Damon Bird - Printmaker
‘the sum of our pasts, generation laid over generation, like the slow mould of the seasons, forms the compost of our future. We live off it.’ Simon Schama
My work explores an ontological viewpoint that embraces an inherently interconnected relationship between Self and Place through seeing and visualizing the Tasmanian natural environment in terms of the anthropomorphic and grotesque. It is neither Landscape nor Wilderness that I depict – as there is no ‘otherness’. It is a land where Place is as much as Self as Self is Place – and as such it is a self that laments the tragedies and losses of the past.
The Tasmanian Central Plateau is in itself a land of lost and fading history, where the overgrown kerosene bush entangles and obscures both the European and Aboriginal cultural landscape. Shards of broken beer bottles lay undispersed with shards of Aboriginal stone tools on the shores of the Great Lake, whose waters once flooded by the Hydro Electric Commission, now recede closer and closer to original levels with each passing year.
‘Cider Gum’ or ‘Gunnii” is an endemic species of eucalypt that has evolved to grow almost exclusively in frost hollows around the southern shores of the Great Lake. The most gloriously anthropomorphically twisted of all gums, Gunnii produces sweet sap that ferments into an alcoholic cider-like liquid. Its swollen limbs sing and writhe an elegy of spilt blood for the natural and cultural vacuum that has been bestowed upon the land through the process of colonization. Revealing a story beyond the apparent inertia of place of a thousand narratives invisibly embroidered and stained into the soil of lived experience – twisted branches alluding to possible other ways of seeing.
Damon Bird is a Tasmanian multi-media artist practising across abroad range of mediums but best known for his work as a printmaker. Born at Caveside, (a small region at the foothills of the great Western Tiers known for its’ Limestone caves and sinkholes), Bird migrated south to study at the School of Art, University of Tasmania, after completing his BFA and MFA, he is now completing his Doctorate. His practice explores the relationship between self and place, nature/culture, contemporary experience and understanding of ‘landscape’, ‘wilderness’ and the ‘Tasmanian Gothic’, while engaging with history, time identity, interconnectivity, ambiguity and geological time through an idiosyncratic understanding of environment as anthropomorphic and grotesque.