Gravity and Grace

Byron School of Art Project Space

October/November 2019

Homemaking is a role traditionally fulfilled by women, and is often overlooked and undervalued. An inviting home fulfils the basic human need for belonging - it is a space to feel safe, to rest and replenish. Through the actions of creating a place of warmth and acceptance, she invites grace into the home. The collection and placement of meaningful objects, along with heartfelt prayers of hope for her closest and dearest, can be seen as rituals of faith to connect with the unseen power of grace.

In Gravity and Grace the work speaks of my experience as a wife, mother and daughter, and of my Croatian Catholic cultural heritage. In the work titled Portrait of Great, Great Aunt Peg - a tower of inherited Victorian chairs - the conversation expands to include my own children’s story of origin, and the strong women in their paternal line.

“If left unconscious, personal histories have a tendency to loop through space and time with repeated narratives being passed on through the generations.”

My mother was a migrant woman of the Croatian Diaspora. When she 19 years old she fled over the border into Austria, then made her way to Australia to create a new life. It was the 1960s, and she belonged to the generation of women who displayed their delicate glass wear and shining, wedding present dinner sets in polished cabinets. My mother’s glass wear was presented, trophy-like, as symbols of her new found stability, and pointed to an optimistic future for her first generation Australian children. They were on display but out of reach, only to be used for the ultimate and rare occasion of family visiting from abroad.

“As an artist I reflect on the unrecognised power of homemaking and how crucial mental, emotional and physical health is for a mother to be able to fulfil this role.”

We live in a time that has become more and more secular as religious institutions crumble from within. We need to be free of religious dogma, and the betrayal of these institutions is deeply painful. The weekly and daily rituals within the home that once fostered connection and anchored the spiritual life of the family have faded, and in their place are computer games, technology and over scheduling. How do we keep open a space for reflection that welcomes grace into our busy contemporary lives? 

An Inherited Narrative

Byron School of Art Graduate Show

December 2018 

I have childhood memories of painting life-sized murals for my birthday party on metres of butcher’s paper that wrapped around the kitchen and lounge room walls and almost reached the ceiling. The paper and paint had been a gift from our neighbour Margo, who was an art teacher at the time, I’m sure Margo Neale never realised what a positive impact she had made on our large family by the simple act of suppling art materials.

I also recall stripping my bed bare and dragging the sheets over the freshly mowed lawn and pegging them onto the silvered timber of the backyard fence. During the long, hot summer days in suburban Canberra my six sisters and I would create tent-like shelters, domestic spaces of play and imagination. Meanwhile my mother spent hours at her sewing machine making floral dresses for her daughters — it was a respite from the housework, the chaos and noise of everyday life, her patience and generosity of spirit allowed creativity to thrive in our home.

Today my studio is a place to play and a respite from my own duties of maintaining a household. I engage in the creative process intuitively, and the materials choose me — discarded domestic vessels, furniture, a deconstructed piano are arranged and rearranged while I explore composition, balance, tension, form and line. Sometimes I cast in concrete or plaster from sewn fabric moulds and create my own “found” object.

In my installations I try to re-contextualise these found objects in an exploration of social and personal connection, I question notions of identity, memory and time. I consider what it means to be a first generation Australian of migrants from post war Communist Croatia. I process the extraordinary challenges my parents faced.

How does the family come to terms with the loss of a previously shared language and culture? In this ongoing construction and reconstruction of identity I consider what do we inherit from our parents and what in turn do we pass on to our children?