Thursday, 1 February 2018




'Cool Burn'

Irene Pagram

Cool Burn (detail) 2018

When Irene Pagram met her artist hero John Wolseley, at the arc Yinnar Drawing Award in 2016 he asked if she had a work in the show and when Pagram pointed it out and tentatively proffered her copy of the catalogue of his NGV survey show, Landmarks 111, in the hope he might autograph it, Wolseley wrote: ‘For Irene, distinguished artist’.

He confided to her – ‘You distinguished yourself by caring. By caring enough to make art, to make art about the landscape, and the environment, and about the state of things, and to put your art out into the world, that others may think and perhaps care about these things.’


Cool Burn, (2018), was inspired by visits to the extraordinarily beautiful remnant grassland meadows of Cobra Killuc Reserve in south west Victoria (see Flora Victoria’s facebook page –  ).
Testament to land management techniques practised over thousands of generations, the area is park-like with stands of trees and swathes of grasses starred with myriad jewel-coloured wildflowers in late Spring. In thinking about the writings of Bruce Pascoe and Bill Gammage, together with such evidence of the beauty of fire-managed landscape, it seemed evident to Pagram that a mosaic of fuel-reduction cool burns are urgently required to address 200 years of land management neglect. This WINDOWSPACE work is a testament to that need.

The elements of Cool Burn depict the clean forest floor in winter where orchids will soon appear, their germination aided by components of smoke. Tree trunks show blackened evidence of a cool burn at their base, each with a hint of an understory of wildflowers, small shrubs and vines that will reappear along with the soft grasses of spring. Clean upper trunks reach skyward.

Evoking the cool burn flames

In a nod to a past life, the tree trunks have been eco-printed onto disposable paper tablecloth, turning this ephemeral product back into an artwork with something of the longevity our forests deserve. 

Forming the first tree trunks for Cool Burn

Pagram works with natural dyes on silk, wool and paper, often to make a ground for drawing, or a base for hand stitching. Having discovered India Flint’s publication Eco Colour (2008), Pagram found there was a better way to do the natural dyeing she had first learnt in the 1970s. Rather than using toxic metal powder mordants and salt fixatives of the past, Flint has pioneered a bundling method of botanical eco-printing using just water and the dye-pot as mordant. The results give substantive colours reminiscent of the landscape where the leaves are gathered. Utilising wind-falls, and a garden gathering of leaf litter are paramount. The plant material can then be returned to the earth as compost or mulch. Nothing harmful is discarded into the environment. This sustainable and eco-friendly natural dyeing method harmonises perfectly with Pagram’s life-style in the Otways hinterland. She is an eco-colour convert.

Pagram exhibits locally and further afield: hand-stitched art cloths, graphite drawings, framed textiles, eco-printed lengths of pure silk, artist’s books and mixed media artwork.

It’s all over Red Box, Baby Blue

A bright winter’s night (detail)

Irene Pagram’s exhibition month at WINDOWSPACE- BEEAC will include a discussion of eco-printing methods.

Free floor talk on Saturday 17 February at 2pm.

All welcome.

Imminent local events:

As part of the 17-18 March 2018 Colac-Otway Arts Trail  Irene Pagram will have a weekend pop-up studio at Echidna House, Kawarren Reserve, 2 Kawarren East Road Kawarren VIC 3249

Pagram teaches handmade recycled papermaking to small groups. The next workshop is at Gellibrand Community House 10 February 2018

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