Perspectives: Jon Cattapan and eX de Medici
eX de Medici (b.1959)
eX de Medici lives in Canberra and works as an artist, and as a tattooist. She completed an undergraduate degree in visual arts at the Canberra School of Art and since the early 1980s has worked in photography, photomedia, printmaking, performance and painting. De Medici has always been interested in experimental and collaborative art projects, contributing to the Bitumen River Gallery Collective and later was a founding member of the Canberra Contemporary Art Space.
After receiving a grant from the Australia Council in 1989, she moved to California in the United States to study tattooing. A year later she returned to Australia and throughout the 1990s, focussed on tattooing, researching its history and opening her own studio. In the late 1990s, de Medici started drawing on massive sheets of paper with watercolour, or pencil, interspersing delicate images of flora and fauna with emblems of conflict: weapons, helmets, skulls, bullets, and swastikas. In 1999, she was an artist-in-residence at the CSIRO Entomology Division, working with the Australian National Insect Collection, developing her synonymous style of overlaying moths onto weapons.
De Medici is represented in national and state art galleries, has been the recipient numerous awards and grants and had solo exhibitions at Heide Gallery of Modern Art and the Mornington Peninsula Regional Gallery.
The jungle … it just came alive
eX de Medici was deployed to the Solomon Islands during the wettest weeks of the year. The continual, drenching rain meant there was no chance of completing paintings or sketches out-of-doors. Instead, she took hundreds of photographs across Guadalcanal: former battle sites and new military bases; artillery, aircraft, weapons, vehicles, and unexploded ordnance (UXO); ADF personnel on patrol, Royal Tongan Marines, and Solomon Islanders. De Medici kept a personal journal throughout the commission, recording her observations, her experiences, and the stories from the people she met. She also read widely, including the national paper, the Solomon Star, British protectorate diaries, and histories and the Second World War memoirs of former US Marines.
Back in her Canberra studio, de Medici worked from photographs displayed on a computer screen. She does not usually work with the human figure, nor is painting from photographs her preferred style. Yet the culmination of personal experience and extensive research has resulted in a series designed to tell stories of the past and present: the effects of colonisation; the wreckage left over from the Second World War; and foreign investment in the islands’ natural resources. The watercolours and brush, pen and ink drawings are often a “crush” of several photographs – a ploy designed to merge the historical and current events informing Ramsi.