Talking Place: Unfolding Conversations
Monika Lukowska explores the new exhibition Talking Place: Unfolding Conversations at the Alcoa Mandurah Art Gallery.
22 May, 2019
From top: Talking Place: Unfolding Conversations, installation views. Photography: Sarah Robinson and Monika Lukowska
Talking Place: Unfolding Conversations
Monika Lukowska, Annette Nykiel, Sarah Robinson, Jane Whelan
Invited artists: Tracy Hill, Ryan Burge
Talking Place: Unfolding Conversations is a collaborative exhibition initiated by Monika Lukowska, Annette Nykiel, Sarah Robinson and Jane Whelan. It was the artists’ common interest in landscape which emerged so clearly that led to a decision to respond in our different voices to a specific wetland space, Lake Walyungup. Lake Walyungup is a shallow, ephemeral salt-lake in the Rockingham area known by the local Noongar people as ‘the place where people talk’. An unfolding conversation with the traditional owners gave us significant insight into the true meaning of the name of this Lake. The full meaning relates to waly, which is crying or wailing; ung is inflected as ‘yes’ or ‘understand’, and up means ‘place of’.
It is a seemingly forgotten, empty space in the midst of a growing urban community, which offers shelter to migratory birds and wildlife. It has a deep history embedded in thrombolite remains, links with the Noongar community and various historical uses by the passing groups of settlers and armed forces. The first stage of the project, the Talking place exhibition, was shown at Impact10 in Spain last year, and has since been developed by inviting UK printmaker Tracy Hill and WA soundscape artist Ryan Burge to gain a broader perspective on the wetlands.
Professor Clive Barstow writes that the visual artists in this exhibition ‘approach place and space with open eyes, some taking an analytical approach, others more poetic, but all with the common goal of representing the land through a respectful and embodied engagement with place, its history and its people […]’
‘What we now see is a re-imagining of place from a position of the mind and body, individual and sensitive responses to this moment in time in which six unique versions of a truth can emerge. Talking Place: Unfolding Conversations involving Ryan Burge, Tracy Hill, Monika Lukowska, Annette Nykiel, Sarah Robinson and Jane Whelan focuses on the wetlands of Lake Walyungup in the Rockingham area, known by the local Noongar people as a place where people talk. Each of the artists in this exhibition has their own professional practice and each of the highest order. They come together to this place to listen and to talk, to discuss and to share their own experiences of this important site, and to share these experiences with you. Collectively, they utilise a variety of traditional and contemporary techniques that add colour to their stories, each extending their language through which a deeper and more personal understanding of the significance of this place can be reinterpreted.
‘To involve an external point of view for this project, the group has invited Ryan Burge, a WA sound artist, and Tracy Hill from the UK to participate. Hill’s work is closely related through her interest in the wetlands both in Australia and the UK. With this international perspective, her voice is a welcome addition to this conversation by offering a more global view of the value of wetland ecosystems worldwide. Hill’s practice uses digital mapping technology to create large photopolymer etchings, her work occupies a hybrid space where technological control meets emotion and memory. Hill’s act of walking follows the traditions of the wayfarer; the adoption of commercial mapping technology offers a connection to the western traditions of mapping landscape inviting a readjustment of perceptions and connection to place.
‘Lukowska has also been investigating Lake Walyungup through walking. Her process involves taking photographs, recordings, and rubbing drypoint plates against the ground. Her works, originating from the tactile knowledge and experience of place, combine digital and traditional print techniques in her aim to capture the unique materiality and atmosphere of the site. Nykiel responds to the wetland ecology with risk-taking bricolage interventions, ephemeral installations of found objects and vessels made from materials gleaned from the Lake environs or left over from fieldwork. The bricolages tell stories in the many voices of those who relate to the Lake, both human and non-human. Robinson’s response to this place is through digital means; drone flying, a swipe of an iPhone and laser cutting technology. Human existence is momentary. Ultimately, the dark engulfing surfaces of traditionally prepared etching plates, allude to the destruction and manipulation of significant geological and historical boundaries within this fragile place. Whelan, on the other hand, reacts to the lived experience of this place by relying on the spontaneity of the drawn mark to share her experience of being in this landscape; its forgotten-ness, its space and the fragmented perceptions of this natural environment. The scale of her work encourages a physical engagement with her subject.’
The exhibition interweaves etching and drypoint, traditional techniques of printmaking, with drone technology, and Lidar survey scanning in a synthesis of techniques that expand the boundaries of contemporary print. In dialogue with multidisciplinary works that include drawing, sound and bricolage, the aim, through collaborative exploration, is to unfold personal experiences of this place: its characteristics, atmosphere, meaning and significance. Through this exhibition we hope to raise awareness of the environmental significance of wetlands both locally and internationally and to start a dialogue about the multiple meanings of that site.
 Barstow, C. 2019. Talking Place:Unfolding Conversations. Stories of Place Re-imagined and Retold. Talking Place:Unfolding Conversations. ISBN: 978-06485071-4-7, p.5-8
Talking Place: Unfolding Conversations is at The Alcoa Mandurah Art Gallery until 23 June, when there will be an official celebration event with a guest speaker and artist talks from 2pm.