Vanessa Russ

Country and cultural memory are the expansive territories traversed by Vanessa Russ’ meandering ink drawings, that powerfully connect her to her place of birth in Western Australia’s Kimberley region.

Dimond Gorge Rock Forms 2 (detail), 2020, Indian ink on Fabriano paper, 76 x 56cm
Dimond Gorge Rock Forms 2 (detail), 2020, Indian ink on Fabriano paper, 76 x 56cm | Vanessa Russ

'Contemporary Aboriginal art and connections to country capture something of the deracination of my global experience in the world, where I am displaced from place and yet magnetised by its absence to always return to it. Clifford Geertz explains (2005), that ‘man is an animal suspended in webs of significance he himself spun’ and that the true definition of culture is the search for one’s own interpretation of meaning. Practices like ensō or the circle which is hand-drawn in one or two uninhibited brushstrokes, expressing the moment when the mind is free to let the body create, tend to drive my practice. The use of ink or charcoal in some ways to disfigure the image like the flung-ink practices of Japan open up to expressions of country through the emptiness of random interactions. It’s the creation of cyclones and torrents of flooded rivers that submerge the silt and lift it back up to take it further down its pathway to the sea. It’s my childhood memories of rivers, gorges and flooded plains. It asks the form to surrender and transform its fixed nature, but its memorial DNA of my return visits home replenish and revitalise its position on the page as if country is speaking through me, like a song or mediation. I am seeking the unobtainable return to birth through death and back, through the mark.'