Liz Powell, Denise N Rall and Kath Wilkinson
Tahuna: Ocean Navigator
About the artists
Liz, Denise and Kath chose to collaborate on their entry. "Combining forces to realise an idea means that members of the team can develop an idea unconstrained but complimented by the technical knowledge of others." (From Artists Statement submitted for entry). Between these three gifted, experienced and awarded artists, there was a wealth of technical knowledge to draw on.
About the piece
As Australia sits on the Pacific rim, this trio of artists wanted to explore the tools and skills which enabled ancient navigators to explore the vast tracts of water and islands of the region. They have drawn on the tradition of Melanesian stick charts which were an essential part of the colonisation process. The charts were made by individual navigators, known in Polynesia as the Tahuna. No-one could use another person's chart. They contained coded information. Shells were used for islands, sticks and bindings showed how the Pacific swells intersected islands and reefs, and indicated how the currents moved.
Working collaboratively, each with a strong interest in physical and ephemeral expressions of culture, the three artists developed a ritual garment for the Tahuna. The piece is made from handmade paper (made by Liz Powell) and is embroided and decorated with mixed media drawings. The coat is sculptural. Thin bamboo frames support Pacific flax and Kozo paper to creat overlapping sail shapes. The undergarment echoes the structure of the stick charts, whilst the dress has the form of a wraparound apron. The decorated headband is designed to sweep the Tahuna's hair up and away from the sails. (Edited from Design Concept submitted with entry)
Materials: Handmade paper, made by Liz Powell (apart from the blue kozo of the dress, which was commercially sourced). The choice of Kozo and Pacific flax was in keeping with the theme of the piece, as these materials have been used by sailors for millienia to make ropes and cloth-like sails.
Tahuna: Ocean Navigator was purchased by the Burnie Regional Art Gallery for its collection.
From Byron Shire, New South Wales, Liz has exhibited regularly over the last 25 years around Australia and overseas, including solo and group exhibitions. A mixed media fibre artist, Liz begins with textiles and her handmade paper and builds her work using a range of techniques including relief printing and etching, sculpture, stitching and dying, 3D design and metalwork. As a tutor Liz has been able to share her skills and knowledge. She has facilitated workshops around the country, including Fibre Arts Australia, Ballarat; Muresk Institute Perth; Embroiderers Guild of NSW and the National Fibre Forum (to name a few)! Liz is currently the President of Papermakers of Queensland.
Dr Denise N Rall
Currently an adjunct fellow at the Southern Cross University's School of Arts and Social Sciences, since 2008 Denise's research focus has been in the area of costumes and textiles. Her initial project in this field involved creating textile sculptures on life-sized mannequin torsos which critiqued royal dress. The pieces employed the technique of 'scrumbling', which is the free-form alteration of surface textiles, plus over-embellishments and reconstruction of op-shop garments.
Denise has participated in solo and group exhibitions. As an author and editor, her writing has appeared in Textile Fibre Forum. She was editor of the 2014 academic book Fashion and War in Popular Culture.
Kath is a highly awarded textile artist who utilises a wide variety of techniques, from hand and machine embroidery, appliqué, printing and dying, basketry and felting. paper on skin is not the first award Kath has won in a Tasmanian competition. In 2013 she won the Runner Up Tasmanian Museum and Gallery Quilt Prize with her piece, Traces. She has twice won the Margaret Oppen Memorial prize, Embroiderers Guild of NSW, and was a finalist in the Powerhouse Museum International Lace for Fashion Awards (2000). Whilst her work uses techniques and skills based in traditional practices, she utilises them to realise their potential in more contemporary forms of embroidery and sculpture.
Kath currently educates in the areas of Textiles and Design for the NSW Department of Education. She also teaches at the Embroiderers' Guild of NSW, is an accredited judge
with the guild and conducts workshops for adults and children. Like her co-artists, Kath has exhibited both in Australia and overseas.