Calling Home, the latest exhibition of paintings by Adelaide-based artist Eleanor Zecchin, focuses on the emotional pull of her childhood home at Woodside in the Adelaide Hills, where her parents still live. Zecchin aspires to create a sense of place by bringing together images of flora and fauna observed at her parents’ property, as well as her own home near the city.
The development of this new body of work is the result of an Independent Makers and Presenters Project Grant from Arts South Australia. The work focuses on Zecchin’s exploration into her identity, and her connection to the land. “It’s my culture,” Zecchin says. “I haven’t tried to escape this world, it’s part of my story, it’s how I identify myself or locate myself in a particular place.”
Zecchin uses flora and fauna as metaphors to create connections and links between the past and the present. She might notice a grevillea in the city but it symbolises a grevillea from her childhood home, recoiling memories and narratives of stories from her past as well as the present.
Eleanor Zecchin, Soothing Routine
“This body of work references the idea of flora as not just plants but also about the change of the plant throughout the seasons and how this marks time. So it’s about time and place,” she says.
In the work After the Rain, Zecchin uses the motif of a yellow banksia, an image taken from her father’s banksia bush. She has always been attracted to native flowers because of their sculptural quality and how they change so dramatically throughout the seasons, in this instance from a very bright yellow to a more golden colour.
Eleanor Zecchin, After the Rain
“It’s such a strong visual metaphor for time and you are left with a very striking object – there is still something quite beautiful left even after all of the flowers have gone,” Zecchin says.
The layering in After the Rain represents the narratives from the past and present. “It’s the idea that when you remember something you miss things out or you selectively recall things. This leads you to you construct new memories,” she says.
Eleanor Zecchin, Germination of Memory and Time
While her earlier works were more constructed, these works see Zecchin problem-solving on the canvas. “It’s very direct and you have to embrace whatever happens and work with it,” she says. “I’m letting more of the materiality of the paint come through. The question is, how much do you control the paint or how much does the paint control you?”
While Zecchin doesn’t want to make the focus of the exhibition too personal, there is an obvious element of this, as it’s titled Calling Home. It references the influence her father and growing up on the farm have had on her life. “I am much more comfortable in a natural environment. The process of digging holes, planting things or pulling things out, apart from painting that’s the most soothing thing for me.”
Eleanor Zecchin: Calling Home
Hill Smith Gallery
Saturday, April 8 to Saturday, April 29
Header image: Eleanor Zecchin, New Yard, Old Memories (detail.)