Burrinja art exhibition explores shared storm experience

Published on 05 August 2022

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Photo taken by Aaron Clark-Pearman, The AC Image

Two exhibitions exploring the shared experiences of the Dandenong Ranges community after the June 2021 storms have opened at Burrinja art gallery.

Supported by Council, the first exhibition, called Spaces In Between by Bronwyn Ward and Kerri Hollingsworth explores the loss of trees during the June 2021 storm and the collective grief of the enormous gaps that have been left in our landscape.

This exhibition features fibre sculptures that Kerri and Bronwyn painstakingly wove, latch hooked and wound into tactile sculptures to represent the trees lost and hold and protect their memory.

“The way that we've installed these pieces in the gallery, they're like ghosts in that they’ve been moulded around living trees and hung so you can clearly see that important component is missing,” said Kerri

“We wrapped them around the living trees like they were hugging them as a connection to what trees remain and I suppose one of the key messages within the exhibition was one around hope and that this fibre art was a way of signalling that by this the art being wrapped around the trees we acknowledge that we need to protect this landscape and what’s we’ve got left.”

Bronwyn and Kerri have incorporated a set of works made with community over conversations of the disaster impact as part of a Yarra Ranges Council’s Art Attack program in February this year.

“Initially we ended up receiving a small grant from the Council to run an art attack project and that project we did with community and Mount Evelyn and we had a few activities we were running, we did a beautiful big community weave,” said Bronwyn.

That weave and those story ropes have formed part of the installation at the gallery and have been a great source of reflection for the community of a shared experience.”

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Aptly called ‘There Used To Be A Canopy Here’, the second exhibition at Burrinja by photographer and environmental scientist Cathy Ronalds explores the changing landscape of the region and features film and digital photography of the days and weeks after the storm.

When the 2021 June storm impacted the Dandenong ranges, Olinda artist Cathy Ronalds was at home, listening as trees fell around her.

While lucky to avoid damage to her house, the photographer was shocked to see the resulting loss of an estimated 25,000 trees.

“My practice relies on the bush and I go out for walks in the forest to get a lot of inspiration, so to see it devastated in that way was really gutting and it took me a long time to mourn the loss of so many trees,” Cathy said.

“I felt deeply disoriented and bereft for our bush and our community and attempts to express my deep connection to the natural world in words typically felt greatly inadequate so instead I photographed the bush in a way to process it.”

The forests of the Dandenong Ranges are intimately woven into the threads of many residents’ lives and Cathy said she hopes the exhibition helps honour the loss of trees and validates the trauma experienced by the community.

“This exhibition attempts to honour the devastation to the bush and the community - finding sorrowful beauty in the fallen trees and mourning the loss of these giants.”

“It’s a year later now and the removal of fallen trees still continues, but for those who know this mountain well, they are familiar with the eerie feeling that: there used to be a canopy here.”

Both exhibitions can be viewed at Burrinja Art Gallery until 30 August.

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