Current Issue #488

Meet Your Maker:
Lara Tilbrook

Lara Tilbrook, National Treasure, 2013

The natural world has always been central to the work of Kangaroo Island-based artist Lara Tilbrook. As her home recovers from the devastation of Black Summer bushfires, Tilbrook’s interest in threatened species is all the more necessary.

In the wake of the summer bushfires, never before has Kangaroo Island appeared more as an emblem for Australia. With nearly two thirds of its landmass licked by flames and now in a slow process of recovery, the island is an image of ecological precariousness, competing economic demands and community resilience.

Lara Tilbrook, artist, activist, and owner of Bush Organics, has made Kangaroo Island her home since 2007. The island is at the centre of her life. Her business, studio, beehives, medicinal plant orchard and home are situated on a vast acreage of wild bushland, much of which was hit hard by the fires. The island also makes up the literal material of her art. Trained as a goldsmith, Tilbrook crafts jewellery and body adornment from species endemic to the island, transforming gathered flora and fauna into rare artefacts and records of biodiversity.

Tilbrook’s 2013 artwork National Treasure was featured in the exhibition Our Future in the Landscape, presented by Guildhouse ART WORKS Emerging Curator Program and the City of Adelaide, and recently acquired by the city. The finely laced collar is crafted from the quills of a Kangaroo Island short-beaked echidna, recovered from the roadside. Since 2013, Tilbrook’s message has become still more prescient : “When first making the piece the echidna was not listed as a threatened species. It is now classified as endangered. “

Lara Tilbrook. Fat Cat, 2013

Tilbrook’s forthcoming solo exhibition, Duty of Care, is an urgent call for the preservation, protection and propagation of Australia’s natural heritage. A new line of jewellery and wearable art recasts the seeds and leaves of the manna gum in recycled gold. Tilbrook says the alchemical process “heightens the value and perceived worth of our fragile ecologies “. Alongside handcrafted sculptures, needlework and illustration, the exhibition will also feature a feral cat –pelt carpet.

“Feral cat predation is a major threat to endemic wildlife on Kangaroo Island. Working with these skins is not something I thought I would ever do but it is important to tell my story, to create discussion and education around these conservation issues. It is my duty to care.”

Since the fires, Tilbrook and her family have cleared the debris and begun replanting. She says, however, they are not simply going to rebuild. There is opportunity for another alchemical process to take hold : “Now is the time to rethink the way we are living. “

Lara Tilbrook: Duty of Care
Opens 7 November
Sauerbier House

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Guildhouse is a not-for-profit organisation dedicated to supporting South Australia visual artist, craftspeople and designers to develop and maintain sustainable careers.

The Adelaide Review is a media partner of Guildhouse.

Belinda Howden

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