Painting on bunny shrouds

In the studio I am now equipped with supplies of ochre from around Australia, shrouds produced last summer featuring birds and rabbits (treated with vinegar, dyed in eucalyptus, stretched and sealed with rabbit skin glue), and images of the placement of bodies before and after the decomposition process and a projector.

In the absence of a body, but the presence of a mark that embodies the presence of absence, I observe images of the full and desiccated body in a picture of light that communicates with the elusive tonal indicators present on a dank woven burial cloth. I fall into fascination with those indefinite stains, and resist further reconstruction of an internal presence.

In the first instance a particularly nebulous collection of fluid defies any visual recognition, so I introduce the silhouette simultaneously aware of the wire-mesh grid that also imprinted its dirt and rust stains inconsistently over the weave. I work from the projection of the whole body beneath the mesh using delek, the pure sacred shit of ngalyod, whiter than the whitest gesso. I define the in-between space of the mesh, as though the body is backlit and elevated in an alluvial substance. The body appears simultaneously arrested and freed, in motion and static, pure and defiled. The warping grid of mesh now replicates in the eye vibrating an after image that plays with any stains actually visible.

In the second instance a duel shroud offers, in part, some clearly defined limbs, stomach juices, even the suggestion of an eye, and I am held in the almost and slide predictably into the conversation between the light body and stain body. The results fall short of my expectations, there is a loss of curiosity and the compulsion to inquire, so I remove the evidence of my hand after playing minimally with the second bunny stain. Exploring the ochres from my own country (Yuin) I combine an orange-red with a yellow and draw the vertical mesh lines within the body only. It follows then the top bunny should contain the horizontal alternative.


My supervisor Nigel Lendon alerted me to the existence of a burial platform replica across from my studio by the lake in front of Old Canberra House. It was a collaborative project to which Nigel contributed his skill in construction. It is attributed to Djon Mundine/Fiona Foley who initiated the concept and use kangaroo bones as a metaphor for human remains. It is titled Ngaraka: Shrine for the Lost Koori 2001 and mirrors my own yearnings for this type of burial practice in which the body and its decomposition play a major part in the mourning process. It could be said that the natural disintegration of the body following death defines the active and public period of mourning. A sense of closure is then physically experienced with the second burial when the bones are collected, in the north of Australia painted with red ochre, and ceremonially placed in a log coffin or rock crevice.

In my current painting process I have partly replicated this treatment of the dead by collecting recently deceased animals and placing them on a makeshift burial platform that uses spring based bed frames. This process was developed in order to collect bodily pigments on canvas creating a shroud. I am considering collecting the bones from the next set of shrouds, which I produce over the summer period.