When we made an armoured cloak together with the waves at Magiclands on Cape Woolamai
3 August – 28 August
The work concerns our ties; with each other and the oceans and its sea creatures. It is a film about painting on Phillip Island with reverence and courage and the Stehle family, Greg, Ella, Gigi, Louis, Daisy the Labrador, Rex and me. It marked the end of our Covid-19 isolation on the Island.
With our act of friendship, we made a painting and a film with each other and the ocean. We used a feeling of reverence to create a protective cloak and a film of us making the piece. We worked up an idea for an armoured painting from a sketch of the children standing in shadow, holding the canvas against the currents of the waves. Greg filmed us painting and Rex, Gigi, Louis, Ella, and Daisy and I painted with the sound of the waves.
Reading Donna Haraway on the Island during lockdown reminded us that our kin networks were full of attachment sites. Our closeness can be with more than humans, our pieces, and our pets and living species. She said, “by kin, I mean those who have an enduring mutual, obligatory, non-optional, you-can’t-just-cast-that-away-when-it-gets-inconvenient, enduring relatedness that carries consequences.” The younger humans thought the canvas became nature. When worn by Ella, the painting became a cloak of courage, a protective armor from her serious illness. She said, “In making the piece, we felt invincible and tribal. We were allowed to be tribal, and our tribe responded.”
We had been cohabiting with children and animals in the cottage while isolating on Phillip Island. The children had been learning online at home while we had been working for months. On the Island, Greg had been making horror films with the children about an evil murdering teacher, which the children had written. Gigi had been making an installation of make-believe worlds and designing rooms with mermaids and green walls in the studio.
Our painting image begins on the path towards Magic Lands at Cape Woolamai. Together we carried the canvas above our heads. Our procession emulated the movements of the waves. Ella reflected, “the soaring and dipping/ weaving of the cloak felt like a metaphor for the juxtaposition of the waves of emotion, light and shades of soaring joy and lower ebbs of sadness – but all the while surrounded by kin of the journey.” We danced in the ice-cold water and let the strong ocean currents wash us and the canvas into the waves. We painted on the ground and walked around its edges. We mixed ground pigment with sand and salt water, and with our hands, rocks, and seaweed, we poured the paint mixed with seawater on the canvas. It formed rivers on the canvas from undulations of sand. In post-production, the solo electric guitar was composed by local Island musician J. Gronow in response to our painting story and his knowledge of the waves on Cape Woolamai. The film uses footage from our painting with images that Rex and I had filmed of the Great Barrier Reef that describes aquatic life bleached white coral with marine animals. I zoomed and enlarged the footage to emphasise our intimate interactions. The painting is fortified with the ice-cold waters of the ocean off Cape Woolamai, a primordial charge of currents, tides, and salt.