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Amber Hearn

Amber Hearn wrote about her practice in Artist Profile 51, reflecting on her work across painting, performance, video and VR. Celebrating her current solo show with Curatorial+Co., we share Hearn's reflections on the myriad mutualities between the landscapes she loves and their human histories.

Some of my earliest memories are of the landscape. I moved around a lot as a child – six cities, ten houses and six schools by the time I was eleven years old. We lived in Papua New Guinea (PNG) for my primary years where I was home-schooled by my mother. 

Being home-schooled allowed me the flexibility to spend the majority of my day outside in nature. PNG is an untouched place in many areas. My dad is an aircraft mechanic and pilot, so we spent lots of time in small aeroplanes – they fly really low to the ground, so the land starts to look like an interesting collection of sectioned off fields of colour. This perspective of the landscape has sat with me throughout the development of my art practice. 

Following PNG we were living in Tamworth, a regional hub for many farming communities and the Kamilaroi Nation. My grandparents and great grandparents also farmed in this region. I spent every school holiday out on the farm, often flying around the bush in small planes with my father. 

My process reflects on this exposure to nature and the landscape from such varying angles. This has informed how
I approach my paintings and compositions. I often section off and simplify shapes and forms, with a combination of perspectives, both macro and micro. 

After living such a nomadic life as a child, I felt attached to the idea of home and memories, land, places, what we leave behind in the spaces we inhabit. 

My recent work is an exploration into these ideas within the sphere of the landscape. I’ve called this series always looking up, 2020. Living in Tamworth, the centre of an old volcano, wherever you look you see mountains. This is a reoccurring motif in many of my paintings. 

You see the mountains in my painting On The Way Home, 2020. This work features open, blocked off simplified space, reminiscent of the topographical view along with paddocks and fence lines seen on the way to Tamworth from Sydney, my current home. I feel the rhythm of the traffic always changing on the highway, but when I see those mountains starting to appear, always the same, they speak to me and I know I’m on the way home. 

Another recent painting Tea Time Mountain, 2019, draws on memories of every school holiday, packing morning tea in a backpack out at my grandparents farm and going out on the horse all day, as early as age eleven, mustering sheep and cattle, stopping for “tea” on the mountain tops with my grandfather. Those sweet comforts and memories are precious to me. I painted that work in celebration of those places that brought me so much joy. 

Having such a strong history of farming in my family, meant I experienced first-hand the effects of drought in that region. My video work Lands Bride, 2019, is a performance piece where, dressed in my mother’s wedding gown that she sewed in the 1980s, I utilise my body as a vessel, responding to and exploring the hardships experienced by farming women during years of drought. The piece is shot in Duri, on the outskirts of Tamworth, where my grandmother and great grandmother lived and experienced drought and where her house still stands. Similarly, I use the human body as a vessel to explore the experiences of women and spaces in my Virtual Reality performance video Bang Bang Bang, 2019.

The painting Lands Court, 2019, depicts a tennis court, with a mountainous background, a space featured in Tamworth where I shot my video work Are you in There, 2019. I painted from stills from this video, which was an exploration into these spaces we inhabit, void of the human, yet where bodies moved, engaged, left their mark, their memory behind. Empty spaces that are normally associated with human activity, sitting alone in silence in the landscape, feel somewhat representative of my earlier life growing up fairly isolated in PNG yet always amongst the trees, the mountains, nature. 

Bay of Fires – Every Pebble was a Mountain, Every Mountain becomes a Pebble, 2020, is a painting that delves into the idea of the ever changing yet always standing still landscape. The micro and the macro. I am fascinated by how we live what feels like such a long life on this land, yet one tree can hold 10,000 of our lives in its memories. Similarly, one million pebbles can join to become a mountain and one mountain slowly washes away and becomes a single pebble, which someone, thousands of years ago, may have held in their hand. It feels both personal and universal to access the landscape this way. 

The landscape will always feel a part of me; will always fascinate and comfort me. It speaks its familiar language yet always has something new to say. 

This essay was originally published in Artist Profile, Issue 51, 2020. 

EXHIBITION
Everywhere and Nowhere
18 March – 2 April 2022
Curatorial + Co., Sydney

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