On Saturday 22 October local Yaegl woman and visual artist, Frances Belle Parker will transform Eatonsville Hall in the Clarence Valley through a large scale immersive installation called Can You Hear The Whispering Walls.
The work is the largest installation completed by the artist who made the work as part of Arts Northern Rivers project If These Halls Could Talk; a two-year project by the peak arts organisation who commissioned renowned artists to transform seven halls across the Northern Rivers into site-specific works in response to the unique narrative of the hall and its community.
Arts Northern Rivers CEO Peter Wood said, ‘Frances is a highly regarded artist and we were fortunate to be able to have her work with the Eatonsville community’.
‘Frances is known for her visual storytelling and has a strong connection to the Clarence River so she was the perfect fit for the location.’
Eatonsville Halls sits atop a hill overlooking a beautiful but notorious section of the Clarence River which is a constant source of inspiration for the artist and a recurring theme in her practice.
Her work will serve as a reminder of the colourful past of this location and offer a space to reflect on the many histories of the area.
‘When I was invited to be a part of this project I thought, ‘Wow what a great opportunity’.
‘You hear all of these old stories about the small halls around the Northern Rivers but then you meet the community and get a greater sense of the passion that the community has for their hall. It’s like a whole new love story’.
The work is comprised of six lengths of flowing fabric that will be suspended from the rafters of the hall, imprinted with imagery and imbued with sound; mapping the land, the hall and the people of Eatonsville and surrounds.
Frances was inspired by underlying Indigenous history of the area, which she pays homage to through the work. But says it was the importance of the hall as a meeting place for the community and the many lives of the hall having been the site of many celebrations but also many disasters that inspired the concept of the work.
After each of these disasters the passion of the community for their hall saw it rapidly rebuilt stronger and better than before.
‘The work is an experience, allowing audiences to be transported through the timeline of the hall and an opportunity to relive a certain era, specific and important to the hall, including today’.
When asked how the work fits within her larger body of work, Frances said, ‘I guess I’d see it as small in the fact that it is very site specific but it is also large in the sense that it is one of the largest installations that I’ve done’.
‘The installation becomes larger because it is not just the installation on its own; its’ the installation plus the hall, plus the community, which makes it one of the biggest installations that I’ve ever completed’.
The afternoon will begin at 5.30pm with champagne and canapés on the lawn of the hall to acquaint guests with the hall and its landscape.
Audiences have been asked by the artist to wear white to be part of the artwork.
Frances came to prominence winning the Blake Prize in 2000 making her the youngest ever winner and the first Indigenous recipient in the prize’s history. From 2005 – 2011 Frances was a finalist in the NSW Indigenous Parliament Art Award and in the prestigious 2006 Telstra National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Art Award.
If These Halls Could Talk project is funded by Arts NSW Regional Partnership funding.
image | Catherine Marciniak, ABC North Coast Producer, Artist Frances Belle Parker with Work