My mother’s life as a subsistence farmer and as a seamstress has made a huge impression on me. Both of my parents emigrated from Italy, both grew food to support their families there, and also set up vegetable gardens in various suburbs across Australia. But it’s mum’s history I know most about. In Italy, her father grew cotton and linen in his fields. She and her sisters threshed it, spun it into thread, and wove it into cloth. From this they made bed sheets, bedspreads, towels, tablecloths, napkins, and sacking.

In Australia, mum sewed wedding dresses and ball gowns for a factory in Sydney. She also made clothes for her children and these are amongst my earliest memories. I remember lengths of patterned material laid over a table with tissue shapes pinned over it. I remember cutting these out and her sewing them up into dresses, skirts and blouses, the material laying over my skin and taking on a new form. Then, after a good amount of wear, these garments were undone and remade into different items.

All these examples of making things from scratch gave me a deeply contextualised awareness of process. I knew not only how individual garments and food came together from basic elements, and could be reused, but also how these elements in turn were grown, harvested and processed. Any individual thing was always understood in context of larger cycles of change.

This extended to how I understood myself as an individual – that is, open, contingent, and in process. The experience of my parents as migrants emphasised the fluidity I associate with identity. When migrants leave their old country to start a life somewhere else, they continue to migrate, in a sense, even after settling in the new country.  They migrate on a daily basis across languages, and customs. They live, literally, across two places and selves, and do not feel at home unless their identity expands to include both, or moves across both. This migratory movement passes onto the next generation. As a child of migrants, shifting realities were definitely part of my experience, and I created different selves according to different situations, searching for continuity between them.

Initially, I only saw the difficulties of this, and early experiments with frames explored the idea of misfits. Or, I focused on the translations necessary across difference.

As I consider it now, however, all these experiences contributed to an ecological education from which grew my fascination with the creative process.

Ecological seeing for me is not about painting wilderness, or ‘nature’. It’s about seeing expanded contexts and continuities, literally, a bigger picture. It’s about seeing in relation to, and understanding that there is no end point and no separation – everything is part of evolving processes.

So now I question ideas of ‘finished reality’ and individuation. Within painting convention, for example, a viewer stands in front of a picture taking it to be a finished world. They enter this world imaginatively and, by way of the frame and the edges, they understand this world to be separate from the one they stand in, and this painting to be separate from the wall and other nearby paintings.

I wanted to move beyond these edges. I began by tearing up older work in order to make new work, exploring how one thing becomes another. I placed paintings in planar constructions alongside other paintings, like blocked quilts. Or I put them next to the palettes used to make them, or included references to the Old Masters that inspire me. And, taking this further, I have begun to explore what it would feel like to actually become another painter.

In exploring this theme of expanded context, it feels natural to me to mix painting with the qualities and metaphors of fabric. I think of the individual as one amongst many, as dependent on the social and environmental fabric. I am drawn to repetition and patterns, to tapestries and stitch-like marks, and to techniques of tracing, cutting out, planar extension, reassembly, and re-using. I am aware that in painting I am creating, I am making myself, and continuing a tradition as much as I am making an object, so I prefer methods that privilege process and loosen individuality. The materiality of paint is beautiful to me, first and foremost for its generative capacity, its potential for becoming, and secondly for all the human endeavour it inherently evokes. The relationships between paint, painting, painter and painting history remind me that everything rises up from, and falls back into, an originating fabric.