“I feel pigment and all its ancient wisdom holds some of that capacity to connect and heal,” says Mellisa Ladkin. Melissa is a descendant of the Awabakal and Wonnarua nations with ties to the Githabul Bundjalung people. The artist's work appears in Wild Pigment Project, a group exhibition that's on view at form & concept through early December.
The international show (and the project that inspired it) promotes ecological balance and regenerative economies through a passion for wild pigments, their places of origin, and their cultural histories. Read an interview between Wild Pigment Project curator Tilke Elkins and Ladkin here, and check out more words from the artist below.
Our waterways are sacred bodies and hold much wisdom. Wirobaliko is an imprint of how the water follows the layout and story of the land, how it shapes it. How everything is a continuum in the pattern of the landscape, it’s stories and its scars. The natural beauty and the marks we leave upon it.
My practice represents the multi-layered history of our people and our intrinsic connection to country. I have been caring for country most of my life and have a reciprocal relationship with the land. This practice has brought me closer to the heart of our ancient land and shares old stories & wisdom.
Ochres are living, sentient beings, filled with energy & spirit and hold a knowing that is learned over deep time. I acknowledge and honour the connection that my people and all traditional owners have to this ancient medium. I respect & understand that each different nation/clan/family group has its own history, traditional cultural practices, protocols and spiritual beliefs to ochres. These ochre stories are the palette of my cultural expression and I hope they can evoke and resonate with your own connection to country and how you walk upon it.
Melissa is a contemporary Aboriginal artist living on Bundjalung country, Northern NSW.
A proud descendant of the Awabakal / Wonnarua / Bundjalung peoples, Mel has been caring for country most of her life.
From a young age Mel experienced a deep and intuitive connection to the land. She felt the earth speak to her and was moved by the richness and depth of the colours that form the many ochres she has come across over time.
For the past 30 + years Mel has worked in the bush, with native plants, trees & their habitats as a land conservationist and has always been fascinated with geology, rocks, minerals and soils.
Working specifically with ochre, the careful and respectful collection to the processing is a significant and alchemical process, they are slowly blended and formed into pigment. This is a very personal journey, a time of deep connection and acknowledgement of all that have come before her.
Mel’s collection of artworks has evolved with much thought, care and respect. Her practise speaks of an ancient wisdom, and she hopes her work will inspire others to open to the spirit of the land and to the rich culture and knowledge that it holds.
Melissa Ladkin, paper bark with ochres (detail)