Australian aboriginal artist Nicole Foreshew is going back home with myriad influences

Australian artist Nicole Foreshew has many reasons to engage deeply with India. Eucalyptus trees, indigo, cotton and above all viewers who are hard to find back home. Nicole along with Jonathon Jones and late Michael Riley is showcasing her work in an exhibition titled ‘Maamungun: Compatriots’ which is being held as part of the Oz Fest put together by Australian Government in India.

“The kind of interaction and the response my work has generated here is much more profound. I think the viewers had an open dialogue with my work here unlike in Australia. The viewers are talking to me, my material and the kind of questions they have asked me about spirituality and religion are very different from what I am asked back home,” says Nicole, an aboriginal artist from Australia who chooses to express herself in an idiom which is soaked in Wiradjuri heritage. The Wiradjuri are the largest aboriginal group in New South Wales and occupy a large area in central New South Wales.

Aboriginal roots are a prime concern in Nicole’s art but her vocabulary and medium of digital prints, a cloth sculpture and a video place it in a very contemporary context. The context notwithstanding, Nicole essentially remains an aboriginal artist for she is continuing the centuries-old techniques to make this kind of art. “You need indigenous knowledge to create this work. You need to know what plants you would want and suit your work. And in what season you will get those,” says Nicole, emphasising the need to understand one’s environment as an important part of the functioning of aboriginal artists. She also says that artists like Michael Riley had played a crucial role in giving momentum to aboriginal art in their country by bringing it into public spaces.

Fallen leaves, and other material from trees and ground form major material for her works. Now silk will also make its way into her art more often. That her mother is an aboriginal and still uses objects handcrafted at home like baskets, jewellery has also had a definite impact on her artistic practice. And interestingly her grandmother, mother and aunts appear in the video that shows them draping and undraping the cloth around their bodies.

She is now contemplating engaging with various dyeing techniques in India. “Also we don’t get indigo in Australia. I want to work with cotton and since there is so much eucalyptus around here and it forms a strong base for my work, that will also enter my artistic realm.”

(Maamungun: Compatriots will be on view at Lalit Kala Akademi till November 11)