I wanted to write this post to take you back to the beginning. When I was much younger and new to painting.
SENTIMENT AND NOSTALGIA
Where to start?
I struggled so much with what to paint initially. Because I was raised in three different countries I didn't feel as though I had an identity. The last part of my youth was spent in Australia where I had no other family connections other than my sister and two parents. So who was I now? Where did my art belong?
Cultural connection of sorts
From one side of the planet to the other my father brought with him his beloved bird calendars. They featured illustrated South African native species by Graeme Arnott which he had carefully cut out and framed. They sat in a box hidden for a few years as we moved house a couple of times.
Eventually my sister and I discovered them. We loved them and hung them up in our bedrooms. To this day we each have a set of these prints. They are like heirlooms to us, despite the fact that they are yellowing with age and printed onto paper card. To this day I love them. It is not as though I'm overly proud of my roots but I find them grounding, as though I belong somewhere; a cultural connection of sorts.
My father was the one who brought with him the items from our first home in South Africa that I connected with. They were the things that made a house in a new land feel like home. He was the one who liked solid old timber furniture and an appreciation for quality handmade goods, preferring the old fashioned methods over the mass produced. His tastes reflected his ancestry: rather English and traditional.
Connecting the dots.
One of the most memorable houses I lived in was an old pre WWII era cottage. The living room was covered in period wallpaper from floor to ceiling. It left a large impression on me. Sitting in there for too long I imagined the walls coming to life with the birds I had in my room. At last! I found something to paint connected to my roots.
A memory came back to me.
I couldn't believe I'd forgotten. I'd left this memory behind in one of our moves for a while. My grandfathers aviary! Grandad was (& still is) a volunteer at the local RSPCA. He is in his late 80's. He loves and cares for animals deeply. He adopted several pets from the shelter over the years. From memory the aviary he built was grand. Solid colonial style pillars held up a pergola like structure enclosed with mesh. Inside flew an exotic collection of feathered creatures. The profound part about this story is not actually the aviary. After a while my grandfather felt sorrow and regret at the sight of these animals that were meant to be free, caged. One day he couldn't bare to see them caged any longer, he got out his wire cutters and released the birds!
I never realised how sentimental my work is.
These are my main personal connections to my birds series. Think of them as the bone structure for the work. There have been so many more subtle undertones, experiences and influences incorporated over the top of this basic structure. The romantic notion of being free, colonialism and early explorers. As I grew up travelling I felt a connection to the colonialist era, geekily jotting down exotic findings of a new land like some kind of modern day explorer.
I never realised how sentimental my art is until just recently.
Basically this is my tale of why I paint the bird series and why it resembles wallpaper designs. The paintings in this series are intertwined with who I am and where I come from.
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About Ruth Cadioli
Hi, I'm an artist and maker based in Brisbane, Australia. Follow along, sign-up here:
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