DRIFTW O O D at Gallerysmith
Lisa Seward stopped, standing over a piece of driftwood on Shoreham beach, fascinated. The artist began to study the small tracks grooved by ancient currents, musing on the driftwood’s journey and how it came to rest.
The shore-borne vestige now lies in Seward’s studio, and is the inspiration for the name of her upcoming exhibition at North Melbourne’s Gallerysmith, DRIFTW O O D – a body of work created using metal backed solar plates through which the artist considers the haunting nuance of displacement.
Seward has been exploring the idea of displacement for several years. During WWII Seward’s mother was forced to walk from Belarus to Germany, where she was interned for five years in a displacement camp. The artist drew parallels between her mother’s journey and the driftwood she found on Shoreham beach.
“I thought about [the wood’s] vulnerability, drifting and travelling ocean currents, no longer connected to its roots. [My mother and the wood] drifted, changed shape and form and found a new home,” Seward said.
Seward’s works are also heavily influenced by poetry. Her multi-plate five-panel etching, She Leaves the Hills, was inspired by Eileen Chong’s Mountain Songs. The measured tragedy in Chong’s verse (“Streams swell: water will/ rise and wash away/ this ink. Begin again/ forget all past words …”) echoes across the delicate chiaroscuro of Seward’s mountaintops.
For the exhibition Seward also compiled an artist book, made up of scrolls. The first scroll is an etching of the artist’s mother, with later scrolls depicting native trees growing in Bonegilla — the camp where Seward’s mother lived in on arrival to Australia.
The last scroll, fittingly, depicts a piece of found driftwood.
DRIFTW O O D is on display at Gallerysmith from August 25 to September 30. •
More information: gallerysmith.com.au