I've been busily working away in the studio getting ready for my exhibition Post-War: Thousand Mile Stare, in Canberra, opening at ANCA gallery on 22 April 2015. This is a detail image of one of the mapping pieces in its preliminary stages. The process involves a series of layers. First I paint the inks onto washi paper, building the ground, then I impress the mapping linework onto the surface. I then assign colour codes for each block depending on the first soldier settler's history. Each block is differentiated by their history for example, those that were cancelled by the commission for 'non-compliance', those that were sold or abandoned, those belonging to men that died. The image displayed is the largest piece in the show and the blocks that will now be filled in based on its history to 1939, the beginning of World War II.
This is my studio desk at the moment - I have been undertaking multiple breakdowns of the blocks based on their history. Breaking things down and coding them gives me a better sense of the history - I feel much more connected. This is a Parish map showing Red Cliffs - I don't have a date for it but based on the names noted it's possible its around 1931. Its fairly easy to work out the original blocks from this as any that were sub-divided are noted as divisions of the same number. In this map I have selected a time period (up to 1931) and then coded the blocks based on voluntary departures, cancellation of lease by the commission, longstanding lease holders and deaths. These represent the first land holders only.
I'm still working on this one but it is interesting - there do initially appear to be some clusters - what I would love to do is correlate these with the topography. Some blocks were said to be almost unworkable.
Its always tricky starting a new body of work - its scary and thrilling at the same time. I try to immerse myself in what I'm interested in and then get all my materials out and see what happens. With this project I feel that the works need to be layered, with so many stories and history I can't picture the pieces any other way. I've started my first new works very simply, dying fine papers with inks for texture and exploring various line types. The image here is a detail from one of these first pieces called Pledge. The work is built up on an ink dyed washi base and then I have explored various ways of layering irrigation channels. The road mapping comes next and then blocks. I have selected particular blocks with their original numbers and names and others are simply painted out in gold. I need to get hold of some better map copies to really get into some large layouts but as preliminary pieces I'm pretty happy with the aesthetic.
Maps will be a critical element to these works so I'm starting out with lines and block forms from copies of original land scheme maps. I've always found maps to be really exciting and can be so beautiful and diverse. I love the different line types and weights and tonal techniques used for old and new. In my first degree I studied environmental design focused on architectural interior work. We learnt to draft by hand and I came to love the process, there is a rhythm to it, methodical mark-making. In my work I approach the production as a meditative process and take time with the detail.
Katy Mutton is a Canberra based, Australian Visual Artist whose practice is informed by an ongoing concern around trauma and warfare and how these relate to our cultural identity and history. For more information on her artwork visit www.katymutton.com