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Kalamunda Lions Club Art Awards

Entries are now open for the Kalamunda Lions Club Arts Awards 2018

The Kalamunda Lions Club supports arts in the City of Kalamunda and is offering this group of awards to encourage and...

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Poetry Evening May 11

Posted: 8th May 2012

Memories will be echoed in words and  displayed in colour on Friday 11 May 2012. Writers, poets, artists and interested members of the public are invited to join together at the Zig Zag Cultural Cente at 6pm to hear the very talented Ruari Jack Hughes share his thoughts in the form of Poetry on international artist Janet Yates current exhibition, Memories to Exotic Lands.

According to Ruari, “Memories are strange things. We think they contain the stories of our past. They do no such thing. Memories are inventions, imaginaries. Oh sure, they are based on things that have happened to us. There is usually some touchpoint on reality. But whatever it is that we think we have remembered, it is always only an approximation.”

Both Janet and Ruari Jack have journeyed on separate treks to distant and exotic lands. They lived and worked in several different countries, places powerfully distinct from their Australian homeland. Janet mostly explored the countries of south-east Asia, especially the remote regions. Although Ruari Jack also spent time in Asia, it was Africa that absorbed him.

For Janet, Asia, especially Borneo, introduced her to cultures literally woven into the environment. There the women have traditionally bound their sense of place with the implements, cloths and other artifacts produced from the natural resources of the forests and rivers. Every aspect of life is caught in woven expression. It is this aspect of life in the forests and along the rivers of Borneo which wove itself into Janet's consciousness. Her memories of the women and their weaving have become the basis for her current paintings. She has woven the memories in intoxicating patterns of colour in paintings which hold the memories and allow others to share them.

Ruari Jack's journeyings took him across southern and eastern Africa. Much of the time was spent in Zimbabwe. There were side trips to Zambia, Malawi, Kenya and South Africa, each country distinct but always Africa, palpably Africa. Here colour is also immediate, splashed across the land, carried in the markings of the animals, winging through the sky as a feathered rainbow. And then the sounds. Animal cries, insect whirrings, the crash of waterfalls, insistent drumming from the kraals. These are the memories echoed in the words and rhythms of Ruari Jack's poems.

“Each time we reach back for a particular memory we change it. The more times we try to access a memory the more we modify it. It's a process of adaptation. Because what we seek to recall is often more determined by present desire than past reality.” Said Ruari.

“We constantly change our world just by living in it. From moment to moment the future is dragged into the present and then rushes on to be the past. It's a never-ending dynamic. Everything that happens becomes memory in the moment it occurs. And since everything is constantly changing, the memories change too.”

“Despite this volatility, it is possible sometimes to capture and fix the moment, by giving it a tangible expression. Within the frame of a painting or the structure of a poem, images can  be created which resonate with the remembered experiences of time past.”

When Ruari Jack Hughes and Janet Yates first met, they quickly discovered a close affinity in their ideas and their work. The centrality of memory as a motif is strongly evident in both Ruari Jack's writing and Janet's painting. More than the content of their art, there is also marked similarity in their style and technique. Building images through layers — in words or brushstrokes — to create a felt sense of the subject is common to each artist's approach. Both artists believe that time spent anywhere makes us citizens of that place.

Janet repeatedly overlays the surface of the canvas so that the paint forces its way to the surface in an ultimate explosion of colour. In the works contained in Memories of Exotic Lands several paintings are composed of intertwining stripes while others have striped elements, a feature redolent of the weavings of the women in Borneo, Vietnam and other Asian lands.

A recurring feature of Ruari Jack's poetry is the technique of call and recall, a word or phrase being caught and reflected as more than an echo, as another strand of the same meaning. Alternatively, words are piled up in a serried montage showing the same idea or image from multiple different perspectives.

It was almost inevitable that Janet and Ruari Jack would see the logic of developing a project together. In late 2011 Janet was already in the early stages of producing a new series of large-scale paintings to explore memories of her time spent in Asia. When Ruari Jack suggested a collaboration aimed at producing a publication combining reproductions of her paintings with an extensive selection of his poetic writing, Janet quickly agreed.

Neither artist wanted to make this project an interpretation or adaptation of the other person’s work. Instead the similarities which had been identified would be allowed to ‘speak’ to each other in a natural process of response, an approach which especially appealed to Ruari Jack who had access to Janet's studio during the period of producing the series of ten paintings for the exhibition. At the same time Janet was able to read many of Ruari Jack’s poems, written during this same period.

A review of the paintings which comprise Memories of Exotic Lands easily demonstrates the warp and weave of the remembered images. At least three distinct groupings can be found yet all ten paintings maintain strong connection in theme as well as style.

The poetry is similarly diverse yet connected. At the base of virtually every poem is the call to listen to the telling of a memory. Sometimes what is recalled is personal experience; at others it’s a reappraisal of a more generalised memory held in the common.

In the poems and the paintings there is at the end a nostalgia, a sadness. As Janet reflects, “I sometimes recall [my time in those exotic lands] with a kind of sadness. I have seen the loss of so  many traditional cultures and I wonder, are my memories just another souvenir?”

Ruari Jack echoes the same sentiment in the lines from one of his poems.


They call it an ancient land

But forget its old stories,

Ignoring the embedded

Wisdom of rivers, trees, rocks,

The lore of the water holes,

And the message of dark tides

Falling, falling on white shores.


The memories contain a reluctance to lose something precious. At the same time they speak a challenge to look, to listen and to recast your own views.

The exhibition, ‘Memories of Exotic Lands’ is at the Zig Zag Cultural Centre Gallery in Kalamunda until the 30 May 2012.

The Poetry Evening is a one off event not to be missed on the 11 May 2012 at 6pm.

The Zig Zag Cultural Centre Art Gallery is located at 50 Railway Road in Kalamunda. The Gallery is open from 9am till 5pm Monday to Friday, and 10am till 4pm on weekends and public holidays.
The gallery at the Zig Zag Cultural Centre seeks to provide a diverse range of cultural activities in a boutique-style gallery environment. For further information contact 9257 9953