Line Work: Rivers of the Basin
A collaboration between Sue Pedley and Phaptawan Suwannakudt
Penrith Regional Gallery: Lewers House, 25th October - 7th January 2022
Walking, observing, storytelling, singing, drawing, and writing all proceed along lines. Everything consists of interwoven or interconnected lines weaving a path between past and present.
The Penrith Regional Gallery site, on the banks of the Nepean River at Emu Plains, in Darug country, has a rich history, both written and unwritten. Line Work: Rivers of the Basin by Sue Pedley and Phaptawan Suwannakudt was conceived in response to the inherited legacies of this site.
Historically, as well as in recent times, the Emu Plains area has suffered fierce fires and extreme floods. The nineteenth-century house and surrounding riverbank gardens hold the memories of families who experienced and survived the ravages of these natural disasters and the lasting impacts of colonisation and urbanisation.
The exhibition occupies the four rooms, hallway and veranda of the Lewers House Gallery. The artists have adopted a four-part elemental structure (Water, Wind, Earth and Fire) to explore themes of transience and impermanence, loss and abandonment, memory and nature. Their research has been wide ranging, embracing the geological evolution of the land, its natural history – plants and water, fires and floods – and the people who have occupied it. Grace Karsken’s book, People of the River, Lost Worlds of Early Australia, has been a key source of information and inspiration.
Since March 2019 the artists have been using a variety of materials to create an extended series of collaborative drawings, Line Work (#1 – #27), Through a layering process of repeatedly working over the marks made by the other, each has been able to bring her own cultural perspective and life experience to the outcome. To cement this joint authorship, they regularly alternate between directing the drawing process and following the other’s instructions.
Both artists have also contributed individual works to the exhibition. Some of these recall the water born transport that was vital for most of the river’s history. Phaptawan Suwannakudt’s cloth bowls and woven boat – the latter made from plants that grow in the garden – were directly inspired by the name of Margot and Gerald Lewers’ daughter Darani: in Thai, dharani can be a ship or boat or other vessel. Sue Pedley’s graphite rubbing of a wooden dinghy recalls both her memories of holidaying by the sea in Tasmania and local stories of rowing on the Nepean River. All the works in the exhibition are drawing from this rich matrix of culturally diverse knowledge and life experiences to add a new layer of interpretation to the site.