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1989 - 1999

This was a decade of desert journeys and the work reflected the internal and external landscape I traveled through. Three places continually called me back : Kakadu, the Central Western Desert and Lake Mungo.

Journeys into the desert are always significant for me. They are about shedding the unnecessary and settling into silence and space. An equanimity occurs, a gentle coexistence of thoughts, dreams, spirit and physical survival .... a dimensional alignment. The Climatic intensity, ambient heat and primordial vastness draw me back again and again. Heat melts the boundaries of consciousness, is the fire of transformation, creating a sense of interconnectedness as blood throbs through my veins and the landscape pulses in a sublime heat haze, internal and external worlds are harmonized and there is a clarity of vision.

I continued to work in several disciplines: painting, drawing, printmaking, mixed media and photography. However, during this era, exploring and experimenting with various media crossed all boundaries and many works became 'mixed media'.

1991: Artists Statement.

The past years have taken me into remote and sacred places, where I've experienced the energy and stillness of the deserts, mountains, gorges and flood plains of our vast landscape.

Being by the Sea, in the desert or on an escarpment overlooking wilderness - provide an extended sense of space and timelessness that is totally pervasive and internal and external space are harmonized. Such is the power of these places that meditative states happen spontaneously.

The desert is a solar power place that recharges my soul. Its immense space and quietness intensify unity.

The sea is a constant reminder of the rhythm of life and renewal. Having lived on an island for the past eleven years, I appreciate its elemental moods.

The mountains, escarpments and outcrops embody the majesty of formative and destructive forces.

The gorges contain water and spirits in abundance.

The Australian Landscape is Diverse, Powerful and Sacred. An Aboriginal friend, Burnum Burnum said, " Europe has its Cathedrals, but Australia is one vast place of worship."

These works were inspired by travel of the vast internal and external space.

Catalogue Essay

Artists in the field: A Retrospective Museum and Art Gallery of the Northern Territory.

There were two camps held in 1990. The first was intended as an all women camp but one was unable to participate, David Van Nunan was invited, together with Sandra Leveson, Carmen Ky and Ingrid Johnstone, all from Sydney.

In one form or another these artists are expressionists, in the sense that their renditions of the natural surroundings were screened through the physical or philosophical impact of the 'field' environment.

This was very different from Alasdair Mcgregor and Jack Meagher who 'went bush' for the MAGNT later in the year. These artists were unapologetically realists, whether painting edifices or paperbarks, or photographing Top End 'characters' by the pool at Cooinda.

Carmen Ky developed a friendship with Big Bill Neidjie before her 1990 camp, during the filming of 'Kakadu Man' for Film Australia. She stayed with him from time to time and began to change her ways of seeing under the influence of Neidjie's spirituality. Her perceptions of what she terms 'the energy structures of nature' were being informed by Neidjie's stories. She also immersed herself in Aboriginal culture in museums in her photography research for a book on Burnum Burnum. The fine detail on drawings such as 'Guardians - Twin Falls' and 'Nourlangie Outcrop' bear the weight of this new vision, but also reflect Ky's interest in observing, as a rock platform once underwater, the weathered escarpment with its tropical life forms.

Lake Mungo: Extract from catalogue essay for 'Alchemic Wilderness': A survey 1988 - 2001.

Carmen Ky first visited the Willandra Lakes area with Burnum Burnum in 1992 at a time when the skeletal remains of "Mungo Woman" were to be handed back to the Aboriginal people. Awed by the ceremony and the significance of the exposure/interment of the bones Ky was moved to create many works(e. g.'Fossil Stream') and to re-visit the area. She had become gripped by the landscape, the endless plain of sandy soil "dotted with calligraphy of saltbush and bluebush", the flatness and the silence. The colour pencil drawing 'Lake Mungo' 1994, records that amazing linette of fossilized sand dunes known as the Wall of China subtly changing and revealing layers of yellow, pinks and greys. Ky recounts that as she walked gently over the crusty surface of dry lake beds and sand dunes she sensed and saw fossils everywhere - subsequent paintings and works on paper concerned ceremony, ritual and identity within the land. The erosion of hard sand at Lake Mungo has uncovered a vast burial ground - the most ancient of human remains on the continent. The bones determinedly appear with the shifting sands and their immanence become a feature of her paintings in which shapes that conjure figures, float towards the eye on the frontal plain, like clouds.

Processes Ky's dexterity with various media is obvious. She has taught printmaking over 15 years and enjoys pushing the process to the limit - allowing acid to eat right through plates, creating new work from old, building richly sensuous textured surfaces. Laminated layers of fine Japanese and Chinese paper and tissues are laid down and combined with amorphous torn paper shapes, some symbolic of the bones.

On her journeys Ky sketches constantly.

"Drawing is the primal mark. I always start with drawing - the first mark on a fresh page, canvas or etching plate starts the relationship changes the space. It is the initial recording of an idea."

Some Drawings from 1989 - 2000

“I commence many works on paper, drawing with watery ink and a Chinese calligraphy brush, attempting in a few lines to capture the dynamic energy of the piece …. then add layers with coloured pencils and oil pastels or inks defining shapes, bringing colour, tone, rhythm and texture to transform the space and evoke a visual shift.

When working in the landscape, I love to spend days just walking, observing, photographing and soaking in the ambience. Then work quickly, recording details, underlying structures and map in colour and tone until the light changes. Often going back at the same time for several days until there’s enough information to work on back in the studio .... and then it’s only a starting point ….”



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