Image: Michelle Cawthorn, 'Interloper' 2021, Archival ink, Indian ink, paper collage and acrylic on Hahnemühle paper, 108 x 156 cm (detail)
For Sydney-based artist Michelle Cawthorn, the distinctive ah-ah-aaaah of the Australian Raven is a strong trigger to childhood memories of family holidays spent at Lake Conjola on the South Coast of New South Wales. In her memory, its call is associated with the smell of the lake and the sound of casuarinas whistling in the early morning breeze. Later when her family moved from Sydney to Nowra in the 1980s, the Eastern Whipbird would provide accompaniment on her solitary walks through the family property to the edge of the Shoalhaven River.
Nowadays her home and studio are situated on the edge of the Royal National Park in Sydney’s south and her day is punctuated by the chitter and trill of birdcall. Within her practice, Cawthorn engages with memory as an agent of creativity in artistic practice. For the exhibition Songbird, the artist considers the ways that birdsong can link memory with place through a series of drawing and collage works that offer a visual expression of her aural experience, both past and present.