Peta Clancy’s works in ‘Undercurrent’ 2020 delve into Indigenous sites within the Country of Baluk willam of the Woi wurrung and the Nguruk willam of the Boon wurrung. Commissioned by the Monash Gallery of Art, these photographs capture dramatic portraits of nature’s watery reflections, speaking to how these histories are often veiled or hidden.
Clancy describes how this project grapples with erasure and being unable to access cultural knowledge of the Monash area pre-settlement. “When I visited [the Dandenong Creek] to take photographs, it was during the bushfire crisis. The water was black from the carbon that had run off the ground from a recent downfall, transforming the water into a mirror. I explored reflections to evoke a sense of two different time frames within the one image.”
At the centre of ‘Undercurrent’ is a reproduction of a map Dr Gary Presland’s The land of the Kulin’ (1985) that illuminates the cultural and environmental significance of the area prior to settlement. Clancy utilised the research expertise of Dr Presland and consulted with Indigenous leaders from both the Woi wurrung and the Boon wurrung people to develop her understanding of the local history.
A hand-drawn line meandering through this map indicates the Dandenong Creek, which continues to follow the same trajectory through Country today. Using this map, Clancy photographed multiple sites along the creek to create a portrait of the many Indigenous histories present in the area. These sites include the Carrum Swamp, which no longer exists as it has been drained. It also includes the site where the headquarters of the first Native Police Corps in Victoria was established by Captain Christaan de Villiers in 1837, the home of a succession of Queensland Aboriginal trackers, and the scar tree from which the Kulin people remove bark to craft canoes; a tree that has been relocated and saved from the widening of a highway.
Dominik Mersch Gallery will be presenting Peta Clancy’s ‘Undercurrent’ exhibition as a virtual tour, which transports you to the exhibition space from home and gives you to access related embedded content. You can also explore the partner exhibition that these works were commissioned for through the ‘Portrait of Monash: the ties that bind’ microsite. For this exhibition, Monash Gallery of Art commissioned work by four leading Australian artists: Peta Clancy, Lee Grant, Ponch Hawkes and David Rosetzky.
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