Ochre and Light
29 June — 30 July 2019
Opening: Saturday, 29 June, 5:00 — 7:00 pm
Fox Galleries is proud to present Ochre and Light by Katie Breckon. Katie Breckon makes photographic, print and installation based work that continuously seeks the intersection between place, time, image and memory. Breckon’s current practice is deeply focused on translating her experiences and observations of living in the remote West Kimberley outback.
“I live on an isolated red dirt road, a savannah surrounded by boab trees, termite mounds and an expansive marshland that stretches to the infamous King Sound.”
I live on a red dirt road in the remote north-west of Australia. It is a savannah full of boab trees, termite mounds and an expansive saltwater marshland that stretches to the infamous King Sound. Here the tidal range is amongst the highest in the world. This is Nykina Country.
I grew up in a valley in the North Island of Aotearoa New Zealand where the sky is long and narrow. I have strong connections with the deep south, southern end of New Zealand, where my family settled in the mid-1800s and where many of New Zealand’s artists and writers have drawn inspiration from the landscape’s gothic noir undertones.
This body of work was born from a feeling of connection and disconnection between these two homes. It came about through a complex feeling of homesickness and longing. Living in the remote West Kimberley and returning home to Aotearoa New Zealand once a year means I move between two very different worlds, and neither really understands the other.
It was not until living in the flat savannah surrounding Derby that the absence of hills and mountains became noticeable, and overwhelming. For the first time, I realised the comfort created by those mountainous landscapes of my childhood. In contrast to New Zealand the Kimberley landscape is saturated in sunlight for most of the year. At times the sun and heat feel unrelenting, and I long for the cold of winter. During the hottest months I have a recurring daydream of standing under mountains in the Deep South of Aotearoa New Zealand. It was a subconscious retreat to a place I know. Yet, the Kimberley is also a place I’ve come to know. In Dirt Music author Tim Winton writes about the red Kimberley soil, staining the skin and soul. This stain as a metaphor for belonging resonates with my own experiences as a non-indigenous person. I now feel a constant push and pull between these two places I call home.
In 2012 I moved away from urban life in New Zealand and Melbourne to work for Mowanjum Art and Culture Centre in the West Kimberley. I established a Collection and Media Space in Mowanjum Community working alongside senior knowledge holders for Wandjina Wunggurr peoples. In a region flooded with tourism industries primarily operated by non-indigenous guides, my movement through the landscape was guided by custodians who shared stories and skills, and taught me the cultural protocols for safely and respectfully accessing significant sites. These learning experiences changed the way I feel within this land. And have further prompted my use of Wetplate collodion, a nineteenth-century photographic medium which produces deep shadow and mysterious image quality.
This exhibition integrates natural pigments from my homes in New Zealand and the Kimberley. My understanding of the significance of ochre developed through experiences at Mowanjum Art and Culture Centre, where ochre colour charts hung from the studio walls. Ochre harvesting trips with Ngarinyin people on Wilinggin Country taught me about the protocols and techniques for collecting ochre. Together we produced a short video called Ornmol (ochre), which explores the cultural meanings, associated language, and uses of ochre. Across the world, ochre has many purposes, including decorative, medicinal, and ceremonial. Within the Kimberley, ochre is harvested, gifted, traded, sold, and restricted depending on colour, symbolism, use, and connection to place. Restrictions differ between language groups and the Kimberley ochres on display in this exhibition are from the Mowanjum Art and Culture Centre stock, a combination of harvested and outsourced ochres. Ngarinyin and Worrorra elders and artists have permitted the display of ochre in this body of work.
The incised wetplate photographs developed from scratchboard and drypoint etchings reference shapes, marks and map lines drawn from the surrounding landscape. I began by scratching into metal printmaking plates then moved to scratching the surface of tintypes. The repetitive patterns engraved into the photographic plates enlivened and brought new meaning to what I had thought to be failed photographs. A push and pull in the medium, as much as the places they come to represent.
2016 Certificate 4 in Training and Assessment, North Regional Tafe
2015 Art Business Basics, NAVA
2011 Diploma in Photography (first year) Photographic Studies College, Melbourne
2008 Graduate Diploma in Secondary Teaching, Victoria University, Wellington, New Zealand
2005 Postgraduate Diploma in Visual Arts (Hons), Victorian College of the Arts, University of Melbourne
2004 Bachelor of Fine Arts with Distinction, Whanganui Quay School of the Arts, New Zealand
2002 Diploma in Visual Arts, Wellington Institute of Technology, New Zealand
2017 Deakin University Photographic Award, CCP Salon, Centre For Contemporary Photography, Melbourne
2017 Finalist, Australian Print Commission
2016 Best Portrait, Kimberley Photography Awards
2016 Nominated for the Prix Pictet, Space
2015 Overall Award, Shire of Broome Acquisitive Prize at the Shinju Matsuri Art Awards, Broome
2014 Best Black and White Photo and Overall Winner, Kimberley Photographic Award
2013 Best Inkjet Print, CCP Salon, Centre For Contemporary Photography, Melbourne
2013 Best Still Life Award in entered category, American Aperture Awards, USA
SELECTED RECENT EXHIBITIONS
Party of Special Things, Fox Galleries, Melbourne (group show)
Robert Andrew & Katie Breckon, Fox Galleries, Melbourne (duo)
Safe Keeping, PS Art Space, Perth Centre For Photography, Perth (solo)
Trace Elements, Port Hedland Courthouse Gallery, Hedland, WA
Clip Award, Perth Centre For Photography, Perth
Inflorescence, Studio Hovea, Perth
CCP Salon, Centre for Contemporary Photography, Melbourne