The Creative Legacy of Edna Walling

Curated by Lisa Byrne            photo credit: Andrew Curtis                                                            ArtSpace at Art Realm, Maroondah City Council . 19 Sept – 12 Nov 2017

“We had collected a few native plants, which we felt may help to prevent their possible extinction, for even now the land on which they grew is being built upon.”                        Edna Walling, 2008. The Happiest Days of My Life. page 72

This installation references, in part, the largess of Walling’s vision, the substantial planning and collaborative labour involved in constructing her gardens within a male dominated industry. In 1947/8, Walling built her holiday shack, ‘The Chalet’ at Eastern View along the Great Ocean Road with the assistance of friends, Rosamond Dowling, Joan Niewand (Twid) and Alistair Smith, on a difficult site with a 1:3 fall.

Walling’s book, ‘The Happiest Days of My Life’ is the catalyst for my installation. Walling writes with joy witnessing a friend hand-build a small pot from clay, firing and filling it with a local native plant species, Thomasia petalocalyx (Paper Flower). Walling and Twid transplanted the Paper Flower from Moggs Creek and its descendants still thrive at both sites. ‘The Chalet’ was subsequently burnt in the fires of the 1960’s, as were two other residences during Walling’s lifetime.

BUILT: for Rosa and Twid with love is a memorial to Walling’s legacy, referencing the twin roles of destruction and regeneration that fire has played in this country. This installation involved the artists friends, acquaintances and members of the community coming together to make small clay pots that were subsequently pit fired, a process that burns the clay unpredictably, echoing the effects that fire had on Walling’s life, the bush and many others living along the Great Ocean Road.

Walling’s legacy is characterized by two things that proved remarkably adaptive; her talent for ongoing friendship, working with others to create the whole, and her energy and advocacy for planting indigenous species. In the latter she was an environmental visionary ahead of her time, introducing natives to the built environment as early as the 1950’s, and bringing a uniquely Australian aesthetic into being.

BUILT: for Rosa and Twid with love                                                                                                pit fired clay pots    1.2m x 4.8m     2017

The Chalet                                                                                                                            screenprint on paper    4.5m x 0.5m    2017



I am grateful to everyone who made a pot for BUILT, for without your contribution this project would not have been realized. A big thank you to the communities of Wyreena Community Arts Centre, Croydon, Maroondah, Eastern View, Airey’s Inlet, Anglesea, and Spensley Street Primary School, Clifton Hill. Lauris Grant and curator Lisa Byrne have been instrumental in creating classes, workshops and bisque firings. Thank you to RMIT PIP Print Studio, Martin Swanson from WildTech Nursery, the installation staff at ArtSpace, Charlotte Carter and John Waters for the many bags of sawdust. Melinda Lewis and Strobe Driver assisted Dr Dawn Whitehand, who generously created a specific pit firing for these pots.

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