Roots

It’s an off-topic post tonight – something I’ve been thinking about but haven’t had the time to really start looking into. I’m lucky to be part of a mentorship group made up of SAQA members from Australia, and our theme for this quarter is ‘roots’. It’s been really great to see how everyone has responded to this theme – it’s a bit atypical, and open for lots of different interpretations but it certainly encourages thought.

Since we’ve moved to Cairns I’ve been exposed to much more indigenous art, and I find it really intriguing how the artists up here combine their traditional stylistic ‘roots’ with contemporary indigenous/Australian issues.  They draw on the shapes, styles and colours techniques which have been passed along from their ancestors, and incorporate their contemporary imagery with these ancient skills.

When I started thinking about our theme of ‘roots’ and how it relates to my work, I felt that I need to learn more about the way my work is influenced by my ancestors. As someone who has lived in Australia for most of their life I feel that most of my influences must be Australian, but I am also an immigrant – Is it possible for me to identify if I draw on the styles and shapes from my ethnic background?

So, my family comes from the North East of England, and we are pretty certain that a good chunk of our family has lived in the local region for a long time. The local village where my Mum grew up (and incidentally where we had Ethan’s Christening) is called Waltham, and the local Church there is mentioned in the Doomsday book of 1086. There are also Roman ruins in the area, as well as Bronze Age barrows (2500 – 800 BC).

James’s family mostly come from an area just North of my family (we met in Australia, it’s a complete coincidence and I like to think we would have met wherever we lived!) Although there is no way to prove it, I suspect that the red hair our boys have, that runs in both our families, could have come from the Viking invasions which took place along the East Coast of England from the late 8th Century BC.

I think what all this means, is that I have a pretty strong case for saying that my stylistic ‘roots’ could be tied to the art and decoration of the region where I was born. I can’t deny that I feel a strong affinity for home, a little bit of me is sad that I will most probably never get to live there again, and I love the shapes and textures and colours of the place – I miss it in the same way that I miss gum trees now that we live in the tropics. The thing I need to work out, is how can I incorporate the art, styles and techniques of my birthplace in my work – or am I already doing so without being conscious of it?

My first job is to work out what the artistic roots of my region are – I’m not up for that tonight, I’m exhausted after the first day of the school holidays (I’m getting soft!) but I’ve got a few places to start looking:

Bronze Age/rock art:

http://archaeologydataservice.ac.uk/era/

Lots of ‘cups’ and ‘rings’, like this one:

Rockart_near_Gardom's_Edge_-_geograph_org_uk_-_551476

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gardom's_Edge Roger Temple

Roman occupation – Sheffield:

http://www.museums-sheffield.org.uk/blog/2014/10/traces-of-empire-roman-britain

Roman%20glass%20bracelet_5586ca23f55f9708a94d9585fd885a032543

Glass bracelets from across the Roman Empire made between 100 – 300AD © Museums Sheffield

I’m curious to see how much of the shape and design from this pocket of Britain has carried over into my work.