Boundaries | Artists Statements + Biographies


Image: Julie Ryder, Bev Hogg, + Mel Robson, Boundaries opening event, 2023. Photo: 5 Foot Photography.

Bev Hoog | Artist Statement

It began ….. by approaching The Valley as an explorer, armed with curiosity and scrutiny. Each day I set out from base camp, Ready Cut Cottage, letting the weather guide my wanderings. A slow process of building a mental map, using geological features as navigational aids, noticing, ‘getting my eye in’ and ‘just looking around’ at first.

Of course I carried binos, to extend my eyes to finer detail and places outside our boundary, places I could not go. Shape of a beak, delicate tones and patterns of feathers, movement way up in the trees on the further hill. Noticing the regulars. Who goes where? What’s happening in this wet autumn?

Observations made within our boundary, reading footprints in the mud. Recording movement of animals on paper, placed on animal pathways either where they squeeze under the old pastoral fence or cross the flooded creeks and river.

Movement maps compiled by tracking the wind or the roo mob as they graze across the valley, flying birds, the rhythmic repetition of small insectivorous feeders as they fly from fence to ground and back again.

Cloud maps as they chase across the valley sky field sculpted by earth’s physical topography. Likewise, the southerly cold wind as it blew round Mt. Gudgenby down Middle Creek corridor and up the Gudgenby river where it’s might bursts open the back door and slams the front door as it rushes up and over Fitz’s Hill. It’s gone for the time being. Cloud patterns left trailing the speeding wind.

Land cleared by early settlement offers grazing but no resistance to the wind. Only the wooded knolls provide refuge and shelter for the animals and birds. While the raptors rejoice, soaring the up currents from Hospital Hill.

Bev Hogg | Biography

Bev Hogg is a Canberra-based artist originally from rural West Australia. For over 30 years her figurative clay sculptures have focused on the complex reality of our relationship to nature. They draw on our shared environment and continued interconnectedness between people, animals and birds while pursuing our common goals of food, shelter and community.

Since graduating from ANU School of Art ceramic workshop, her commitment to a professional studio practice, teaching and arts education has led to many public and community art projects within the region. Most recently The Wayfinder a 2 tonne, 3 meter high concrete and granite sculpture was installed at the entrance to
the Centenary Hospital for Women & Children, Woden ACT.

Bev has exhibited extensively across Australia and in Europe, Canada and the United States. In 2010 she was invited to complete an Artist-in-Residence at The Tree Museum, Ontario, Canada where she created environmental artworks in situ for exhibition afterLandscape 1. A work with nature in nature.

Her work has won several major awards and is represented in numerous public and private collections. The Parliament House Collection holds Off the Rails a ceramic and fence palings artwork and a large bas-relief ceramic work The Listening Tree is installed in the Legislative Assembly, ACT.

Mel Robson | Artist Statement

The works in this show respond to a series of cadastral and pastoral maps of both the Australian Capital Territory and the Northern Territory, many of which depict the very first colonial land grants and pastoral leases in these territories. They respond to the beauty of place and the knowing of land as well as to the layered histories of dispossession and the hidden stories embedded in every place and every map.

Maps represent place but they also represent power. While we can take their lines for granted, the neat geometric delineations of space are highly constructed representations of ownership. Cadastral and pastoral maps are often complex, orderly and authoritative, their details filling up the space and making it easy to forget that they didn’t exist until colonisation. Beginning as theoretical renderings on a page, the innovations and enthusiasm for fence making saw them materialized in 3D across Australia within mere decades.
When we think of place, of territory, of country, of land, we need to remember that these lines were made by those in power. Maps tend to serve the purpose of the maker and the claiming of space and marking of territory can be a gesture of obfuscation, concealment, complicity and superimposition. Underneath them are other stories, other interpretations, other histories and other powers.

Maps can be convenient, seductive, beautiful, and intriguing but they inevitably hide, ignore or misrepresent. Although they become an accepted and embedded part of how we look at land and place, we would do well to look deeper, go beyond the surface markings, and continually question these representations of place.

Mel Robson | Biography

Mel Robson is a Ceramic Artist living and working on Arrernte Country in Mpartnwe/Alice Springs. For over 25 years she has been creating functional objects, sculptural works, installation pieces, and public art.

Her exhibition practice centres around ideas of place and identity and the ways in which histories, stories and associations can become embedded in everyday objects. Exploring this relationship between objects and personal narrative, Mel creates evocative and contemporary works that weave together past and present. Since living in Central Australia Mel’s practice has shifted to a focus on mapping and the ways in which map making can serve as a tool for storytelling and a way to explore the rich and complex connections between landscape, place, history and memory. 

Mel is currently Ceramics Lecturer and Visual Arts Coordinator at Charles Darwin University in Mparntwe.

Julie Ryder | Artist Statement

We call the cloth we embroider on ‘the ground’ and the thread that travels through it makes stitches like footprints, leaving its mark as the needle pushes on from one place to the next.”

-Clare Hunter. ‘Threads of Life’ p 185, Sceptre Publishing, 2019

My interest in the Craft ACT/NLA residency was to research women’s embroidered maps of the 19th century and to explore the idea of the contested spaces and the boundaries that are used to define them. Sitting in the Gudgenby Ready-Cut cottage, my home for the next three weeks, I realise how privileged I am to be able to walk the land at liberty; to hold the key, temporarily, to the Namadgi National Park; and to have the safety and comfort of a warm cottage and fine companions to return to at the end of the day.
The start of a residency is always a race for me to tick off the bottom tiers of Maslow’s hierarchy of needs so that I can quickly start the real purpose of my stay – immersion, interpretation and creation. I surprise myself at how important these physiological needs are to me in order to create the right space in which to work - hours are spent shopping, cleaning, rearranging furniture, chopping wood and opening every cupboard. The first night is spent sleeping with my ears open, analysing every sound – Wind? Mouse? Branch? Possum? Rat? I drift off, realising I am defining my own boundaries between inside and outside, the first step of mapping.

It is one thing to look at a map; it is another to walk it. I have a map, but I realise quickly that while it gives me an overview of my location, it tells me nothing about the conditions I encounter when I venture out. I see hills and mountains razed by the furious fire of 2020, now topped with spindly new trees sticking up like hairs on a balding pate. My feet crunch upon charcoal alongside the river, and I pick up several pieces to use for drawing with later. La Ninã has returned for the second successive year and I discover paths I have walked many times before are now swamps; every day becomes a challenge to find the best way to cross swollen streams and navigate boggy marshes. Late autumnal chill has me heading for the cottage before sundown, eager to light the fire, cook a meal and to draw and read. My map and daily walks bear little resemblance to the 1908 maps of Gudgenby I pored over at the NLA – a flat plain neatly sectioned by variegated lines of ink bearing the names of Sendall, Chisholm, Bootes, Bank of New South Wales and Lee.

Throughout history all forms of needlework were considered vital skills for women. All clothes were stitched by hand up until the mid-nineteenth century. Often the only education girls received was through making embroidered samplers - sewing the alphabet and religious quotes in a variety of decorative stitches - and later learning geography through the making of embroidered maps and globes. Hundreds of map samplers were made during the 18th and 19th centuries by women and girls as young as nine. Millions of tiny stitches in wool, linen or silk compartmentalising the counties of the British Isles and the states of Northern America by women who would never travel to the places they depicted with their needles.

These thoughts fill my head as I stitch my own embroidered and blue-printed maps of Namadgi National Park. In the last three weeks I have walked and worked the ground. I have charted the unseen aspects of my experiences here - the flight of the wedge-tailed eagles; the underground mycelium of fungi found on my forays; the ebb and flow of the Gudgenby River and its tributaries; and my walking paths within our enforced boundary during the annual aerial pest control. This residency has reinforced to me that Namadgi NP is a place to be experienced by all senses, not just measured on a map and has inspired me to try to capture it’s unseen beauty and hidden presence.

Julie Ryder | Biography

Julie Ryder is a textile designer who has gained international recognition for her work. Originally trained in science Julie retrained as a textile designer in 1990 and completed an MA in Visual Arts (Textiles) from the ANU in 2004.

Over the past 30 years her arts practice has evolved in response to artistic opportunities and arts residencies, expanding her visual language by working with new media, new challenges and experiences. The materials she works with are an integral part of the message she wants to convey, leading to a cross-disciplinary approach in making work for exhibition. She regards herself as a visual artist who works with textiles, drawing, digital printing, painting, glass and assemblage.

Ryder draws inspiration from the history of botany and botanical collectors; gender/social inequity; cross-cultural exchange, objects as receptacles of stories and memory; and the use of natural materials in making art in order to uncover hidden stories that lie between the pages of history. She has worked with natural dyes in specific locations for many years to make textiles that reflect the terroir and culture of the land. Over the past decade years her interest has been focused on 19th century women botanical collectors and their contributions to science.

Ryder has taught in many tertiary institutions, community organizations and workshops for over 30 years. She has exhibited nationally and internationally; presented papers at international conferences and has been the recipient of many awards and residencies, most notably the ANAT Synapse Residency at the ANBG, an Asialink residency in Malaysia, and residencies in Ireland and Canada

Her work is represented in many public and private collections, including the NGA, NGV, NMA, MAAS, AGSA, BRAG, CSIRO, ANBG, CMAG, Tamworth Regional Gallery, TextielMuseum Tilberg, and RMIT Archives.