Peta Clancy is a descendant of the Bangerang people from south-eastern Australia whose photographic works explore hidden histories of colonisation and events that threatened the survival of her ancestors. Through manipulated photography, Clancy calls attention to the way that the past and present are layered within the landscape. She aims to reconstruct and bring to light histories that have been missed, veiled or denied, re-focusing our perspectives on Indigenous sites of significance.
To create her highly acclaimed ‘Undercurrent’ series (2018-19), Clancy collaborated with the Dja Dja Wurrung community during a 12-month residency at the Koorie Heritage Trust. These soft, blushing landscapes are half out of focus and have alluringly dissonant colours. Clancy sets her lens on re-directed waterways in Dja DjaWurrung country that submerge the site of Indigenous massacres, capturing a seemingly serene landscape that masks the dark past of colonial frontier wars. To produce the works, Clancy printed large-scale images of the landscape and attached them to a custom-built frame on the same site where the image was first taken. She then sliced and re-photographed the image to challenge our focus on denied histories. Trees peer over the fault line of the divided image, combining two contemporary moments to instil in viewers a yearning to see what is behind and, in turn, remind us to look for the what is hidden below. This series has been exhibited as part of ‘The National’ at the Art Gallery of NSW, ‘Capital’ in the Ballarat International Foto Biennale, and ‘The Burning World’ at Bendigo Art Gallery.
Clancy’s unearthing of the cultural scars within the landscape through alluring imagery recall Melissa Lucashenko’s thoughts on the experience of Indigenous people looking at the land: “It is like having double vision. We see the world that white people see, but we are also seeing a mythic landscape at the same time and a historic landscape.” Her next major series, also titled ‘Undercurrent’ (2020), focuses on Victorian waterways along Dandenong Creek, articulating sites of significance within the Country of Baluk willam of the Woi wurrung and the Nguruk willam of the Boon wurrung. Commissioned by Monash Gallery of Art, these luminous large format photographs allow us to gaze into pools of water that double as mirrors. Reflecting and subtly rippling the trees that lean over Dandenong Creek, ‘Undercurrent’ is a tribute to the Indigenous sites of significance that can be mapped along the waterway. Monash Gallery of Art Curator Anouska Phizacklea describes them as “at once overwhelming and contemplative – prompting us to reconsider what has been eroded, and what has been lost, as a result of invasion.”
Peta Clancy has exhibited in major survey shows of important Australian art, such as ‘The National’ at the Art Gallery of NSW, ‘Under the Sun: Reimagining Max Dupain’s Sunbaker’ at the State Library of NSW, ‘Capital’ for the Ballarat International Foto Biennale, ‘Portrait of Monash: ties that bind’ at Monash Gallery of Art, and ‘From all Points of the Southern Sky’ at the Southeast Museum of Photography in Florida. She has been selected as a finalist for prestigious art prizes, including the William and Winifred Bowness Photography Prize, and is represented in major public and private collections across the country, including the RMIT Collection, Artbank, and the National Museum of Australia.
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