Maree Clarke<br/>
<em>Jack Charles</em> 2012; 2018 {printed} <!-- (recto) --><br />

inkjet print<br />
(58.0 x 58.0 cm) (image) (70.0 x 70.0 cm) (sheet)<br />
ed. 1/10<br />
National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne<br />
Purchased, Victorian Foundation for Living Australian Artists, 2018<br />
2018.511.32<br />
© Maree Clarke

Maree Clarke

Ritual and Ceremony


Australian Embassy Gallery
4 Rue Jean Rey, Paris, France

10 Oct 22 – 17 Mar 23

‘The work represents the mourning practices of Aboriginal people along the Murray–Darling rivers. It talks about loss of land, language and cultural practices. All eighty-four people had the opportunity to share their stories of loss, sorrow and mourning.’
– Maree Clarke

Presented at the Australian Embassy in Paris, France, Maree Clarke: Ritual and Ceremony features a selection of works from the artist’s first major retrospective, Ancestral Memories, at the National Gallery of Victoria.

Maree Clarke has made Melbourne, Australia, her home for many years, contributing immensely to the local art community. She was born in Swan Hill in the north-west of Victoria and is connected to the traditional lands of the Mutti Mutti, Wamba Wamba, Yorta Yorta and Boonwurrung peoples.

Much of Clarke’s work is made from and about memory, whether a personal memory, like that of sleeping as a child in a suitcase on the banks of the Murrumbidgee River or of growing up and visiting her nan’s house, or cultural memory inscribed in the landscape, written on Country. Ancestral memories echo across time: they are found in Ancestral objects, and in new renditions of ancient crafts. These memories forge and reinforce the connections that are at the heart of Maree Clarke’s work.

Throughout her career Maree Clarke has developed a deep and contemplative, multidisciplinary practice that continually reclaims and celebrates Aboriginal customary ritual, language and art. This seminal body of work, Ritual and Ceremony, 2012, comprises eighty-four portraits of named Aboriginal men and women from Victoria. Clarke uses this photographic series to speak frankly about the physical presence of Aboriginal people in the South East, naming individuals as an antidote to the absence of Aboriginal makers’ names within historical collections.

Clarke challenges visitors to consider the legacy of erasure that has been perpetuated by collecting institutions. She uses white ochre painted on the faces and hair of thirty-eight women, and on the eyes and T-shirts of forty-six men, to represent widows’ caps and ceremonial body paint, as well as scarification markings, to honour all that has been lost.

Alongside the eighty-four photographs that comprise Ritual and Ceremony is a selection of kopi (skull caps) taken from the portrait participants. Kopi were traditionally made from gypsum (a soft calcium chalk like substance) and ochre and would be worn by women on their heads for substantial lengths of time as an integral part of mourning rites, before being placed on the grave of the deceased. Clarke extends on ancient mourning ceremonies, using her art to simultaneously revive and reflect on the loss of contemporary Aboriginal ritual mourning practices throughout Victoria and the South East.

Presented by the National Gallery of Victoria at the Australian Embassy Gallery, Paris; and curated by Myles Russell-Cook, Senior Curator, Australian and First Nations Art, NGV.