Car Wreck brooches and pendant Steel, vitreous enamel and sterling silver. Image: Michelle Bowden, Visuall
These works are part of the collection Unintended Consequences, exhibiting at Stanley Street Gallery, Darlinghurst, Sydney, from September 3-25, 2020
I walk regularly in the dry eucalypt forest of Mt. Coot-tha near my home in Brisbane, and over many years have experienced the colours, textures, quality of light and ‘bush silence’ on the mountain through the changing seasons. To capture the sense of the place I envisaged working with more traditional forms of enamel, using sterling silver and translucent colours. However, over the course of a number of years, with no particular outcome in mind, I have collected steel from a car wreck. These little bits of metal have rusted into beguiling shapes that are lying on the ground, almost disappearing into the earth. It’s one of many wrecks on the mountain and but this is one I pass regularly. From my research, I believe it is a Toyota Corolla E20 circa 1973. There are many of these cars scattered over the mountain, in gullies and off what are now fire trails, inaccessible to cars in the present day. Many of these trails have their origins from 1 August 1942, when the Brisbane City Council lent Mt Coot-tha to the US Navy for use as an ordnance depot; these trails were roads that the 55th Naval Construction Battalion of the US Navy built to access the munitions storage scattered over the mountain. I am drawn to the signs of unintended consequences, and enjoy not only the idea that a steel car body, probably assembled at the Toyota plant in Port Melbourne, should end up as a piece of wearable art but also that the car could only end up where it is because of events 80 years ago. The flat intense colour of the enamel I have used reflects the colours of car duco of the 1970’s but is itself a result of unintended consequences; in 2019 I purchased these colours because they were half price and I wanted to practice the technique of enamelling on steel. These colours, serendipitously, reflect the Toyota duco colours of the time of the car’s manufacture. Working with the rusty steel with minimal preparation allows the material and process to dictate the outcome. The result is revealed layers of colour, rusty spots peeping through, rough edges and a variety of finishes.