Artist Statement: Mandy Quadrio

As a Trawlwoolway and Laremairremener, Tasmanian Aboriginal woman, I am moving beyond the limitations of controlling aspects of Australian histories that remain shrouded in false and obscured narratives.

Using steel and wiry fibres, I seek to weave experiences, memories and stories that move and change through time. I manipulate netted, steel wire-mesh forms, anchoring my stories to demonstrate and assert my Indigeneity, adaptability and strength, and my long-time relationship to land, Country and culture.

Light and motion work to activate and illuminate the sculpture’s sparkling, wire-mesh material. Suspended, sinuous, and tactile shapes are cast with light to enliven and to allow the works to perform — their movements create illusions of density despite their significant lightness of being.

As the shadows from the work move in and out of focus, they provide transitory moments that sometimes evoke bodily forms and other presences. I value my connections to entities – both past and present. I do not step away from my own history and experiences.

Within mutable, shadow-filled spaces, the sculptural forms appear smooth and sleek, belying the sharpness of their steely, abrasive fibres that have the potential to incise and open shared wounds. I use the steel fibres to reference abrasive acts and unhealed traumas that are outcomes of colonisation. I choose to journey through and beyond wounding’s to carefully enfold the complexities of harsh histories and actions that have been historically and contemporaneously enacted on Australian Indigenous people.

The ongoing mistelling of Australian history manifests as a cultural amnesia. Such disremembering seeks to make Indigenous Australians invisible. I am Not Gone!

I invite viewers to position themselves within the shadowy fibres of this work and to cast light on their own knowledge of Australian Indigenous histories.

Are you a morning or a night person?

I am definitely a night owl.

Is there a sound that prompts a where or when for you?

The sound of thunder sees me running for cover — I’m terrified of it.

Is there something you’ve always collected? / what is something you’ve recently thrown away?

Three things that I have always collected are antique or vintage floor rugs, particularly rugs with a history and that have been well trampled; and because I grew up in Papua New Guinea I have always had a love for bilum bags. As well as being incredibly strong and functional objects, the bags are true works of art. I also love tea cups — all shapes and sizes because I drink copious amounts of tea… I am learning to declutter to make my life more simple by throwing away objects and things that take up space, especially at home. This means I can store more materials to use in my art practice.

Where do you feel the most connected? / where do you feel the most disconnected?

I really feel connected when I am on Country in Tebrakunna, up in the Far North East of Lutriwita (Tasmania). Walking where I know my ancestors have travelled for millenia helps me to feel grounded and anchored to place. I feel disconnected when I am flying in a plane. Flying makes me feel uneasy. I like to have my feet on terra firma.

What scares you the most right now?

The plight of the planet really scares me, particularly the ongoing destruction of the natural environment. I live in Meanjin/Brisbane and despair as I watch trees coming down at a rapid rate. Sadly, humans are so disconnected from the natural world. We don’t realise that we are all in this together.

What brings you hope and/or inspires?

Despite the fact that Australia is a very racist country, I feel hopeful knowing that younger people now are rejecting the lies of history that we were told as children. Nationally there is a much greater understanding of the notion of Country and the many Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander nations that have and continue to occupy this land we now call Australia. I am inspired by the fact that through acknowledgements and Welcomes to Country, Indigenous people are now claiming place and space. I am hopeful that the Voice will succeed and bring about more socially just outcomes for Indigenous Australians.

Through the process of making your new commission for Between Waves, what has been revealed and/or has anything become more obscured?

When I am making art, every day is a learning process. I am always encountering something new, challenging, or unknown. My work for Between Waves has taught me a lot about working with wire and helped me to understand kinetics and movement in art. Overall it showed me that with perseverance most things are possible. Because in my work there is a large focus on my disappeared mother, while I have come to understand more things about her through my research, at the same time she continues to become more elusive.