Your free what's on guide to the top end

Making Marks

As an outsider from Tasmania, visiting Darwin was a strange mix of experiences, a cocktail of familiarity and otherness.

By Anna van Stralen.

The attitude of most Darwinites seems to be one of a relaxed but certain pride in their unique place and space, without any of the cringe I know well from my home state of Tasmania. Tasmanians often seem torn between frustration at the seeming backwardness of some elements of our state, and pride in the things we know are world class. Darwinites seem more resolved – both in the knowledge that there is nowhere else like the NT, and that it needs not be striving to be anything other than itself. This is a very refreshing and dynamic space to enter. This being said, I felt quite at home, despite all the vast swathes of land I had to cross, until I stepped into Nomad Gallery. I most certainly was not in Kansas anymore. 

As I sifted through great archives of prints narrating a vast history, peppered with rich subjective experiences, I realised they were creating a grand narrative that I will be trying to unstitch and understand for a long time. I felt a sense of FOMO, fear of missing out, as I flipped through pages and pages of tapestry-like lithographs featuring creatures, people and pathways, knowing that while I was viewing and enjoying something immense, I was missing out on so many other volumes that were surely just as enthralling. I felt like Alice down a very spiralling rabbit hole, glad that there was an online archive for me to fall down at any time. 

This feeling of a hidden expanse opening up came to me again as I wandered the fabulous and richly textured paintings and feathered sculptures of the National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Art Awards at MAGNT, (dropping a curtsey for the Werewolf woman) and standing quietly in the dancing fields of the Salon des Refuses at Charles Darwin University. 

Certain voices float to the surface of the whole and have left a mark on my mind. At Nomad, there are the delicate prints belonging to Winsome Jobling, hand-painted (if my memory serves me rightly) depictions of panties and ladies underwear. They are fragile yet strong images, objectified and raised for appraisal in prints that were strangely vulnerable and full of ethereal sweetness. At the Salon, it was a demure little landscape, sitting meekly among huge textured canvases, dancing with optical effects, colour and story. It was the clarity that somehow got under my skin – each tree, bush and leaf seemed to stand out like the tiny fronds in a terrarium. The painting was by Winnie Sampi, who tells about places to hunt, find food, and places to leave alone. In the moment after reading that small, authoritative statement, I felt that I was grateful to the artists of this vast place, for creating questions in me I may never otherwise have had the insight to ask. 

Anna van Stralen’s work reflects upon the contrast between human structures and breathtaking natural places. Her subject matter is currently the interplay between artificial constructions and chaotic natural forms. She recently completed a residency at Accomplice. 

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