08 November 2009

Swi Gunting - Wanda Gillespie

WANDA GILLESPIE is a New Zealand born, Melbourne-based artist who has quietly emerged as one of our city's finest. Her work is on display at Seventh gallery until 21st November.

In their latest discovery, the Museum of Lost Worlds present, Swi Gunting, new artefacts used in ritual, from the lost island of Tana Swiwi.

I went on a 4 month Asialink residency to Indonesia in 2007 and that's when I made a prototype for the Swi Gunting sculptures, so its been a long time coming. The residency was based at the university art school in Bandung (ITB), but as I was keen to learn traditional wood carving skills, (these weren't part of the program at ITB) my hosts sent me to the Jatiwangi Arts Factory in Jatiwangi, West Java.

Working in Indonesia has totally changed my art practice. I was once quite hermetic in my process but have learnt to collaborate. Because of the language barrier I had to become good at drawing again to be understood. I made detailed drawings of the sculptures and the final designs were then taken to a copy shop and blown up to the right size. From there the wood carvers traced around the drawings into the soft wood and began carving. I chose paint colours and painted over the drawings on paper, the craftsmen painted the objects as well.

The initial inspiration to create the Museum of Lost Worlds came from reading Italo Calvino’s Invisible Cities and Jorge Luis Borges, Tlon, Uqbar, Orbis, Teritus. Calvino’s magical descriptions of various cities are actually interpretations of one city, Venice. Borges, Tlon, Uqbar, Orbis, Teritus describes the discovery of a previously unheard of civilisation and its imaginary planet that eventually rewrites history and therefore reality. I've found that Borges's fiction has had the most influence over artists working in this field of archaeological fiction.

My first exhibition was in 2006, I exhibited artefacts from a crashed Kingdom of Wandaland aeroplane (Westspace gallery) and then in 2007 I presented passports from the Kingdom of Wandaland, the Republic of Zanasthina, and Habibistan (Bus gallery Melbourne). Creating a fictional world allowed me to make my own rules and give my works a structure with which to read the works outside the usual relationships to art history - hopefully making it accessible to a broader audience. I'm also very interested in the malleable nature of history, creating my own worlds with their histories is an opportunity to highlight the inconsistencies and subjective nature of history and in turn ideas of truth and reality...

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