colonial wallpaper (2021)
Colonial Wallpaper is one in a series of artworks presenting re-imagined wallpapers based on historic wallpapers salvaged from colonial buildings. It is a symbolic representation of the land and its psyche, suggesting the dramatic impact of colonialism, particularly the spirited struggle of Indigenous fauna to survive in the face of introduced species and loss of habitat. In the 19th century Australian colonists often installed wallpapers in their homes and public buildings decorated with wildflowers from their original homeland. They were following a European tradition dating back to Roman wall frescoes, of bringing the outer landscape inside. But in Australia, there was an inherent denial, a turning away from the Indigenous, in this seemingly harmless act. Colonial Wallpaper is based on an 1880s wallpaper recovered from Sydney’s Parliament House. It is scaled to replicate a wallpaper sampler from the 1800s. The circular floral pattern of the original wallpaper is re-formed by the white-washed roots of lantana, an invasive introduced species. The twisting roots in turn frame carefully observed colonial depictions of fauna, often drawn or painted with the sense of joy and awe born of first encounter. Each of these diminutive images presents fauna now considered extinct, endangered or vulnerable in Australia. The artwork -and the accompanying works in the series- are a gesture of rectification, incorporating and foregrounding the Indigenous within a colonial context.