Earlier this year I was part of a group of artists who were taken on a walking tour of the barracks building at Willow Court in New Norfolk, Tasmania, 35 km south of Hobart. Our visit centred around the barracks building, which is the oldest remaining part of the Willow Court Asylum Complex – a historical site even older than the well-known former convict settlement of Port Arthur.
I walked the stone surface of the verandah, listening to stories of the people who had lived and worked there and walked this way before me. We were shown some of the traces they left behind: a dip worn into a window-sill where kitchen knives were sharpened, and fragments of writing made by a past inmate on some of the sandstone walls. It became clear to me that this place has a nuanced and complex history, viewed in many different ways by many different people who went there both willingly and unwillingly. A place of healing and a place of suffering, a home and a place of incarceration, a site of struggle, and a place of learning.
With this artwork I represent the shifting perspectives from which the history of Willow Court can be viewed, and the difficulty and confusion of trying to mesh and make sense of it all. I imagine people following the stone walkways, trying to navigate their way through the light and the dark. Behind it all is the weeping willow tree, which has rich symbolic meaning for many cultures, including flexibility, survival, and following complex paths to spirituality and healing.
I am making this artwork as part of my participation in the Willow Court 2021 Project with Hunter Island Press. This will culminate in an art exhibition at Willow Court from the 8th to the 30th of January 2022, with print sales and artist talks.
This snapshot shows one of the three verandahs that surround the courtyard of the barracks building at Willow Court, taken on the day of the walking tour.
I spent a fair bit of time trying to work out a plan for this artwork, aiming for an Escher-like play with perspective using the Willow Court verandas. The handrail is actually a straight line that runs through both perspective views.
I have designed this artwork for two printing stages. This image shows an inked block ready for printing the mid-tone layer One.
So far so good. I decided it was ok to have the sun shining in two directions at once – one for each perspective!
The block is inked and ready for the second and final layer.
Finished! I’m happy as this has pretty much the effect I was aiming for. It was interesting how very different the drawing for this artwork was. In this case I needed to create all the forms with only two colours and white, with no extra colours created through overlap. Quite different from my normal approach, but it was refreshing to try something new.