On Friday 13 March we welcomed a crowd of about 50 people to the 2015 Tom Bass Memorial Address given by writer and artist Kim Mahood. You can watch the film of the Address below and here are some reflections about the evening from Margo Hoekstra, Chair of TBSSS.
Kim Mahood’s entrance into Sydney in the early 80’s to develop her art is remembered with a tinge of the romance akin to another world that you only read about in books about the stories of artists in days gone by. Kim was born in central Australia, her father managed a large cattle station and her mother was a journalist with little time for parenting. Kim was brought up by an aboriginal nanny. It was a powerful connection for her in the first ten years of her life, one which would eventually bring her back to the people of that land and enable her to understand them, and for them to trust her as one of their own, a rare privilege for white people.
Like me, Kim walked into the magical space of the Broadway studio around 1983 and fell under Tom’s magical spell which had made that such a sacred space. We were there as novel students around the same time – me a nerd from University with no artistic skills, Kim a bush nerd who had already explored other art schools. I was looking for something to take me out of my usual day to day professional stress, Kim was looking for the real experience of learning sculpture, and a bit about city living. She got both (as did I). I remember Kim leaning over her life study intensely involved in the experience – only the sound of a wooden tool on the clay, cigarette in the other hand ( in those days) hour after hour doing the most amazing work.
It is at this point that Kim starts her Address – reminisces of the mid eighties, and the journey that took her back to the land of her birth after her father died to reconnect with him and in the process with the people on that land. She describes the journey of some 25 years which initially touches on the art practice she developed for herself having taken away from Broadway an understanding of form but also an interest in the draped figure, the wrapped figure which she translated into some profound sculptures of animals and totems of the land.
The early journey back to the Centre during the 90’s following her father’s accidental death led to the expansion of her art practice – both painting and sculpture, and to her writing the award-winning non-fiction book “Craft for a Dry Lake”. By then her heart had been re-opened to the people of the desert, at Paruku (Lake Gregory) with the families of the Walmajarri stockmen who worked on the cattle station established by her parents in the 1960s. She began to work with them and encourage them to place their ancestry and their stories on hand drawn maps and with characteristic aboriginal painting. Kim remarked how easy it was for these people to find their place and to understand the contours made available initially on satellite maps. She journeyed with them, artistically, metaphorically and physically. The mapping project is something she came back to year in year out. She described the way she worked with them, and with wry humour reflected on the life style she lived out there, the sensitivities of working with indigenous people and the realism her life of experience has brought into these situations. In 2007 Kim co-ordinated the participation of the Paruku Traditional Owners in the Canning Stock Route Art Project exhibited at the National Museum, where she was the only non-Indigenous artist included in the exhibition.
It is a gripping story told most eloquently by someone who not only has a way with visual expression but also a way with words. Kim is currently writing another book about the mapping project, her work of the last 10 years.
Story by Margo Hoekstra. Watch the full Address and Q&A below. You can also watch previous Addresses if you click here.