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Sue Pedley: Orange Net-Work

From top: Images from Sue Pedley’s Orange Net-Work (series 1-35), 2017, 84.1 x 118.9 cm, graphite, ink, paper.
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Orange Net–Work is a mixed media work by Sue Pedley showing as part of the Mosman Art Gallery and Museum exhibition Tokkotai: Contemporary Australian and Japanese Artists on war and the Battle of Sydney Harbour, being held at Sydney’s T5 Camouflage Fuel Tanks in Mosman, an industrial scale former naval oil tank, built and camouflaged against Japanese attack. 

Imprint: Why is the orange net central to this work?

Sue Pedley: The work brings together an orange net originally made in 2010 in collaboration with a fishing community on the island of Teshima in Japan’s Seto Inland Sea; a new sound work created with artist Gary Warner; hundreds of stones; and a series of frottages that overlay naval and civilian clothing onto sounding maps of the Seto Inland Sea and Sydney Harbour. In 2016 I returned to visit the Teshima community and to retrieve the orange net and some clothing from the house, which I shipped to Sydney to form part of a new net-work for the Tokkotai project.

The orange net, based on the dimensions of a nori seaweed harvesting net, was made by the Teshima local community and volunteers from nearby cities. The net became a conduit to form new relationships, pass on stories and share in the age-old tradition of netting. The completed net was then draped over an abandoned house in the village as part of the inaugural Setouchi Triennial.

Imprint: What is the history of the connection between the Seto Inland Sea and Sydney Harbour?

SP: This new work explores an historical link between the use of nets in the Inland Sea and in Sydney Harbour. During WWII a protective anti submarine boom net was installed in Sydney Harbour, stretching from Georges Heights to Watsons Bay. On the night of May 31st, 1942 three Japanese mini submarines entered the harbour. One became entangled in the net. As a consequence of this attack, six Japanese and 21 Australian sailors tragically died, but the main impact was psychological, creating greater fear of Japanese invasion in Australia.

Each played pivotal roles in naval strategies during the Pacific War. The sheltered Inland Sea was an Imperial Japanese Naval base, harbouring training centres, hospitals, armories and shipyards. Sydney Harbour was a base for the Royal Australian Navy (Garden Island) and a port for US Navy ships.

Imprint: How does your work reflect on this history?

SP: The frottages depict both naval and civilian clothing. The civilian clothes are all from the abandoned house in Teshima where three generations of clothes (both traditional and western style) had been left folded and untouched for more than 20 years. The naval clothes are from the Royal Australian Navy’s heritage collection on Spectacle Island in Sydney Harbour, and include a Japanese submariner’s jacket especially made and donated by the Japanese Midget Submarine Association in 1995.

The sound component of the work similarly brings together elements originating in different contexts; they include the sounds of net-making, of conversation and the ambient soundscape of the abandoned house.

By relocating the orange net and the naval and civilian clothes, placing them within a former military oil tank and enlivening them with sound, the work touches on deep intergenerational hurts and divisions created by war. It also aims to suggest an enduring capacity to recover and heal from these traumas.

What role did printmaking have in formulating your work?

SP: I see frottage as a type of monoprint. The series of 35 frottage/monoprints in the installation are rubbings of civilian and naval clothing onto sounding maps of Sydney Harbour and the Inland Seto Sea. I have photographed half the work  then printed them in black and white reverse to give the X-ray affect.

Tokkotai: Contemporary Australian and Japanese Artists on war and the Battle of Sydney Harbour is at T5 Camouflage Fuel Tanks, Headland Park, Georges Heights, 20 May-12 June.