Thu, 31st Jan 2013 15:11


Wake Wake Wake
  • Wake
  • Wake
  • Wake

A series of large drawings made by pricking through heavy paper. For the exhibtion 'Felt Presence' at Devonport Regional Gallery, Tasmania, which will tour Australia during 2013-14. The exhibition explores artists' responses to the stories of the female convicts transported to the penal colony of Van Diemen's Land in the 19th Century. 

Just a couple of minutes walk from my front door is the wharf at Leith, the departure point for the ship that took the Scottish women convicts to join the Atwick which was waiting for them on the Thames, ready to sail for Hobart with a cargo of female convicts in 1838.

I became interested in the moment of leave-taking, of the women leaving everything they had ever known, and in the actual voyage, the long sea journey they took, suspended between the world they'd left behind and a totally unknown future.

I wanted to make an image by means of removing something. A 'wake' is the track left by a ship as it passes, and it is the gathering of relatives and friends to mark the passing of a loved one. A wake is what the women on the sea voyage would have looked back at as they spent their days on the deck, washing, and doing needlework. I read about the well-intentioned Quaker ladies who boarded the prison ships before they departed, and gave the women packs of needles and pins, thread, and pieces of quilting fabric, in order that the women could use the voyage industriously, to develop skills in needlework that might be useful to them in Van Diemen's Land. Each woman was given a pack of 100 needles.

The ‘drawing’ I've made is of a wake of white water left behind a boat as it travels. It has been pricked out by hand with thousands of tiny holes made by a sewing needle.