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Basketry is alive and well in Canberra

Lyn Davidson, Natural Beauty

Craft / Interwoven 7. At Belconnen Arts Centre, until March 28. Reviewed by MEREDITH HINCHLIFFE.

Basketry is strong in the Canberra and NSW coastal region.

Practitioners draw on many textile/fibre traditions, using a range of materials. Every artwork tells a story, and conveys emotions and passions.

This is the seventh exhibition the group has held in Canberra and it fills the West Gallery at Belconnen Arts Centre. It is perhaps the strongest exhibition of the seven we have seen in Canberra.

Textile traditions cover considerably more than basketry, and many have used several techniques.

Gabrielle Powell, whose idea it was to hold the first exhibition, and who exhibits regularly with the group, is showing baskets from recycled fruit and vegetable bags in bright colours – reds, blues, yellows and green. These baskets are a terrific way of recycling these pesky bags.

A sculptural installation is mounted on the wall as you enter the gallery, titled Mandala Collection. A large pleated mat is surrounded by four small mats, which the artist describes as celestial bodies. They are all woven from Harakeke, or NZ flax grown in the artist’s garden.

She is also exhibiting a traditional hand bag titled Natural Beauty. Each piece certainly has natural beauty. The sheen of the flax and the small differences in colour, speak of hundreds of years of tradition and simplicity. Twill weave highlights the beauty of the flax.

Gabrielle Powell, Fresh Green Basket

Megan Juresa also uses natural materials – mostly determined by the seasons. Following a storm, she collected flower buds that had been on the brink of blossoming. These are threaded on to linen thread and hung on pieces of driftwood.

Three, titled Selkie (I), (II) and (III), include additional materials that makes them sparkle. They are made for a selkie who has who has reclaimed her coat and returned to the sea. Hung on the wall, they make impressive sculptural installations.

Janet Meaney was an early member of the Fibre Basket Makers of the ACT, and a strong supporter. She died during 2023, and the group has completed a group of tiny baskets she made, as a tribute to the memory of her friendship and contributions.

Many artists draw on their memories for inspiration. Wendy Bell refers to the increasing “privatisation” of country, which now sets rules to be obeyed. On a map of a recent expedition through the NT and SA she is displaying part of a collection of rocks and stones she collected and “caged” into woven closed, baskets.

Adding to the fun of the works in this exhibition is The Dancers, by Leonie Lucey, a pair of dancing girls, with the artists’ ceramic heads, hands, feet and beads. This work gives viewers an indication of the fun these artists derive from their work.

With 60 pieces in the show, it is not possible to consider each one individually in this review. Basketry is alive in well in this part of Australia as we can see from this show.

Helen Musa

Helen Musa

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