Tuesday, 10 May 2016

Here & There @ Belconnen Arts Centre

Last week our group exhibition, Here and There was opened at the Belconnen Art Centre by Sally Burdon, Director of the Asia Book Room, and Dr Chris Bourke, Minister of Small Business and the Arts in the ACT.
Sally Burdon opening 'Here and There' at BAC
Although Barbara, Sharon and I exhibited a portion of this exhibition at the Barometer Gallery in Sydney last year, this exhibition has been extended, with new works by each artist specifically for the Belconnen Arts Centre Gallery. We had a great turnout and received many positive comments about how good our work looked in the space. We would also like to acknowledge the Australian Artists grant we received from NAVA in support of the costs of holding this exhibition.
Admirers of Sharon People's work
Entry to the exhibition - works by Rogers, Peoples and Ryder
Our works respond to the displacement felt when you are in one country and thinking about, or making work about, another. For Sharon, this was a family pilgrimage walking several hundred kilometers of the camino to Santiago de Compostella in Spain. Sharon mentioned in her artist talk that while her feet were in Spain, the sounds of the cicadas and bees and smells of the eucalyptus leaves under her feet took her head and heart back to Australia.

Shibori textiles by Barbara Rogers
For Barbara, her experience of the Japanese art of shibori  in Australia with Japanese shibori master, Hiroyuki Shindo, inspired many trips to Japan and abroad to study this magical technique. Barbara's work differs from many shibori practitioners in that she starts with a black cloth, and discharges the colour out using the itajime technique with carved clamped boards or shapes, then develops her complex patterns by building up layers of colour with Naphthol dyes. Her deceptively simple designs are actually the product of years of painstaking development, getting the patterns and colours just right, so it all flows seamlessly.
View of my work with People's work on the left and Rogers' on the right
My latest work shown here are textiles that I started in Malaysia on my Asialink Arts Residency at Rimbun Dahan in 2013, then subsequently finished once I got back to Australia.  Whilst over there, I was finishing stitching some large panels I had started here for an exhibition called Natural Wonders as part of the Canberra Centenary.  Sitting stitching large naturally dyed textiles whose plants had been sourced from Pialligo and Aranda, I had the idea for the Here and There exhibition because it seemed incongruous to me that I was far away from home, but making work about the four seasons in a hot and humid country thousands of kilometers away.  Similarly over the last year or so I have been finishing off the work I started in Malaysia, thinking about place and people, the landscape and the history.

Series of 'bandages' entitled 'Valley of Hope Ara' by Julie Ryder
Many of these textiles have been naturally dyed with plants from the wonderful garden planted by Angela Hijjas at Rimbun Dahan.  Some of them were dyed then post-mordant printed, others were printed with mordants before-hand and dyed later.  By printing with mordants first, you can create some wonderful colours all from the one dyebath.  This is the basis of the workshops that I often teach around the country for textile or craft retreats. Details of these workshops can be found here

The format of these long textiles stems from my research into the history of Sungai Buloh, the closest town to Rimbun Dahan. I have found some subsequent information online here:

"...At its height, the settlement had more than 2,000 residents, its own school, police force, places of worship, library, theatre, and even currency. Inspired by the “garden city” movement of the 19th century, it came to be known as “The Valley of Hope”. So pleasant was it, that even when effective treatment became available, many former patients chose to stay.
Although a large proportion of the sufferers were ethnic Chinese, the settlement was also home to Indians, Malays, Javanese, Eurasians and indigenous people. Whatever their race, religion or class, they shared a common bond in being outcasts from society at large. The result was probably the most diverse yet harmonious community Malaysia has ever seen..."

So this  started me thinking about the bandages that are still knitted today by volunteers all over the world to help bandage the limbs of these afflicted people. Apparently knitted cotton bandages are softer and more cushioning that manufactured ones.  In my "bandages" I have included iconography from Christianity and Islam to reference the harmony that coexisted within the Valley of Hope.  The series of striped bandages reference the 'ara' found on the left and right hand sides of the pua kumbu woven cloths of the indigenous Iban of Borneo.  I had the wonderful experience of staying for a few days with the weavers from Rumah Garie in 2012 where we participated in their ngar ceremony for mordanting all their cotton warps for the next two years of ikat weaving.

Detail of 'Valley of Hope Ara' by Julie Ryder
 The Leprosy Colony in Sungai Buloh still exists today, albeit with only a couple of hundred inmates and their families, but they have built up a thriving nursery business that is supported by many locals, and that was also a lovely coincidence that I was also using plant dyes to make work about healing and harmony.

In addition I made four textile artworks entitled 'Budaya lintasan', or 'crossing cultures' that have been mordant printed, appliqued and stitched then stretched over canvas.
'Budaya lintasan' series of textiles
These works complemented perfectly the work I had previously done about Canberra for  Natural Wonders and Here and There at the Barometer Gallery last year, which can be seen in previous posts.


  1. Beautiful work Julie.
    Its fascinating to see the outcome of your residency in Malaysia.

  2. Thanks Kate, it is always interesting what ideas come to fruition as the result of research and prolonged exposure to specific location. Often what you pick up on is left of centre, and that is the exciting and challenging part, rather than stating the obvious. You would know this well from your own residencies! Hope you are well and being creative wherever you are!