Le Chéile Information

Veronica Calarco

I grew up in a small town in East Gippsland, Victoria in a big family. Escaping as soon as possible, over the next thirty years I achieved my aim of living in every state in Australia and studying printmaking at the ANU, ACT. Whilst at uni I became involved in working in community arts and continued as a community artist in the ACT for the next decade, working at Megalo Access Arts (a printmaking access facility) and coordinating shields as part of Women In Action (a series of workshops and exhibitions of approximately 600 women’s work) and working with the Multicultural Arts Office and DADA, curating exhibitions and coordinating arts projects, doing technical assistant work for artists and completing an artist in residence at Parliament House, ACT. During this period I participated mainly in group exhibitions in Australia, France and Asia (I was accepted as a member of the Asia Fibre Art Exhibition). In 2002 I moved to the Kimberley in Western Australia to work for the Kimberley Language Resource Centre and in 2003 to Alice Springs to managed an Arts Disability project and run an Aboriginal Art Centre, where I became involved in the art community and began again to focus on my own artwork, participating in several group shows. In 2004 I decided to focus full-time on my art, travelling between Wales and Australia; moving to Port Adelaide and continuing with group exhibitions and participating in artist-in-residence programs: Thirning Villa, Ashfield Council, Sydney, Regional Print Centre, Wales, United Kingdom, Digital Weaving, working with Vibeke Vestby in Norway and Grindell Hut, Flinders Ranges.

Moving to the Kimberley’s was significant for my work and the way I viewed my work – for the first time in my life I faced true isolation and was confronted directly by the harshness of a misused environment. I had no equipment with which to work (as a printmaker and weaver I had always used presses or looms) and had not developed a language to speak of what I was seeing and experiencing. To find a language and to try to get some understanding of my experiences I began to sew on bandages as a way of developing my own symbols of the Kimberley. Gradually I began to find a language in which to express myself through the use of landscapes and mudmaps. I completed a series of mudmaps that were drawn for me to show me areas in which I could go walking and camping. These ‘maps’ are woven in a double-cloth pick-up. In 2004 I started learning Welsh and was told that Mae drwgg gen i (I’m sorry) meant ‘it is sorrow I have’ (literally translated is: ‘it is badness I have’). The words ‘it is sorrow I have’ sum up my feelings of the land we live in and what has been done to it. I am currently attempting to portray this feeling in my images, looking at the marks we leave on the land.

Whilst living in North Wales, taking Welsh lessons, I met Steffan Jones-Hughes (coordinator of the Regional Print Centre) who invited me to do an artist in residence. Le Chéile was just beginning and on being invited to join, I headed over to Ireland with Linda Davies and Alison Craig to meet the Irish mob. Arriving back in Australia I continued to work with Andrew Smith for the project and in 2008 met Rob Johnson from Country Arts SA and thus the idea for Le Chéile to come to Australia was born.