Jedda-Daisy Culley

In the midst of COVID-19, many galleries have closed their doors to the general public. However, there is still art to be found, whether it’s by appointment or in the virtual world. New methods of viewing, from live streams to e-catalogues, offer a democratic space that avoids the traditional limitations of galleries – ignoring class structures that often denote who visits galleries, as well as disability, time and travel constraints.

Jedda-Daisy Culley’s exhibition, ‘FEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEELINGS’ (even though due to finish last week) continues on Jerico Contemporary’s website. Fitting for an exhibition about feelings, the audience is welcomed to contemplate the artworks alone, on the couch, in their beds, or home offices.

Culley’s exhibition explores senses of familiarity as the artist searches for the deeper meanings within her perspectives. Looking, as she often does, outwardly to nature – in this series, to the Jordon Wadi Rum desert – towards her experiences with motherhood, and colour, and new materials.

How did you get to a place of deep feelings for your exhibition? What was the triggering moment?
This exhibition was initially inspired by my time in Jordon, looking at the structures the Bedouin people build in the Wadi Rum desert. I wanted to explore the temporary nature of a tension or sensation – the tension on a rope or a relationship or a house. Our feelings can sit heavy, but here I have tried to explore their transience; how we drop them into conversation to protect ourselves, suggesting our opinions are changeable.

I was thinking about how to let something go, I guess. To be honest, it’s taken me a while to pinpoint the moment of deepest feeling. But since I found it, I can see everything in relation to it. I feel like, when my son was born, I was my most vulnerable. I’m looking at my intimacy fears, digging on those exposed moments, picking at things I want to hide. Placing attention on the role of sex, love and other unexplainable intimate moments have had on me. In the documentary The Weeping Camel, I felt the mother camel’s monster and her tears.

Could you tell me more about this impact of vulnerability after your son was born? How do you channel this into your artworks?
I find material in my vulnerability; I find it’s an endless source. I recently watched a little documentary on the Tate site with artist Agnes Martin. She was quoted saying something along the lines of; ‘in music, we accept pure emotion, but in art, we expect explanation’. I’m not exactly sure how I’m relating this to your question. But I guess I’m trying to say that I feel like if I let myself fall deep enough into any of the emotions connected to my past experiences and try to articulate them in paint or other media, it’s all dressed up as vulnerability. My most alone and vulnerable moment to date was the birth of my first child. The experience is still loaded with a spectrum of emotions. I find my interest lies in how I can find equal parts in the hurt and happiness; I like to explore this space in-between in my practice. Like equal parts funny and scary/sad; kinda like the theory behind ‘The Theatre of Cruelty’ I guess. Though I don’t feel bleak about it. I also don’t think I’m close to expressing my emotions in that pure kind of Agnes Martin way, though I plan to stay committed to trying.

You grew up in Perth and spend a lot of time surrounded by the Australian desert. How does this continue to inspire you?
I miss Perth; those huge wide-open spaces, I like the isolation too … the dry air. I find I get excited when I travel to other arid landscapes around the world because it strikes a home cord in me. I got pretty excited on my last two trips to the Middle East, especially Jordon. Although it’s the landscape that attracts me first, it’s just a starting point. Once I’m in, I then want to know the history of the place, the culture; I want to know more on the history and contemporary culture of women in the area. But yeh, it begins with a landscape, it’s a kind of seduction.

And how does this translate into abstract paintings?
I find ‘abstract’ a strange word in relation to my work; because I don’t find my paintings to be abstract. I see a direct connection between landscape and the female form, and more recently I have found a deep link to the shape of a camel too. For me, it’s a bigger picture. The connection might seem abstract, but the feeling in the work is a link, I guess. I’m also digging and having a look at parts of me I haven’t wanted to look at before so in a way I guess you’re right, I’m abstracting myself.

Can you tell me more about your woven artworks?
The Cloud weavings have been an experiment in concrete poetry, wordplay and techno biophilia. I’m concerned about my privacy and what goes on the cloud and who has access. It’s another intimacy fear, who can see me and my text messages. I’m interested in the history of clouds and their connection to God and other feelings associated with judgment day and exposing wrongdoings. The paintings are portraits of feelings, fears, shameful moments; like snapshots of something I haven’t been able to express any other way or haven’t wanted to try too. But the weaving that is the overarching concept that holds all the pieces in place.

I’m interested in the intersection of Desert Designs in your art practice.
My dad started Desert Designs with indigenous artist Jimmy Pike. They met when dad was teaching art in Fremantle’s maximum-security prison. Dad was in awe of Jimmy and the work he was producing back in the 1970s; it was nothing like he had seen. I was a baby when the two of them were working on Desert Designs. By then, Jimmy was living between Broom and remotely in the Great Sandy Desert; we’d go up and visit. I grew fond of the bright colours – red ground and huge skies. It’s these foundations of Desert Designs that have had an impact on me as a child.

You can really see the expressive colour coming through in your works …
Dad says him and Jimmy were kindred spirits when it came to colour. I feel that. I guess those desert trips and being exposed to Jimmy’s palette at such a young age has informed my expressive use of colour. I don’t know why the colours are brighter, or the frequency is higher out in the desert, but I’m sure it is. If you trust Jimmy’s palette as a true representation, you’d be sure there were more colours out there. I guess no matter what direction your formal training has taken you, you can’t deny the effect your roots and childhood can have on you and your practice. I don’t overthink colour, it’s just working or not working, but it’s important to me, makes the composition move. Sometimes I’m like, oh let’s try work with a limited palette today; I put out two or three colours and then before I know it all the tubes are open. Eh, it’s too much fun to say no to colour.

Jerico Contemporary

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