Southern Loss

Two years ago Country Arts SA invited ten Kangaroo Island artists to develop artwork for a touring exhibition titled Island to Inland, which will be open to the public from this Saturday. My installation focuses on the ecological losses that occurred when landscapes were cleared to make way for farming. Most of the clearing on Kangaroo Island occurred relatively recently, under the post-WWII Soldier Settlement Scheme, when the government encouraged men who had returned from battles overseas to battle the bush to create sheep pasture. In Australia the excessive removal of deep-rooted vegetation causes the underground watertable to rise, bringing with it deadly salt. Landscapes in the lower catchment areas, like ours, are particularly affected: all of the freshwater lagoons across the district have turned saline and much of the remnant vegetation is being impacted. We’ve seen many old yaccas in our bush drop their leaves and die as the salt encroaches; eventually just a ring in the ground remains.

Yacca gum was exported from the island from 1843 and hundreds of tons were sent overseas to be used in explosives, munitions and fireworks and also as a rich red lacquer; I believe the term ‘hard yacca’ originates from this industry. I see the yacca gum as the blood of the bush, spilt over the cleared landscape. There’s a saying that Australia’s prosperity ‘rode on the sheep’s back’ so I chose to use sheep vertebrae, arranged onto fencing wire to form the Southern Cross stars on the Australian flag.

A Country Arts SA and Flinders University Art Museum touring exhibition
Curated by Eleanor Scicchitano and Celia Dottore
Flinders University City Gallery, State Library of South Australia, North Terrace, Adelaide
1 July – 3 September 2017
Please click here for more information

Southern Loss (detail, one of six stars)
Sheep vertebrae lacquered with Tate’s Grass Tree (yacca) gum (Xanthorrhoea semiplana ssp. tateana) and fencing wire
Hung directly onto the wall, unframed
SOLD – Private collection, South Australia


© Janine Mackintosh, All Rights Reserved 2017

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