Image courtesy of the artist.
The seeds of Valdene Buckley-Diprose’s creations were sewn during her seminal years growing up as the daughter of a farmer, long before her mature age transition to full time artist. For Buckley-Diprose, revisiting both the physical and psychological sites of embedded past experience mark the beginning of a rigorous creative process: the authentic translation of memory into tangible object.
At its core, Buckley-Diprose’s work pursues the nature of memory – how it ages and shifts – is warped, reformed and reassembled with time. For Worth Its Weight in Gold Buckley-Diprose references an ongoing investigation into the properties of rust, as well as introduces another, fitting medium: wool, a substance rich in metaphor and meaning.
The project prompted a return to the artist’s family farm in Western Australia’s South West to gather the wool. Although far from the profitable market wool once was (today all wool maintenance of the farm’s meat sheep barely covers its basic shearing costs), Buckley-Diprose’s brother continues to operate the same farm where much of her youth was spent. It is here too that personal familial memories, as well as the arduous workload that running the farm entailed, are vividly recollected.
Once gathered, the wool is washed, combed to remove debris, spun and then plied by hand. Following this lengthy yet meditative and rhythmic process, the yarn is ready to be knitted. The resultant knitted diptych is varied in texture through use of a combination of fine and thick needles - a rustic, homemade quality so integral to the work’s exploration of “the past, when things were very haphazard and you just kind of made do”.
The process through which Buckley-Dipose works is as vital as her materials, for the memory itself determines the form the artwork will assume. The making becomes, in itself, a metaphor for a memory’s natural course: from its formation throughout its development; the fabric and fabrication each consider how a memory can linger for decades in our subconscious – with a life force of its own that slowly, subtly distorts – only to be recalled to the fore by an unexpected trigger.
Buckley-Dipose engages her own intimacies as case study as a means of contemplating collective memory and, by association, that of collective consciousness. Her knits have been dampened, laid against a piece of discarded corrugated iron and then glued into shape so that the pieces embody the memory of the metal that has rusted with the passing of time. The discolouring and rigid structuring of the knit ebbs the wool’s suppleness and alludes to the iconic motif of rural Australia – the shearing shed.
While Buckley-Diprose’s creative process references old memory, it is equally forging of new ones – indeed, her layered and lengthy process of making is essential to her work’s conceptual and material integrity. The physical motions of making, as well as her relationship with the work’s materiality, are as much reflective experiences as they are ones of production.
Written by Kate Mullen, Co-Director Moana Project Space & Independent Arts Writer.