Tweed River Regional Gallery,
19th March- 2nd May 2010

mekong drift

In 2007 Karlee Rawkins and Marc Renshaw spent three months following the Mekong River through SE Asia. Beginning their journey in Phnom Penh they looped through Cambodia before an adventurous border crossing involving motorbikes and boats into Si Phan Don (4000 Islands) in the south of Laos. Buses and rickshaws took them all the way up and through to the mountainous north where they crossed into Vietnam, travelling up to Hanoi.

The artists collected imagery, photographs, drawings and, of course, experiences to inform their work on return to Australia. The works for Mekong Drift have come directly from their extensive journals of drawings and ideas. The exhibition is essentially a collection of work documenting and reflecting on a journey with a focus on the personal experience of travel and each artists own creative process.

The artists were particularly influenced by the turbulent and sad histories of the places they visited and the resilience of the people they encountered. Both were shocked by the aftermath of war with ordinance still being found and collected, much still causing damage. Landmines and prosthetic limbs were a daily confrontation. The artists found their journey one of huge contrasts and contradictions from poverty and war damage to stunning natural landscapes. It is this sense of contrast that both artists attempt to portray in their work.

Rawkins’ work usually has an animal motif and for this exhibition she has focussed on some of the endangered animals of SE Asia. While travelling she noted in her journal the list of animals considered in danger of extinction by the Wildlife Conservation Society. This list included the Asiatic black bear, Malayan sun bear, tiger, fishing cat and sika (a type of deer), the animals she chose to paint and draw for this show.

‘I hope to create a sense of vulnerability in these paintings, of myself as a traveller and how I felt, of the people of these countries and the land and animals under threat of deforestation and development. I also wanted to create a sense of the majesty and dignity I witnessed there too.’

Renshaw was influenced by the experience of making sense of foreign signs and language for his piece Signs Of Life. Journal drawings and works replicating the signs he encountered are combined in this wall collection. His intention was to create a sense of the confusion and make-shift communication experienced as a traveller.

‘I was attracted to the many hand made signs that were used for everything from public signage to business promotion. These personalised signs mirrored my own journal drawings. The naïve production and quality became an endearing feature in the sometimes challenging environments we found ourselves in’.

In the work Same Same But Different Renshaw refers to the integration of Western influences upon traditional life and practices. This piece is part altar and part road side stall and comments on the spirituality and necessary resourcefulness of the people.

Rawkins and Renshaw worked both individually and collaboratively on the work for this show that includes a wide variety of media. The exhibition includes sculptures, photographs, paintings and drawings.