Profile: Tamara Baillie

The narratives South Australian artist Tamara Baillie tells through her sculpture and installation work focus on memory, as she explores stories and mysteries of her family tree.

“The works I have been making recently have been looking specifically at memory and connections with identity and how they interplay with each other,” Baillie says. “It’s not direct cause and effect but they influence each other and are a part of each other.”

Until now, Baillie’s practice has involved experiments with cotton and sugar syrup solution – she likes the matte effect it creates. In her new work, The Driest State, currently showing at the Contemporary Art Centre of South Australia (CACSA) Baillie departs from this and uses salt instead of sugar.

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Tamara Baillie, The Driest State

The Driest State evolved from a month-long residency at Artspace, Sydney, where Baillie was mentored by artist Jonathan Jones. “I started exploring a cartography approach of creating maps that are installations in gallery spaces. While I was in Sydney I worked with the shapes of the waterways.”

When she returned to Adelaide, Baillie decided that she should make something more local. “I had this idea looking at territories and thinking about how we had all these salt lakes even though we are the driest state,” she says. “Apparently we do have a lot of water, it’s just not particularly usable.”

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Tamara Baillie, The Driest State

Baillie is also reflecting on early explorations of Australia and the difficulty the explorers had trying to survive in a land that, at times, could be inhospitable. Drawing on her family history, which revolves around the Eyre Peninsula, she came across stories about these explorations and how much the Indigenous people were part of those early settler survival stories.

In The Driest State, Baillie has painted salt water on the gallery floor and then left it to dry. “When you walk into it you see salt and encrustations on the floor. What I have done is draw the salt waterways or the inland bodies of water. The negative space on the gallery floor is the land of South Australia.”

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Tamara Baillie, The Driest State

The work is deliberately disorientating in order for the audience to engage with the work. “Hopefully the audience will slow down and ask themselves what am I looking at and why is it here?”

Interestingly, Baillie is in the process of completing her Doctor of Medicine (MD), something completely separate to her art practice. “I worked in the arts and I didn’t actually make art. I knew I really wanted to stay connected with that making.” On completing the course she plans to keep her studio at Fontanelle and balance her art and medical careers.

The Driest State
Contemporary Art Centre of South Australia
Until Friday, December 16
tamarabaillie.com

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