This Wild Song is a long term project by artist Ilona Nelson which sees her creating photographic portraits of Australian female artists and transforming them to become a part of their work.

This country is filled with so many amazing and talented women, and Ilona wants to celebrate this by showcasing their wonderful work. Although the artists being photographed and interviewed for This Wild Song are from different backgrounds, use a diverse range of mediums, and are at different stages of their arts career; they are unified by their unique voices.

This Wild Song aims to become a valuable resource for you to use like an encyclopedia where you can learn more about the artists, discover new artists, and gain a deeper understanding of their practices.

The title for this project was inspired by Emma de Clario's painting 'If I keep a green bough in my heart, a singing bird will surely come'. The poetry from this piece can be read below;

When I was a small child, my other mother wrote, on the kitchen wall in green chalk and perfect copperplate:
If I keep a green bough in my heart a singing bird will surely come...

I would gaze at those words, until they were etched into my very bones.
Now I am a woman and a mother, and I write to my daughter and tell her this:

Each happiness and every sorrow I have known, I have built around these words.
I have been blind and tenacious in my insistence of the necessity of my own joy, and I have been willing to dive to extraordinary depths of disappointment and despair in order to investigate joys absence. For my whole life I have pruned and tended to the green bough in my heart, tenderly awaiting with grave anticipation the bird song that heralds the arrival of my own springtime.

I have only now just understood that it is in the tending to the bough where I have found my joy. My happiness has been in the maintenance of the sweetness in my daily life and in the faith that the singing bird is on its way to me.

When we find a place and call it home,

we name it:
and we mark it:
And we charge it with our daily pleasures,
and our ferocious protection,
while tend to it we caress each corner.
We sing to our homes gently,
coaxing their walls toward happiness,
and willing all that is within
to shine from our commitment to them,
our promises.
With each act of Keeping House,
each carefully arranged vase of flowers,
each admiration of light through windows,
light through open doors on to clean swept floors,
with each full bowl of good steaming food,
and with each sigh as the table is cleared,
and the dishes done,
We systematically cultivate
our conviction that everything that is
mercurial and serpentine
will not enter our
and will not threaten the order,
(and the light)
that we have created there.
In our secret hearts, we are longing.
In our private selves, we are tired.
Spent and un whole.

And as we nourish, we yearn,
and dream
and imagine,
and yet
we, most of us,

We run in our minds eye:
But we remain.
Tenacious as warriors,
proud and numb,
we do not rest.

In our hearts,
we harbour so much illusion
and sadness
and gratitude.
Dreams that are
compromised, sacrificed,
dear wishes that are
and then,

And yet,
each day
we continue to keep the shelters,
where our babies are,
where we are,
Life giving.


It is in this that we wrestle.

And yet;
each day,
throughout every generation,
over each and every land,
we are relentless,

very often, we trip.
On our hearts.
Over them.
And fall.
Each one of us.

And sometimes,
But sometimes.

we may and do

The Open Space.

The Wild Song.
As The Wild Song is all around us...
to its own intention,
and it is so unfaithful
and so hard to ignore.
But when it calls a name, your name;
The Wild Song,
it is unrelenting,
and tenacious.
Everything pales.
And, all things still,
to listen.
even the glorious light through the kitchen window becomes
less golden.
And our sprits,
of their own accord
begin to move and sway
to The Wild Songs rhythm...
And our minds twist
and turn and circle
in on themselves,
and our hearts bend,
like at no other time,
and the presence
of The Wild Song
becomes a madness.

Desire becomes a madness.
Freedom becomes a madness.
The longing for self becomes a madness.
Like no other madness.
Like no other desire,
like no other choice.

And we are asked to choose.
And we know that this is madness.
And so we watch
with focused curiosity
when others
make The Leaving Choice.
And Spreads Her Wings.
And we curl with mirth.
And we curl with envy.
And even if .....
Even if,
Even if...

We always do come back
to our first-born's breath.
Their breath-rhythm,
and we move with it.

It is in every moment,
each moment of that
that we hold our faith.

And our faith is this:
familial protection.

Let our sense of purpose,
our huge and brave and magnificent choice
of being inside our lives
be so glorious,
so fierce,
so very bright,
that everything
will disappear
and dissolve:
by our light.

Through our House Keeping,
we believe our substantiality
will afford us
the simple gift,
the earned honour
of motherhood
and all its responsibilities and faiths:
that we may hold our own close,
and feed them.

It is in this secret place
Where we keep our joy,
and in that
our survival.

Do not lighten the weight
we carry.
It is our weight
to carry,
our bane
to bare,
our joy.
Our measure.
Our spirit- level.
It ours.
So don't touch it.


Do not threaten our hearts
But do come,
to ask
for tea,
of that that there is plenty,
of our tiredness.

We cherish
and gratitude.

I have taught my children:

If they keep a green bough in their hearts a singing bird will surely come,
and to always listen
for their own names
in the whisperings of
The Wild Song.

Rather than resist
and grow weak,
they may run
and dance
in its wildernesses,
and I will take care
of their children
for them
until they are ready
and the madness
has passed, and
The Wild Song
is calling another name.