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Redeeming Absence









Melbourne, Australia
Photocopies, fabric and sand

The poetics of absence and loss are central to the exhibition Redeeming Absence. In the making of the works, an image of my mother’s childhood coat was removed and cut away from the family album. The coat assumed an uncanny, three-dimensional effect during the process of enlarging it to adult size. From a distance the image took on the qualities of fabric and became a wearable garment. In-situ, the work speaks of a redemption of a lost homeland and childhood.
“I wonder if childhood is the lost land lamented and the uncertain journeying is life itself, overlaid with the complex issues of the migrant experience?” (Pip Stokes response to Redeeming Absence, VCA seminar paper, 2003)

By removing the coat from the original photograph there is no longer the sense of a whole and it ceases to belong in a purely private realm. As the eye travels across the image the details and fragments become significant: the hand, the ball, the brooch, the collar of the coat. The shifting and wandering of the eye parallels the way memory operates. It is never stable, never able to settle on a whole, consisting of particles and fragments. How can multiplicities and intricacies be mapped through families and across continents?

The coat is overlaid on a fragmented patterned image of shadows on a washing line. It is like “a wall paper that does not exist”. The shadows hold untold stories and the melancholy of the domestic. Behind the apparent order of the washing, many questions float up.

Near the base of these images lie fabric planes filled with sand.
“Anchor your childhood, your homeland, in the past, try to keep it there. Fill the planes with sand of the beach, of the river, of the desert. Perhaps these sandbags will stem the tide of memory. A plane castes its shadow across the landscape of your homeland, over your heart. What lies beneath distorts. The ground is never solid, you cannot bring ground into being. This is never more so than when journeying back to homeland, to motherland. This does not lay anything to rest, but opens a floodgate of questions. You are unable to stem the tide, but with the tide comes transformation.” ( Nicola McClelland, 2003.)