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(Hi)stories in Print

March 23, 2009

What a fantastic meeting of minds!

Joanna Kambourian made the trek from her home in Northern NSW to visit me in my Brisbane studio on Saturday and discuss our work.

I spoke about Joanna in my Opportunities post in February 2009. She has just commenced her Honours year in Visual Arts at Southern Cross University, Lismore, NSW, focusing on printmaking and working with paper and textiles.

We spoke for a couple of hours without coming up for air about the conceptual parallels in our work, yet only touched the tip of the iceberg! We both share a common interest in exploring notions of identity, belonging and home, through our ancestral pasts, cultural (hi)stories and geographic locations.

While this subject has been a passionate interest for Joanna for some time, it has become heightened since her trip to Armenia last year. She participated in the ABC’s documentary ‘Family Footsteps and travelled to the homeland of her paternal ancestors in Armenia to gain a greater understanding of herself as an Australian Armenian, the reasons why her great grandfather fled to New York with his family during the Turkish occupation, why the family was cast into shame as a result and to find forgiveness for her family. I’ve seen the documentary and it is powerful viewing addressing connections with old and current Armenian culture.

Work from this exploration is at the centre of Joanna’s upcoming solo show at the Hervey Bay Regional Gallery, “Dim Memories of Exile” which runs from 22 May – 20 June 2009. On her blog, Joanna writes: “Dim Memories will be my first solo show. The work in this exhibition is inspired by my own recent travels to Armenia, my ancestors’ homeland, and reflects the questioning and discovery of my own cultural identity – it is the narration of an ongoing negotiation between the past and the present, between native culture and adopted culture.”

Using cultural signposts and visual metaphors, we both explore the intersections between people and place. During her trip, Joanna sought out textiles produced in the region her ancestors are from and we talked about the importance of tangibly experiencing and being able to take away, as a ‘keepsake’, something which is truly a ‘place maker’. It gave her a sense of emotional and geographical connectedness to her family and Armenian culture.

I have reaffirmed the importance of connecting people and place in my work in conjunction with meeting Joanna this year. Whether as part of a studio-based arts practice or through commercially available textiles and wallpaper, the story in print and weave is what grounds my work and gives it true meaning. It goes well beyond surface design to the core of such questions as ‘what?’, ‘where?’, ‘who?’, ‘how?’ and most importantly ‘why?’

I’m looking forward to collaborating with Joanna in the future… It is such a gift to meet someone with whom you share so closely your concepts, values and approach to working…

Thank you Joanna… Next trip will be me coming to see you!

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