Maree Clarke, a Mutti Mutti, Yorta Yorta, BoonWurrung woman from Mildura in northwest Victoria, is a multi disciplinary artist living and working in Melbourne.
Maree Clarke is a pivotal figure in the reclamation of southeast Australian Aboriginal art practices, reviving elements of Aboriginal culture that were lost over the period of colonisation. Maree’s continuing desire to affirm and reconnect with her cultural heritage has seen her revification of the traditional possum skin cloaks, together with the production of contemporary designs of kangaroo teeth necklaces, and string headbands adorned with kangaroo teeth and echidna quills.
Maree Clarke’s multi media installations of photography, painting and sculpture further explore the rituals and ceremonies of her ancestors.
Biography courtesy of Vivien Anderson Gallery
How do you describe your work to others?
Reviving elements of Aboriginal culture that hasn’t been practiced for a very long time and passing on cultural knowledge to the next generation.
Do you have a preferred medium?
No, I work in lots of mediums and love what I’m doing at the time.
How do you begin new work?
I don’t sketch and I don’t write…I think of every angle of making my work…once I can see it completed…I’ll then make the work, whatever that may be.
Do you tend to work in series or do you see your body of work as a continuation?
A bit of both…but at the end of the day my work is about telling my story of my family and the impact of the colonsiation/invasion.
What attracts you to your subjects?
It’s about telling story through art. You might not know what the work is about until you read the artist statement.
What processes do you use to bring your ideas to life?
I tend to think an awful lot and then bounce ideas off of my friends and family and then I make the work.
What do you use as reference material?
Museum collections and story from my family
Do you work intuitively or more consciously?
A bit of both I think
What’s your favourite colour to work with?
I tend to work with earthy tones and ochre, white, black and red dirt.
Where do you create?
In my back yard or at the kitchen table or the lounge room. If I’m making big multimedia works. I tend to work at Footscray arts if they have available space.
Do you have a studio ritual to start the session?
No…but I do like things neat and tidy when I start..
What’s your favourite music to work to?
Depends on what it is I’m making…but I tend to like silence when I’m making work.
Do you enjoy coming up with titles?
No…I find that harder than making work sometimes…
What’s your favourite part of creating?
Installing the new work in the gallery.
What advice would you give to your emerging self?
Never doubt what it is you’re doing.
Have you ever worked with a mentor?
How do you alleviate the down times?
This is very few and far between. But if it does happen…I talk to my gallery, Vivien Anderson Gallery, and a select group of friends.
What defining moments have you experienced within your practice?
Involving my family in the performance pieces at my openings and involving my family in my multimedia artwork and international collaborative projects. Sharing the space with them and taking them on the journey. It’s very exciting.
What is the most memorable exhibition or artwork you have seen and why?
Melbourne Now. I think it was a fantastic exhibition that showed the creatives living and working in or connected to Melbourne. We are the Art capital of Australia.
If you could ask any artist any question, what would it be?
How do you get major sponsorship for major productions/exhibitions?
What does the future hold for you?
Sharing my knowledge and skills with my family and the younger generations through art mentoring programs. Hopefully, I have inspired them to continue the work that I do by them telling their story through art. And also, working with Melbourne University to create a digital archive of my work over the last 30+ years and sharing that information and knowledge with the Aboriginal community and the wider community.