In 2007, Australian artist, Christine Porter, travelled to England and Scotland as the University of Southern Queensland’s McGregor Fellow. The trip included being a visiting artist-in-residence at a small art school in the Midlands, gallery and artist visits, as well as the opportunity to create new work about her experiences. Anticipating the landscape to be the point of difference between here and there, she walked Hadrian’s Wall from one side of the country to the other, to experience quite literally the breadth of it. What she found though, was not as much landscape as farmland. Her walk became inevitably a meditation on both Roman and British colonization (and from that: those twin ideas of exile and belonging). This led her to consider the patterns of repeated emigration within her own family that had placed her, suddenly, where her ancestors had been re-placed from. Three bodies of work evolved from this cross country walk that took her from Newcastle-Upon-Tyne in the east to the Solway Firth on the west, through country that formed a natural border between north and south: that had, in its time been not so much a demarcation line as a grey area of tribal and colonial strife.introduction
Exhibition / sales
Work from this series has been exhibited widely – details below. Any pieces still available are at Christine’s studio/gallery. Contact us to organise a studio visit, or to purchase.
Walking the Roman Wall, 2007
A series of seven mixed media pieces (photo etching and watercolour on paper ) that describe her experiences walking the Roman Wall – articulating the way she felt herself connect to the landscape that was not her birthplace but certainly part of her homeland. A few of these works are still available at Christine’s studio/gallery in Lismore.
Artist statement: The Hadrian’s wall pieces – that include the watercolour drawings of those objects found along the route – are about the way that I began to claim the countryside that I was walking over and the country I was a visitor in, as my own. Its annexation achieved, mile by purposeful mile, with Nikon and journal: memory and memento. How by taking the souvenired public views of the landscape and personalising them: by superimposing those views with the experience of being in them, I colonised, as effectively as those two thousand year old foot-soldiers had. A place that for all intents and purposes was a foreign land – for all its family-arity. Christine Porter 2008
Exhibited: Tooowoomba Regional Art Gallery January 2008 in the exhibition I couldn’t see the landscape for the fields
The Hadrian’s Wall Walk, 2008
The same post-card sized solar-plate etchings as used in the mixed media work of ‘Walking the Roman Wall’ , printed and installed to describe how public images impact on the travellers’ experience as a stranger in a familiar land. Exhibited: Barratt Galleries 2010 as part of the narrative exhibition. It too speaks of the souvenired public views of that landscape – each of the seven images in these postcard sized works representing a different day from the artist’s walk.
Artist statement: The postcard format was chosen so that the viewer can be in little doubt that I am a visitor. I see the commercially produced, tourist postcards presenting an idealized view of a particular place: the reverse with just enough space for note, not novel – communicating in that small space an abbreviated intimacy. I want my postcard size artworks to reference the experience of the captured, perfect, moment as I journey across a landscape I can never really belong in. The postcard reinforces the impersonal nature of the publicly owned image, but at the same time becoming a personal record, like a diary. Like any edited re-presented experience not necessarily completely the truth.
Christine Porter , 2010
Beyond the Wall, 2010
Artist statement: When is a wall not a wall? If a gate or a hole is part of the wall, either by design or accident, or if it stops that wall being the barrier is it still a wall? If it’s not even there any more, except in the most archeological way can it still be called a wall ?
While I was on the walk one of the places I stayed at had a book written in the 1920’s. It described the Romans as the saviours of the heathens and the bringers of democracy to this lawless land. Historically the Scots weren’t one nation at that time, and the Romans were certainly never ones for democratic rule so I’d say that Hadrian’s Wall is one of those symbols that is the repository of the history of its time. Interesting to note that news reports from 2010 acknowledge publicly the role of the wall as a tax collecting device – I wonder how this 1000 year old pile of masonry will reflect the next generation’s outlook on the world at the end of its second millennium. Christine Porter 2010