Exterior of the art museum with an artwork on the window

Elizabeth Willing
Through the Mother
Window Commission: June 4 – January 18, 2020
Exhibition: September 10 – January 18, 2020

Through the Mother is a multisensory exhibition that embraces how touch, taste and smell, inform our most poignant and powerful memories. The architecture of the space invites viewers to enter into a fragmented narrative that is pieced together by the artist through things that are familiar—a table, a stool, tea, wallpaper, a shed—but rendered strange by wax and bush, grease and hibiscus, valerian and patchouli. 

Triggered by a childhood memory of her mother drying plants upside-down in her father’s backyard shed, Brisbane-based artist Elizabeth Willing has imposed a hand-drawn gesture onto the surface of the mirrored steel and glass façade of The University of Queensland (UQ) Art Museum building. Willing complicates this memory further in the interior of the museum. Vernacular architecture is conflated within her installation: the viewer enters the quintessential hallway of a ‘Queenslander’ style bungalow made humid with scented waxes, passing through into a space of the domestic, only to realise that they are inside a backyard shed. 

Centred in the space is a spotted gum table, with floral carvings of eucalyptus, strawflower, lavender, yarrow, marijuana, and hydrangea. Stools circle the table, all treated with the Tasmanian pepperberry wax, a curious biproduct which is said to smell like the Australian bush, with a hint of lantana. The wallpaper framing the space, which at first looks like paper doilies, is in fact based on a Rorschach pattern made from the deep purple ink of pressed St John’s Wort—a natural anti- depressant, which the artist harvested in Armidale, NSW.

Throughout the exhibition, tea is served for the audience. A mixture made by the artist and her mother, is a calming blend of valerian, passionflower, hibiscus, rooibos, and cinnamon; each ingredient possessing its own medicinal benefits, from the soothing of anxieties to the ceasing of inflammation.

The title of the exhibition, Through the Mother, has several connotations: a passing down of information and practice through a matrilineal line; ‘mother’ as a source; a ‘mother plant’, which is grown for the purpose of taking cuttings in order to cultivate other plants; and to ‘mother’ as an act. The artist has sought to give both physical and ephemeral form to memories of her mother, conveyed through smell, taste, and texture. The exhibition space is both familiar and unsettling—the tight hallway, the dark shed—gesturing to the way in which memory is always only ever a fragmented reconstruction of actual events.

Tea served daily
The blend is made by the artist and her mother, and includes valerian, passionflower, hibiscus, rooibos, and cinnamon. Drop in. No booking required.

a person eating ice cream
Documentation from Elizabeth Willing’s Dessert III held at Spiro Grace Gallery, 2015. Reproduced courtesy of the artist.

Win an exclusive double ticket to a Mystery Concept Art Dinner at UQ Art Museum on Saturday 19th October.

To enter – grab a mate and check out the Unlearning exhibition program at UQ Art Museum. Post a pic of an artwork onto Instagram or facebook with the hashtags: #UQUnlearning #UQArtMuseum

Entries close 4pm Saturday 14 September

Elizabeth Willing lives and works in Brisbane. Willing is completing a Master of Fine Art (Research) at Queensland University of Technology, Brisbane. She has undertaken professional development mentorships in New York with artist Janine Antoni (2011), with the Experimental Food Society in London (2012) and with artist Thomas Rentmeister in Berlin (2014). Willing was the Australia Council Künstlerhaus Bethanien one-year residency recipient in 2014. Exhibitions and concept meals have been held in Australia at Tolarno Galleries, Melbourne and the Gallery of Modern Art (GOMA), Brisbane and overseas at Künstlerhaus Bethanien, Berlin and the Trapholt Museum of Modern Art and Design, Denmark.

Elizabeth Willing
Through the Mother 2019
adhesive vinyl
five parts, each 8 x 4 m
UQ Art Museum Window Commission, supported by Mrs Jane Tynan and Mr Michael Tynan, 2019.
Courtesy of the artist and Tolarno Galleries, Melbourne.
Photo: Simon Woods

Artworks courtesy the artist and Tolarno Galleries, Melbourne.

The artist would like to thank Shireen and Perry Willing, Chris Howlett, Nick Ferrier, Dr Heather Smyth the Senior Research Fellow, Centre for Nutrition and Food Sciences (UQ), Rachael Parsons from New England Regional Art Museum, and Lisa Lods of Tasmanian Essential Oils. 

Through the Mother is generously supported by the assistance of Mrs Jane and Mr Michael Tynan (2019).