Women’s Work at Bega…



As promised, here’s a quick peek at Rose Montebello and Gabrielle Powell’s exhibition at the Bega Valley Regional Gallery. We missed catching all the excitement of the opening, but managed to snap Rose again on the swing when she was back down to participate in the Gallery’s public program – the Arts Café.




FYI – the accompanying didactic…

This exhibition, featuring the work of local artist Gabrielle Powell and Canberra-based artist Rose Montebello, explores the fertile narrative vein inherent in the dutiful execution of repetitive labour – women’s work, in the parlance of a previous generation. Plumbing a well-spring of metaphoric homilies, these works represent a contemporary take on that ‘rich tapestry of life’, and the inescapable feminine imperative to preserve, nurture and regenerate. Women’s Work is about the perennial constancy of emotional reparation.

For Gabrielle Powell the seemingly prosaic chore of basket making (one of the oldest crafts practiced by women across the breadth of the globe) represents women’s universal solidarity; a humble occupation with a strong uniting force. It’s a therapeutic practice that allows her to unwind from professional stress (community welfare work) by weaving the thoughts of the day into a semblance of tangible cohesion…with a lid as, perhaps, closure or a symbolic gesture of discretion and privacy.





These baskets, often made with found and recycled materials, are objects of proverbial ‘good wifery’; a stitch in time… waste not, want not…practice makes perfect, even! They connect us to all the granny’s of recorded time and remind us of our continuing obligation to conserve not only the heritage crafts but also the associated moral observances.



Rose Montebello’s extraordinary hyper-real dioramas are a construct of both personal and universal social narrative. But while the earlier works hark back to an era of nature prints and pastorale tranquility (staple fodder in the conservative domestic aesthetic of the mid 20th century), the terrain is grave, with an over-riding sense of melancholic foreboding. For here, in this silent wood, is a very grim tale indeed; of dread and loss and inconsolable sorrow.




Here lurks the ghost of serial narratives, repeating. Montebello’s European landscapes are a physical manifestation of an oral family history. A lamination of pieced together information, hushed stories, a latent search through Freedom of Information files (exposing the atrocities of war). Layers of background delivering a facsimile of truth. Handed down through generations, the keeping of these memories is women’s work. The wonderful methodology of her practice, the painstaking deconstruction of images and the consequent reconstruction into the 3-D tableau, adds exquisite drama to what is essentially a contemplation of life, death and the intractable universe. [Megsie loves that phrase!! n(Ed)]




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