Sue Pedley : Margaret Roberts


Sue Pedley Sound of Bamboo, Royal Botanical Gardens Sydney

Sound of Bamboo was a three part installation by Sue Pedley in the Sydney
Botanical Gardens in September 2002. It used red wool and found bamboo,
inspired in part by her experiences during residencies in Sri Lanka and
Vietnam. It also continued a longer term exploration of the surprise
created by strong colour in unexpected locations - as food colouring
bleeding through white plaster or coloured wool interwoven with natural
settings - as intrusions which present the locations as much as themselves.

In Sound of Bamboo, the red woollen yarn was woven through two bamboo
stands in the lower part of the Gardens, making two enigmatic horizontal
blocks of red colour, one also reflected in the water beside it. They
could not be confused with the colour of flowers or the pattern of leaves
or insects, leaving viewers without explanations for their peculiar
presence. They made more sense by putting your head into the bamboo stand
itself, looking down into the weaving of red wool and green branch from
above - giving its spatial abstraction more room to compete with the more
familiar context of the garden. Once viewers arrive at the 'third' part of
the work, however, we realise that the 'first' two also operate as
pointers, as Sue herself called them, or as warm-ups or even spread-outs,
in some way secondary to the third part of the work in the larger bamboo,
but still essential as tails or strands further out in space.

In this third part, the red and orange woollen fabric segments wrapped
around the hollow bamboo tubes in the larger bamboo stand make vertical
lines of colour which gently disturb our interpretation of space. The
stand of bamboo has various references for different people - its reference
to Asia being one - but it also is part of the ordinary lived world in
which it is unambiguously a stand of bamboo. The disturbance occurs
because the wollen wrappings confuse scale, and - perhaps assisted by the
intense activity of graffitti-marks cut into most of the bamboo tubes -
suggest we are also looking at a drawing. The work thus playfully asks us
to accommodate something as both ordinary and unambiguous at the same time
as being more open and multilayered in meaning. The ambiguity of scale
hints at the similarity between a stand of giant bamboo and a bunch of
grass, for example, an ambiguity which can also flow over into
consideration of the dispersions involved in the location of an emblem of
nearby Asia in a Botanical Garden originating in in distant Europe. It is
the gentle integration of the space of art-activity with ordinary lived
space which enables consideration of meanings inherent in the latter.

Margaret Roberts