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Brown Sugar, 1995/6

Brown Sugar developed from the realisation that knowing a complete and unabridged version of the past is an impossibility. Notions of journeying and discovery provided the structure for the piece and allowed for a mirroring thematic axis to exist in this work. This fluctuation is between the unplanned lives and chance encounters of the adventurers (which the story revolves around) and the similar accidental nature determining which facts and names will be retained for the future - which stories become History.

Differing perspectives between the historical record and my own notions (at this stage) of my ancestor's journey, resulted in a work that suggests an unfinished puzzle - which the viewer can interact with and visualise on a personal level.

In Brown Sugar the elements are the physical, intuitive acts of collection and placement of familiar objects which blur, modify and question the initial archival research process of a factual-historical event; familiar object versus the cognitive word.

The incongruous nature of familiar items from circa 1950 to represent a particular whaling/sealing voyage is intended to draw in and yet unsettle the viewer.

The use of Aboriginal kitsch female face-plaques within the work is intended to evoke uncomfortable interaction. Twenty calico demerara-sugar filled bags are intended to be thrown by the viewer through the port-holes, whilst old rope quoits are provided to throw onto protruding dowels. Chance as a major factor of life informs and links the work both in its physical game structure and data-based areas, where sea-shanties provide as much information as diaries and maps.

The Tasmanian Archives hold correspondence about the voyage; due to poor weather, the sealers and the four Aboriginal women and one child were stranded on Rodriguez Island for five months. The Governments of Van Diemen's Land, Mauritius and New South Wales debated which was going to pay for their deportation back to Australia. They arrived in Launceston two years after the original departure; several people having died or jumped ship.

One aim of this work, is to provide an opportunity for viewer to read between the lines of history which is represented in a non-linear assemblage of objects scattered across the panel. I cannot envisage the original event as it was, and have chosen to attempt an understanding of the voyage as a pictorial chain of thought - a picture puzzle.

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