BENALLA and Beechworth textile and visual artists stepped into frontier interpretations of Beechworth Arts Council’s inaugural Elements of Indigo art-to-artwear project in Beechworth on November 10.
Maggie Hollins, Inga Hanover, Kay Hampton and Daren John Pope exhibited their radically distinctive takes on the brief for the Spring Arts 2018 project – to design and make a navel-to-knees garment that expressed connection to place in a way similar to that by which Celts display ‘cultural badging’ with tartan.
Arts Council president Jamie Kronborg said the creative idea stemmed from the tradition that forms and styles of clothing throughout history have evolved to identify a people’s tribe, clan, community, place, culture and even country.
“In this project, as the Arts Council’s contribution to the development of Beechworth’s longstanding Celtic Festival, participating artists were encouraged to tease apart the idea and tradition of tartan and re-work it to identify the communities of Indigo,” he said.
The two-phase project – a visual design and a created garment interpreting the form of a kilt – asked entrants to depict or express ‘elements of Indigo’ – its sky, landscapes, colours, seasons, geology, topography, plants, crops, animals and birds, and other inspirations.
“A kilt is a traditional skirt that covers from navel to knees and has a deep history in Gaelic, Norse, Mediterranean, Tartar and First Peoples’ cultures,” Mr Kronborg said. “The Old Norse word kjalta means ‘pleated’ – of a ‘garment or cloth tucked up and around the body’. Australia’s First Peoples wore skirts or coverings made from grass, bark, and kangaroo, wallaby and possum skins decorated with feathers and echidna quills and tooled imagery.”
Ms Hollins, from Benalla, used a re-purposed woollen blanket as the base for her work.
“The choice of materials has been deliberate,” she said. “It was dyed with commercial indigo dye. Indigofera australis is a plant that grows in Indigo Shire and the First Peoples of this place used the flower of this plant to produce a blue dye. I want the viewer to remember their own blanket, how it felt safe and warm when it surrounded them. To highlight the landscape’s beauty I layered the base textile with vegetation. When heated pigments are drawn out of the plants and leave marks on the material.”
Ms Hanover created two designs and garments – one inspired by moss on rocks in Beechworth Gorge and the other using recycled plastic and partially-dried leaves, seeds and flowers.
“The influence for (the first) design has its starting point in the geology of Beechworth and the repetitive nature within a traditional kilt fabric. The repeated motif is taken from the left hand corner of the image below of lichen on granite from the gorge. I chose the granite as Beechworth sits atop a granite outcrop, with its ancient, degraded granite soil, in Indigo Shire.”
“In (the second), a wearable garment, I have sourced a selection of native grasses, seeds, leaves and blossoms from the Gorge. Using heat, these native items have been ‘trapped’ within supermarket packaging. These items are encased/laminated in clear and white plastic bags. In some sections, the natural items are covered by several layers of clear thin plastic and their colours are subdued and hidden, in other areas the colour comes through more vividly hidden only by one plastic layer. It’s a commentary on contemporary consumerism.”
Beechworth painter Kay Hampton created a rural village scene with a mixed farming landscape.
“It is a small snapshot of an intended larger finished work, which would be incorporated into a wearable garment showing this particular style of artwork,” she said. “It would be more comprehensive by including more villages so as to be representative of towns that make up Indigo Shire in Victoria’s North East.
“The colours I’ve used, while coming from an ancient landscape, have a contemporary relevance as the LGBTQI community uses them as the colours of diversity. This diversity, as illustrated, is also strongly evident throughout the Indigo community where wide diversity is paralleled by strong acceptance.”
Beechworth fabric artist Daren John Pope explored photographic repetition using historic images of Beechworth and Indigo and smart phone images with a deliberate emphasis on casual, non-discriminatory composition.
“In transferring these onto a patterned tableau, these photo snaps have been printed up, arranged in a grid format and stitched together to create a single graphic.”
- Elements of Indigo’s five interpretations will be exhibited in Beechworth Town Hall from November 12 to 25.