Istoria: history, story, tale, a Goldfields Printmakers exhibition, opens at Burra Regional Art Gallery on Thursday January 26.
The official opening is on Saturday, January 28 at 5.30 pm. Full details are on the invitation below; click on it for an enlarged view.
Memory 40, one of two prints I have in the show, reflects a long-held interest in hidden histories. My works pose a question that may be unanswerable. During the Australian gold rushes, what fates befell the thousands of women and girls who remained in China after their menfolk departed for the goldfields?
In 1861, Chinese immigrants made up 3.3 per cent of the Australian population. The vast majority (38,337) were men, compared to only eleven women. But virtually nothing is known about the women who stayed behind.
Recalling the traditional Chinese art of cut paper silhouettes, profiles of Chinese women were hand-painted onto similarly ephemeral Eucalyptus leaves and transformed into archival pigment prints suggestive of fading Victorian photographs. All of the leaves in this series were sourced in the forest at Newstead, which, at the height of the Victorian gold rushes, was a base for over 3000 Chinese miners.
The term history has evolved from an ancient Greek verb istoria which means "to know". Originally meaning inquiry, the act of seeking knowledge, as well as the knowledge that results from inquiry or what we now call histories, stories or tales.
The Oxford Dictionary gives a definition of the tale as a fictitious or true narrative or story, especially one that is imaginatively recounted.
The words story and history share much of their lineage, however today we mostly think of the dividing line as the one between fact and fiction. Stories may be fanciful tales woven at bedtime, melodramatic plots, or the relating of a simple tale. Histories, on the other hand, are records of events, although the veracity of those events usually depends on who has written the history/herstory.
The word history refers to all-time preceding this very moment and everything that 'really' happened up to now. The distinctions may be much messier than that of course and as printmakers — people who use visual imagery to imaginatively convey meaning - we make full use of the freedom afforded by mark-making, to play with the way a picture tells a thousand stories, histories or tales.
- From the catalogue essay by Dr. Loris Button
Istoria: history, story, tale
Burra Regional Art Gallery,
6 Market Street,
Open daily 1-4
January 26-March 12
Pictured top: Memory 40, 2017, Archival pigment print, 28 x 21.4 cm, edition 20.