi National Park Artist which provides much-needed space, solitude and time to renew creative practice and reflect upon our environment.

Jenni Kemarre Martiniello approached her time at Namadgi with the wisdom found in the three Rs of residency—“Retreat, Reflect and Rejoice”.

These were words from her friend and fellow poet, Yvette Holt. Jenni’s practice is reflective of the words that people around her say, language for her is strongly connected to the land that it echoes through as words are spoken.

As an Arrernte woman, she reflects upon Namadgi as a place where First Nations people speak “languages in vowels and consonants formed by the shapes, sounds and seasons of [the] place”.

These words were used to share stories, ceremonies, law, knowledge and more.

Through observation, Jenni has developed a visual language which speaks to “birdwing, river, creek, wind, frog, birdsong and crow…each with its own syntax and song to feel in the solar plexus, enter into the heard and embrace in the mind.”

Jenni’s hot blown glass works displayed in the new exhibition at Craft ACT weave together earthy motifs such as grass fibres, fire-scarred mountain ranges and stone faces to reflect the rejuvenation that she hopes the land will attain as time passes.

Martiniello has also renewed her practice through engaging with primary resources that were used by her Ancestors, creating “mark-making tools from sticks and plant stems, collected, bones, stones, ochres and charcoal”. Her work reflects upon the things that “[a]lways was, always will be…”

Between Earth and Sky exhibition, works by Jennifer Kemarre Martiniello. Photo: 5 Foot Photography.

Sharon Peoples also spent much of her time at Namadgi listening.

For the artist, the early mornings in the National Park conducted themselves in subtle symphonies. As she awoke to start making each day, she would hear two concurrent sounds: “the birdsong and the gurgling water from the Gudgenby River.”

Being a textiles artist, sight and touch have always been the senses that Peoples has taken in the world with. However, Namadgi has enticed her ears to work harder—“measuring the relationship between acoustics and vision in this small theatre along the sensory pathway”.

Sharon’s textile works in the exhibition stitch the melodies from the valley into embroidery that reflect the physicality of nature. Peoples has returned to the iconic motif of gardening gloves that pervades her practice in order to visually capture the sounds that she experienced.

The glove is a sign of protection, it guards our soft hands from the coarseness of the environment whilst also allowing us to touch the earth—a means to better understand our landscape.

“Gardening gloves were the right vehicle for thinking about the environment”. Through her observations in Namadgi, Peoples has delivered a new body of work which records the enchanting melodies of nature.

Sharon Peoples, Namadgi Gardening Gloves Panic Growth Eucalypt Gauntlets. Photo: Brenton McGeachie.

This residency is the result of a valued partnership between Craft ACT and ACT Parks which has run every year since 2006.

Works from the residency are now on show at the Between Earth and Sky: 2020 artists-in-residence exhibition at the Craft ACT gallery until 22 May 2021.

Meanwhile, Craft ACT’s other exhibition, Essence of Cloud, is an ambitious and multilayered exhibition which tells a whimsical historical tale about an imaginary cloud substance which produces elation, longevity and increased empathy.

Acclaimed flame worker Mark Eliott invented this extraordinary narrative canvassing five centuries and seven countries inspired by the famous 17th century Spanish Trick Glass at the Corning Glass Museum in New York (the world’s largest glass museum).

Essence of Cloud exhibition. Photo: 5 Foot Photography.

The exhibition features hand-made glass objects and mixed-media installations of wood, scent, animation, sound and found objects, displayed as museum-like artifacts.

With glass workshops closing down during COVID, Mark’s exhibition had to be deferred to allow him time and facilities to make the work.

This new and much-anticipated exhibition is, literally, more than meets the eye as highly respected craft curator Grace Cochrane explains: “This extraordinary exhibition of flame-worked glass and other processes and materials, which crosses time and place, fantasy and reality, is underpinned by an equally extraordinary story of the research that went into it.”

This exhibition is the latest in an ambitious project which started in 2016 when Craft ACT invited Mark to re-imagine the Corning’s Spanish Trick Glass as part of the History Repeated show.

Mark made Apparatus for the Extraction of Cloud Essence for the exhibition, after envisioning the Corning object as a ‘Cloud Essence extractor’ and creating characters and narratives.

This work became the start of this ambitious and multi-layered series and was purchased by the Corning Glass Museum in 2016.

Works from the Essence of Cloud exhibition will be on at the Craft ACT gallery until May 2021.

Feature image: Mark Eliott, Cloud essence Apothecary Chest from HMS Lucy. Photo: Richard Weinstein

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