Kings Bridge Cottage, Cataract Gorge, Launceston, Tasmania, 2007
Launceston City Council provides a residency for artists in the 19th Century caretaker's cottage at the entrance to the magnificent Cataract Gorge. As well as falling under the spell of the mesmerising, dreamlike river that snakes through the steep rock cliffs of the gorge I was fascinated by the amazing variety of leaves and the long winding pathways snaking along the sides of the gorge.
My major work from the residency, an elongated artists book made from leaves from the park, bound with linen thread, was installed in various locations along the park and in the Basin area.
The 'narrative' of the book, read from start to finish tells the story of changes in vegetation from native to exotic and back again and of the many and varying textures and shapes to be found in the trees of the reserve, over seasons and over the years, as well as when one moves from place to place.
The long sinuous form echoes the elongated pathways through the gorge. The work was also laid as a spiral and other forms in places such as lookouts and the Basin, reflecting the way these are places where people stop, reflect and intereact, looking inwards instead of outwards.
While nothing has been able to tame the wild nature of the gorge, the park is within the urban area of Launceston and has a long history of human use as a place for recreation and the enjoyment of nature.
Two chairs, made from fragile plant materials during the residency relate directly to this aspect of the gorge. They also make comment on the tension between art and design. They were made following a visit to Launceston Design Centre, where it seemd to me the functional nature of design was subsumed in a plethora of 'don't touch' signs and a rarefied gallery atmosphere.
The chairs also make reference to the chairlift over the gorge and the Victorian custom of sitting and taking in the view.
They were installed at various locations along the gorge pathways. Noone tried to sit in them, suggesting that people don't need signs to tell the difference between art and utility.
Images,extracts and sketches from my journals of the residency have been bound into a boxed set of three books - 'Gorgeous'- which is now in the collection of the State Library of Queensland.
Ode to BillyBob