The Weight of Waiting

15 Jun 2022 – 2 Jul 2022
A solo exhibition investigating the generative and transformative potential of pliable clay and textile and their capacity to suggest meaning beyond themselves – poetic, cultural, social, and as keepers of time at Rubicon ARI

Baskets hold, gather and store; their utility is enriched by their ease and fit the human body as they assist in the labour of carrying. Skilled hands are required to craft a basket form, often with make-do, natural materials. In this new work, Phelan has merged techniques from her academic studies in ceramic with her lifetime of textile knowledge gathered whilst yarning and watching her mother’s hands make, in pandemic online workshops and alongside Yolngu and Gunaikurnai women. Cloth and clay are both malleable materials requiring repeated actions and time to generate form. Combining coiled and pinched clay with twined and braided textiles reclaimed from cast-off family clothes, record the hours of making whilst tracing the action of the maker’s hand. Assembled and stand-alone sculptures are characterised by a relationship between materiality and form, bringing together clay and textile with interdependence on the site of making and the affect of being in the world. In The Weight of Waiting, Phelan’s world of waiting depicts her identity as a mother and artist with the ebb and flowing demands of caring. Her making was also influenced by the long shadow cast by Melbourne’s two lockdown periods where the confines of the home became the site of making and a necessary source of material. These intimate assemblages compress care, repetition, tacit knowledge, and time into their generation. The Weight of Waiting continues Phelan’s process-driven practice which investigates the generative and transformative potential of pliable materials and their capacity to suggest meaning beyond themselves – poetic, cultural, social, and as keepers of time.

Robyn Phelan

Acknowledgement & thanks

In making this work Phelan wishes to acknowledge the traditional and ongoing skills of Julianne Gitjpulu, Yolngu women from Mapuru, Arnhem Land who shared her knowledge with the artist during a weaving workshop in 2019.

Phelan also acknowledges Kylie who shared her weaving knowledge on a Gunaikurnai Country during the summers of 2013 and 2017.

Acknowledgment of weaver/maker Ilka White who works in Djaara Country home of the Dja Dja Wurrung.

The artist acknowledges that she stands on the shoulders of generations of ceramicists who generously share their knowledge. Thank you to her colleagues at RMIT University for their considerable encouragement and support.

Thank you to her local community who supported her during multiple quarantines and lockdowns, supplying sustenance in so many ways and in particular the materials that inspired this exhibition.

Final and warmest thank you to her family Peter, Otto, and Hugo for every and all things; always.

Phelan lives and works on unceded Wurundjeri Country and pays her respects to Boon Wurrung and Woi Wurrung Elders who care for this land.

Artworks in Exhibition

Weight of Waiting Room 1
Weight of Waiting Room 2
280cm (W) x 380cm (H) x 280cm (D)
ceramics, textiles
w0w-Street Window Installation
Weight of Waiting Street Installation