Heather produced a series of sketches exploring the elements that form the foundation of a successful reconciliation journey. Working from the Architectus studio in Adelaide, her first paintings were effectively a complex legend of layered elements and symbols that would inform her final artwork.
The sketches began fusing Heather’s understanding of the equipment that architects traditionally use to generate the design and technical drawings of buildings, blended with the symbolism of community and dwelling structures that she uses in her paintings. The centrepiece of Architectus Reflects is a circle. One half represents the protractor, a tool of architecture and Western traditions in science and mathematics. The other half is a traditional circular Indigenous symbol for community. When combined, these elements express the coming together of two worlds in balance and understanding – maintaining respect for individual groups’ lineage and identity.
Heather had another idea to incorporate a grid somewhere in the painting as another expression of Western tradition. After we introduced her to the way architects use perspective grids to generate 3D images of their buildings, she explored how a sense of perspective could be incorporated into her paintings to provide a visual depth. Perspective was not something she has used in her artworks before and is not a style typically seen in traditional Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander artworks.
The draft painting was emerging. The elements described in the legend painting were being rearranged to better tell the story of different cultures and world views being brought together. The apparent polarisation of cultures, represented on either side of the composition and surrounded by their community networks, are brought together through a mutual understanding and respect for difference. This idea can also be expressed through an architectural metaphor of understanding how physical elements are transformed into building materials and unified into space in a built form that reflects cultural, social, and political structures and aspirations.
“Reconciliation has been a hard slog and a lot of people have dedicated their lives to it. We are a lucky country, but are we all lucky? That’s the question. We need to work together, to get to know each other. This country, this land, is for everybody.”
— Heather Kamarra Shearer
As Heather says, “We need to work together, to get to know each other”. The unification of the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander and non-Indigenous world views. The two halves forming a complete circle. Surrounded by people of all cultural backgrounds. This symbol of balance, understanding and mutual respect is set in the centre of the perspective, acknowledging that achieving this balance is still off in the future.
But maybe not too far away.