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Repurposing

Rhagodia Mosaics and Collage

Much of the tiles and crockery used in my mosaics has been saved from landfill.

It has given me much pleasure to repurpose pottery mugs into dinosaur eggs for garden art, to decorate pavers with crockery to provide a non-slip walking surface and to use discarded crockery for external wall and fence art. And to teach others how to obtain and use these resources.

That’s how “Andamooka Trish and the Broken Dish” started.

My time with mosaics concluded at the end of March 2020 – the laborious process involved was putting too much pressure on my joints and was turning what had once been a joyful form of relaxation into a hard slog.

I decided I needed a new form of art activity – and importantly, I needed something that would allow creative freedom despite the physical isolation imposed by pandemic restrictions.

A friend had suggested some years ago that I try paper mosaics. I wasn’t keen; a bit dismissive, to be honest. I bought some watercolours online, and a friend delivered a basic instructional text. It didn’t grab me: I wanted bold. I tried gouache and it added some depth and shading to some experimental collages.

I filled in swathes of time by conducting a paper purge of documents in my workroom. Quite a lot of paper was recycled, and some went away for confidential shredding. I eyed off the multitudes of photograph albums taking up space on shelves.; flicked through a few.

Clearly, my love of landscape was right in front of me.

I started with Barossa Nanna and the Chook Collage. There may be no new ideas, but there’s always new context – and if you can take some things that have never been combined quite like that before, you can come up with something … well, something entertaining.  Even if it’s only my own entertainment!

There are many academic studies about the mental health benefits that can be derived from participating in creating art. The creative process of making art provides healing and life-enriching benefits.

It’s not about the perfection of art – creating art does not require an art degree.  Simply engaging in artistic pursuits for the simple joy of it helps people to better understand who they are through exploring and experimenting with new techniques, while encouraging play with colours and materials.  Creating art allows an individual to let go of their worries or anxieties and focus on the creative process, to simply focus on the ‘now’. To go with the ‘flow’.

Art is a safe and healthy outlet to express fears, insecurities, sadness, anger, any other emotions.

I’ve discovered that creating collage concertina books to share with children enriches my own happiness levels. It also helps me to stay connected with people when I work collaboratively.

Collage art is a gentle activity. It is inexpensive, too, as the purpose of collage is to repurpose, recycle, reuse, and recreate.  It’s versatile, engaging, and playful, and the collage process is a great way to spark new ideas and stimulate thought. Browsing through a selection of images, you are engaged in thought and reflection. Each image can have multiple levels of meaning.

Rather than impose my own thoughts on the images represented in the collages I create, I invite children to generate their own narrative about what they are seeing. This encourages them to use their imaginations.  It is also a lovely way to share and generate discussion with a child as they identify the colours, count the objects, and form their own story for what the images represent.

During the first wave of the Covid pandemic, I focused on creating concertina books for children using paper, card, magazines, and photographs from my private collection. I provided easy to follow instructions for paper collage art in the eBooks along with a short story about who and what was behind the idea for creating that book.

During the second wave of the Covid pandemic, I began to carve out a path that resonated with me.  I provided more text for reading, created new characters, incorporated some of the pre-election political propaganda into the collages, and changed my social media pages from Rhagodia Mosaics to Rhagodia Mosaics and Collage.

I’m currently experimenting with collage on canvas, and this has led to a series of works based on ‘labels’.  Labels are a type of shorthand and are often unhelpful. We can look at behaviour and try to understand it, to allow people to find a sense of belonging, to be more authentic.

Thinking about how people are labelled led me to thinking about how words matter.

The next step was a new eBook titled Andamooka Anna and some words that Matter with the collages to be exhibited at Andamooka’s SALA 2022.  Anne is my middle name, so it is easy to change it up to Anna as someone with something to say, as I did with the concertina collage book Andamooka Anna and the Women on the Edge for Andamooka’s SALA 2021.

Art allows me to share the various parts of myself and my lived experience in different ways.

As Andamooka Nanna, I share stories of life in the desert, its unique beauty, and the resilient people who live there.  As Barossa Nanna, my stories reflect day-to-day life in a suburban landscape where nature is more domesticated – flying bugs, gluttonous grubs, and cheeky chooks.

Two different lifestyles, with a uniting thread between them – wherever you are, seek out the small things: the heart of the stories, the natural world around you, and the value in everyday things we take for granted.

 

Heather Gordon

Artist, Author

26  June 2022

acknowledging working on Ngadjuri, Peramangk, Kaurna Country in the Barossa and

Kokatha, Barngarla, Kuyani, Adnyamathanha Country around Andamooka and Lake Torrens