These strange places

Exhibition: June 20 - July 17, 2010 (Exhibition opening: )

Sarah Dingwall

Sarah Dingwall is a graduate of the Bachelor of Fine Arts with a Major in Glass at Monash University. Based on the Mornington Peninsula in Victoria, her current pursuit focuses on combining blown glass with found natural objects. Sarah’s interests have also seen her exploring collage. She is intrigued ideas about moments that house life and evidence of existence.

Statement

I aim to utilise the properties that are unique to glass – its clarity, magnification and permanence. My approach sees glass used as a means to preserve, document and display.

My current body of work is a dialogue on the idea that moments and memories can be counted as evidence of existence – proof can be found in what once housed life. In this, I’ve combined simple words, pieces of nature, and other things that once housed life in an attempt to highlight their evidential qualities in an archival style.

My work in collage similarly aims to capture pieces of life and fleeting moments as old papers, thoughts and figures are neatly gathered together behind glass.

Celeste Whittle

Statement

My artwork is influenced by the layering of religion, folklore and farm life imbedded in the rural Sicilian culture.

When my father tells me stories of his childhood in Sicily, it always fascinates me. He has retold me tales of my ancestors over and over again and I never cease to tire of them because they are full of drama and tragedy. There is also an underlying connection I have with my grandmother (Nonna) that goes beyond words and beyond the grave. My sister has possibly encountered her ghost at the foot of her bed and felt her presence while she has been dozing. My cousin Luisa believes she has caught her figure, dressed in black, at the corner of her eye.  I feel my Nonna around me. My artworks are inspired by her strong energy and by the Sicily of my fathers’ childhood and of its folklore. So therefore, while travelling I was pulled towards Sicily by my heart strings.

One of the first things I noticed when I finally got there was that Sicily is entrenched with Catholicism. It runs as deep and vast as its dry, rocky terrain and it is just as imposing and severe. There are icons dedicated to Christ and Madonna everywhere, from grottos carved into the side of walls, to statues glowing with neon lights- flickering among the meat in the butcher shop window. There is the Virgin Mary hanging above the bed when you go to sleep and staring at you piously when you wake. Christ is always portrayed like any true Sicilian – in a dramatic way. He wears an expression of tragedy and despair, his face is bloodied and contorted. He is clearly in agony, baring the weight of all mankind’s sins. Sicilians are not the most advanced group of people and God rules over science in most cases. I am certain that faced with hardship or joy, Sicilians believe God is responsible; if your crop fails it’s because God is punishing you and has nothing to do with the weather (which is also up to God by the way). When you kill an animal for food you thank it and then thank God for it.

Syracusa, where my family comes from is also the home of the ‘weeping Madonna’. This is a picture of Madonna hanging in a family home which spontaneously began to weep blood sometime in the 1960’s. Italians all over believe it to be a divine miracle. It now hangs behind glass in a church, the bottle of tears next to it. My Nonna was renowned for having a ‘vision’ herself that came to her spontaneously. It was of a church where inside on the pews sat many decapitated heads and outside the church, desperate to get inside stood headless bodies, banging at the door with their hearts exposed. Although this was dark and dramatic, it was also representative of my Nonna’s belief that political power rules religion and so when the head thinks too much, the heart doesn’t get the chance to speak.

Sicilians are essentially peasants. The beauty of this is that they know how to truly live with hardship and to be thankful for everything. Food and animals are not taken for granted and the donkey, the goat and the chicken are the much valued livestock of the Sicilian farm folk. Such creatures are cherished because they provide.  They can also withstand the same tough life as their human counterparts.

My dreams are often of the Syracusa landscape and rocky doorways separating paddock after paddock of dry land scattered with poppies like a trillion drops of blood. My Aunties are talking over the top of one another in Italian, and even though I don’t speak the language well, for some strange reason in my dreams I understand them.  I am struggling really hard to get back there.

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