Currents of Memory

 

Currents of Memory

Zone 9

Katerina Cosgrove, Nettie Lodge, Michelle Perrett

‘Currents of Memory’ is the collaborative creation of three artists, working with ideas of archetypal and personal psychological heritage. It is a gallery-based installation of ceramic canoes, mural painting and text.

The project explores the collective memory threaded throughout our lives. In this work flow our reflections, dreams and hopes, and we are fragile canoes, borne aloft by the pull of the river. We are individual islands, but can also become one with the larger ebb and flow – if we allow ourselves.

Michelle Perrett creates these miniature canoes, vessels or sarcophagi for the soul, from clay. These intricate objects tease out concepts of fragility, death and rebirth; the permeable veil between past, present and future – and the stories we tell ourselves to make sense of the past and where we’re headed: existential questions of meaning, purpose and the afterlife. As she works, the physical technique of using her past sculptures as moulds for the canoes, teases out further layers or threads; the figures pressed into the clay leave an indelible impression, much as we leave impressions of our brief lives on the earth before we leave. Some figures are robust and rich, others almost skeletal. Thus the figures within the canoe are contained, much as our souls are kept safe within our physical bodies.

Nettie Lodge uses watercolours to create a flowing, sinuous river mural. Painted panels across the wall of the gallery unite the ideas of our intimate connection with ‘the bigger picture’, ourselves and others, often overlooked.

Katerina Cosgrove’s text is a narrative fiction, a story employing multiple viewpoints and connections between characters as they drift and flail through the plot, engaging with these universal questions. Katerina’s words become poetic objects within the painted works.

This project connects our common research of origins and becoming and unbecoming. Michelle, a visual artist, addresses ideas of the self, the soul and portraiture in her recent exhibition ‘Psyche’, of reflective convex mirror objects. Nettie, a painter, is currently illustrating a book ‘The Rime of the Ancient Mariner’, focused on the need to narrate the concept of isolation and place. Katerina’s career as a writer has spanned historical novel, poetry, novella, notions of identity, exile and return and now a foray into a speculative YA novel.

 

excerpt from ‘THE SPICE GARDEN’ by Katerina Cosgrove

I’ve made a long voyage and been to a strange country, and I’ve seen the dark man very close. Thomas Wolfe

Twilight: open doors and light streaming into the street. Still warm, though there’s a light murmur of waves, a whisper of menace. I walk, not knowing where I’m going. The spice garden is somewhere near the sea. Down through the twisting paths, narrow buildings that crumble around me; scent of cloves, cardamom, tang of crushed sumac from household tables.

Beside me, a man so ancient I marvel he’s still walking without the aid of a stick. He emerges from the shadows and some of the darkness lingers in the creases of his suit, his wrinkled hands.

‘Are you lost, child?’


‘No. I mean, yes. I’m looking for the spice garden.’

 ‘Come, I show you. I live there.’

Live there? In a public garden? I follow him through alleyways, under stone arches, surrounded by the shouts of children playing on the street before bedtime. I remember playing like that in my neighbourhood nearby, frantic and hysterical, after the sun went down. From a high window comes the thin cry of a newborn.

‘Here’, the old man says.

I look around to thank him but he’s slipped into the dark. I open the gate, expecting to find a lush paradise, redolent with the fragrance of my past. Hoping to be confronted with the fervent reality of my parents’ death, their marriage, a love I can smell and touch. Did they come here before they were killed? Was it exactly like this?

When he entered the garden, she was already there. He became aware of the darkness of bay trees above his head, her secret perfume of star anise and coriander, sweetness and brutality, private folds of skin. Her breasts and hips heavier than he remembered, she’d slipped off her scarf and it lay in soft folds on her shoulders. He took her hand, but could see behind her smile that she was worried. Then he saw a shadow cross the high stone walls, heard the whine of a fighter plane overhead, and he knew.

But there’s no spice garden, only a children’s playground built on dirt. No remains, only a painful legacy I can try to construct right now, standing on the same ground where they spoke, held hands, where pieces of their bodies lay. Death is not personal. Violence passes through us, and is gone again.

Flanking the small open space are three high-rise apartments, their facades ravaged by the shrapnel of civil war. I look up at hundreds of windows lit like votive candles, the small striving of other people’s lives. As I walk through the gate toward the sea, I think of other places, but the lights of the city call me and I hurry, merging into its glow.