Jo Fife’s work focuses on hand made textiles inspired by domestic processes. Referencing both time and place, Fife’s work draws on family connections and geological observations within the Limestone Coast region. Close to Home is centred in Fife’s immediate landscape, telling a deeply personal generational story that is irrevocably entwined with the complex and enduring geological layers this region is celebrated for.
To live in the Limestone Coast is to be viscerally aware of geology, of volcanoes and sinkholes, of ancient and enduring caves, of vast swathes of limestone, barely hidden beneath the surface. We are surrounded by water that has spent generations filtering through limestone, formed by the sea millions of years ago. Amongst this ongoing ancient landscape, generations of First Nations peoples and settlers have woven their lives into, and through, the sedimentary layers of this region.
In the exhibition Close to Home Jo Fife connects her personal and enduring textile practice to both a generational family history, looking at her parent’s lives through the depression and beyond, to her childhood and connection to her siblings. Using diary entries and found objects from her father’s shed, we see the reality of living through scarcity and how integral the introduction (and rapid population growth of rabbits) were to many families surviving on the edge in regional and rural Australia. In 26 miles and Close Knit we are offered small glimpses into the relationships that defined her life, and the ongoing threads that tie them altogether.
Zooming out from this intimate look at family, Fife pans across the iconic landscape of this region. Taking textile beyond the domestic sphere Fife uses the unlikely techniques of embroidery, knitting and wrapping to express landscapes that have evolved in a timeline beyond human conception. Diving into the caves, sinkholes and volcanoes of the area, Fife draws our attention to time, the layers of geology and what lies beneath our feet.
Text by Serena Wong