Sydney based artist Jane Theau spent her COVID isolation on the South Coast at Bendalong. The isolation was for her a period of calm relief, a time to engage with the landscape after the January bushfires while focusing on writing her thesis. Jane’s journal is “an ode to resilience” with its black and green horsehair weaving piercing through the journal cover a representation of nature’s post-bushfire recovery. Through written notes and sketches, she documented her detail-attending reflection and observation on the natural rhythms during isolation.
“The cover of this journal is one that celebrates the invincibility of nature, the way green pushes through the blackened charcoaled, ash-covered landscape against all odds.”
We asked Jane three questions about her experience of isolation, completing this journal and her hope for the future. These are her responses:
Describe the experience of the period of isolation for you.
Stepping sideways from a life of busy-ness to one of calm was, despite the hovering disquiet, almost a relief. It is only when you stop that you realise how unnecessary much of our constant activity is. An autoimmune disorder sent me to isolate on the South Coast where I walked every day in the bush and along the beach, paying more attention as I did to the small things, the natural rhythms of the day, and the spectacular regeneration of the landscape that had been ravaged by fire in January. I had a major piece of writing to do, and I was able to fully focus on this which was a blessing. I also spent much more time with family (albeit mostly on-screen) than I have ever done.
What does your book represent and how did you approach the challenge?
I always feel intimidated by an empty page, even more so by a pristine, hand-bound book. I spent a long time looking at it and worrying that I would spoil it. Then I had the notion to adorn the book with a black and green horsehair weaving I had created during the lockdown to express the resilience of the fire-ravaged environment surrounding me. Once I pierced the cardboard to bind the fabric to the cover, I felt the book was mine, and with this weaving my journal became an ode to resilience: nature's and ours.
What do you hope will change in Australia as a result of the pandemic?
As I write this the virus has surged again in Melbourne, worse than before. Change is again being thrust upon us. It seems like nature is having a bit of revenge for the way she has been treated. The most important things for me that could emerge from the ashes of this viral conflagration would be a human population with less hubris, a population that acknowledges it is not above nature but embedded within it, and more respect for non-human life by all people, but particularly people in power.
Jane Théau is a multi-disciplinary artist whose practice encompasses installations of life-sized lace drawings, bronze sculpture, and video, and the extension of these works into the performance space in collaboration with dancers, puppeteers and musicians. Her curatorial projects include the exhibitions Y Fibre, and the series of performance art events, Art That Moves. Jane has a Master of Art from UNSW, a Master of International Affairs from Columbia University and a Bachelor of Applied Science from the UTS. She is currently investigating the tactility of textiles and will complete a PhD on this research at the Australian National University in 2021.
View Jane Theau's journal here:
Image: Jane Theau, Design/Isolate Journal (detail), 2020.