Language group: Trawlwoolway, Tasmania
Place of residence: Hobart, Tasmania
Dark Valley, Van Diemen’s Land 2008 and Bind 2008
Julie Gough has said of these two works:
‘Dark Valley, Van Diemen’s Land refers in part to the Tasmanian shell necklace tradition, my own gap in missing the inheritance of that tradition in my immediate family, and how the processes of dispossession of country: colonisation: farming, hunting, mining are in part responsible for this gap. However, probably ironically, my maternal Tasmanian Aboriginal family and my paternal Scottish family have both worked in, and in Tasmania owned, coal mines. The feel of coal in my hands is compelling. Somehow familiar, I feel the pull to collect, sort, drill and thread these giant necklaces. The weight of a coal necklace becomes more than the personal, it seems to be the shared load of our history, I walk with each one around my shoulders once it is made.’
‘Bind is a giant length of Tasmanian sagg or lomandra plant that I collected and twined and onto which I strung black crow shells from four places in Tasmania. The shells are well spaced to present as a kind of unreadable calendar – perhaps indicative of months, perhaps decades, perhaps generations, perhaps events connecting Aboriginal people, places and practices in Tasmania. When I joined it at the ends this length about duration and memory suddenly changed to be something wearable, familiar, almost auratic of what was once every day. To make this work I needed to walk in country, understand how to collect and twine with this plant, and the shells were shared with me. In connecting with my past I find reason to make in my present.’
Issues for consideration
- Describe the colours, shapes and materials in Dark Valley, Van Diemen’s Land. Do they remind you of anything? Gough has used Tasmanian Fingal Valley coal, Northern Midlands Tasmania dropped antlers and Tasmanian oak as well as nylon to create this work. Consider the significance of these materials, particularly their source, histories and uses. What associative or symbolic qualities does each material hold? Explain how they connect with Gough’s own history and identity.
- Why do you think Gough walks with each giant necklace around her shoulders? How would this feel? Describe how your knowledge of this process affects your interpretation of the artwork. What is the history that she refers to as a 'shared load’? Discuss the role of art in engaging with history.
- Compare Dark Valley, Van Diemen’s Land and Bind. What similarities and differences do you notice? Think about weight, density and scale. How is each of these artworks connected to Gough’s country?
- Research the strong Indigenous maritime culture of Tasmania, including the creation of shell necklaces and kelp baskets and the practice of mutton birding. Investigate the work of other contemporary Tasmanian artists such as Ricky Maynard, including his works in the Gallery’s collection, and Vicky West, who discusses her practice in a video on the Gallery channel. Reflect on how these artists are bringing new expression to these cultural practices.
- Research and think about your own personal family history. Select or create items such as clothes, images or objects that embody or suggest elements of that story. Use these items to assemble or construct your own embodied response to your history. It may be as small as a piece of jewellery or large enough to inhabit. Assess your responses to the finished artwork and discuss your ideas with the class.