Tracks And Marks

 

 

Almost no one currently alive will ever find themselves in a landscape of any kind where they could be 100% sure no human has ever been, although on a deserted beach or a windswept landscape stretching into the distance, if you ignore the sometimes subtle tracks ahead, squint your eyes and forget your recent flight, bus, train hike, bike or boat trip that got you there, it may just be possible to imagine you are the first human to ever set foot on that landscape …

Though it took me years to actually name a group of works ‘Tracks’, I know that landscape shapes, colours and textures are all track marks left by Mother Nature on those surfaces.  Modern Man, too, has left many complicated marks – fences, pipelines, railways, roads, power lines, canals, airports and ports, marshalling yards, to say nothing of small towns and vast cities with horizontal mazes of streets, bridges and roads, and multilevel vertical mazes of human habitation –  really, the tracks of human activity are everywhere.  Though I have focused more on the patterning on artifacts and drawn images on rocks, cliffs, cave walls and open plains, the ‘tracks’ made by Man on landscapes are not limited to the ancient ones that I’ve always found so awe inspiring, intriguing as those are.

In the design of my quilt, New Directions, 2000, the multitude of lines from every direction represent the paths and tracks of human migration onto our continent in the last 60,000 years.  I have just read Bruce Pascoe’s Dark Emu  which details the agricultural practices of Australia’s indigenous Aboriginal people.  Until now, having grown up in Tasmania, and lived overseas for many years, I’d never heard of extensive fish traps on the great inland river systems, and the extensive areas planted with grains on the open plains, many of which were seen by the colonists but dismissed by settlers and farmers with European farming practice backgrounds.  Ignorant of the sustainable land management practices the indigenous people had practised for thousands of years, they dismissively assumed they were not civilised enough to have devised such systems.  This fascinating book has me thinking more about tracks and pathways.

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