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Between the shadows and forgetting


















Work details:
Between the shadows and forgetting
Tyvek, foamcore, tape
260cm x 460cm x 220cm

Acknowledgements and thanks:
Ash Island and its Transformations is supported by the NSW Government through Arts NSW

Emma van Leest acknowledges Between the shadows and forgetting was creating through the commissioning support of the Lock Up, Newcastle, Australia’, as a part of Ash Island and its Transformations.

Emma van Leest acknowledges the generous support of the Lock Up, Newcastle, Australia, through its Artist in Residence Programme in the creation of this work.

Emma van Leest is represented in New South Wales by Olsen Irwin Gallery, Sydney.

Ash Island and its Transformations – Emma van Leest from The Lock-Up on Vimeo.


Ash Island has undergone a number of occupations which have shaped both the occupants and the land.  The 20 years of sheltered life that the Scott sisters enjoyed allowed them to expand their knowledge and skills into professional careers, which sustained them long after their departure from the island.  While there is little evidence left of their physical occupation today, their considerable body of work included a catalogue of local flora and fauna which is now used by the Kooragang Landcare group to restore the environment at Ash Island.

My art practice tends to deal with a distant world; my landscapes are from the pages of art, history and myth.  The people who populate my worlds are similarly mythical, or so far removed in time as to be practically mythical. Rarely do I get to visit the places that appear in my work or do I deal with figures from relatively recent history.

Between the shadows and forgetting references a walk I did with the other artists and the curator Belinda Howden, through a mangrove swamp at Ash Island.  It was claustrophobic and eerie, but of course also captivatingly beautiful. Throughout, environmental degradation wrought by successive occupations of the land for farming, military and industrial uses was clearly evident.

In Between the shadows and forgetting, the viewer walks through a short passage of layered papercutting which evokes the claustrophobic repetitive environment of the mangrove.  Figures emerge from various repetitive patterns taken from nature and Victorian era illustrations (such as lace making manuals, catalogues and the work of the Scott Sisters themselves), like imprints on the landscape. The Scott Sisters’ story is told in remnants and shadows, for the viewer to get glimpses and suggestions in the way you do when walking on Ash Island today.


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