Canaipa Mudlines

Canaipa Mudlines finds company within the broader movement of art practice that adopts the natural environment as studio, gallery, archive, teacher, trigger, idea-smith, wise collaborator and honest critic. Since 2016 we have come alive to the outer movements and changes, the subtitles and minutiae, as well as the wild and unpredictable behaviours that characterise a world that lies beyond the control and restraining power of the ingenious human engineer. From Littoral shores belted by mangroves to swampy wetlands, soft and alive under foot, to narrow sandy shores and humming casuarina groves, we have found that the sensibility responsive to form, pattern, contrast and structure, is enlivened and broadened. The excursions are not just isolated ventures into the environment, but are an unfolding revelation of the nature of self and world.

Our activities are largely based within the South Moreton Bay Islands, a small clutch of inhabited islands within Quandamooka country. Jencoomercha (Macleay ), Canaipa (Russell), Ngudooroo (Lamb) and Karragarra, which has always maintained its indigenous name. Within this group, we have worked mostly on Canaipa Island, including hosting several artist residencies and public events. We were also guests on Minjerriba (North Stradbroke Island), in 2017, welcomed to that country by the generous hospitality of Delvene Cockatoo Collins and Quandamooka Elder Evelyn Parkin. For the most part, the materials we use are found and and remain on site. Occasionally we bring a spool of string, a bolt of muslin, a square of canvas. Occasionally we find objects that have been left by previous visitors: a chair, a bottle, a lawn mower. The boundaries of the inhabited and natural worlds are not firm, even here. But one thing seems certain: it is the natural world that has the final say, when it comes to the consequences of what goes in and what comes out.

Melomys tidal wetlands, January and March, 2017

Several weeks after the December fires had passed, we returned to Melomy's and in some places, the peat-ish ground was still smouldering. This time we ranged the scrub down on the tidal edge way south. The colours were all blacks, ochres, oxides, and the pristine talc-white of soft ash, in long ruled lines, where trees had fallen and burnt. Below the surface, clay mixed with sand and held an alarming volume of water in some places. Beyond the muddy shore with its pats of drying algae, you could see across to unnamed mangrove shores, and beyond that, the unlikely noise of water traffic.

At one moment we stood alert and watchful like meerkats as we became aware of the crunch and crackle of a tree ripping away from its hold on the ground. It crashed somewhere close by and we all convened from our separate working places to do a head count. We were making our fragile offerings in a forest of falling trees.

Sharon JewellComment