Notes on the making of Wayfaring

Sarah Tomasetti, 2019

Wayfaring is about ways of being in the landscape that become enshrined in culture. This series of works shows various points along the pilgrimage route around Mount Kailash on the Tibetan Plateau. Pilgrims perform the Kora around the holy mountain, 108 circumbulations in Buddhist scripture is believed to lead to enlightenment. As the peak has never been scaled, Kailash from the Air is drawn from an open source drone image, its wavering view a subtle analogy for the age of the Anthropocene, in which the human gaze rises along with our multiplying presence. The other views are all taken from the ground.

The unique state etched works were made during a collaborative residency with artist Heather Hesterman at the Art Vault in Mildura in 2018. We put dry fresco skins through the press, altering the pressure until a balance was found between printing the image and crushing the fragile plaster skin. I then handcoloured the etchings in oil. Both the processes of lifting the large paintings off the wall and putting the skins through the press involves some risk of disintegration, so evocative of rapid change in the mountains. These works bring into being the play between the eternal and the ephemeral, the layering of fine marks on the limestone surface that can be ruptured in single process.

I have long been attracted to tying and painting knots and felt them to be akin to the landscape in some way. The following passage by Tim Ingold alludes to the connection…

“What then would a world be like that is knotted rather than assembled, enchained or contained? One possible vision comes from the writings of Japanese architect Akihisa Hirata. He describes how a alpine view, of pleated mountains swathed in clouds, shot through with beams of sunlight, led him to think of an entangled order, in which mountains and clouds draw one another into configurations that cause ever further tangles yielding a scene of life imbued with unalterable complexity. Is there a connection between thinking-through-knotting and this understanding of the inhabited world as the interpenetration of earth and sky, with its crumples, creases and folds…?”

p.18 Ingold, Tim The Life of Lines. Routledge 2015.

Within the micro world of my practice there is also a material connection, as the knots are tied from the strips of muslin torn off the long length that is adhered to the fresco wall with latte di calce or lime-milk before laying the plaster. It is the cloth layer that allows me to detach the painting once the process of slow curing is complete.

There is no way to definitively answer this question. Instead, Tomasetti offers us her own meditation on this remarkable place at the roof of the world – a meditation that begins with the painstaking creation of the fresco surface and continues through the act of tracing the rock face with a ‘devotional fidelity’1, using a sequence of precise stippled, drawn and etched marks that are nonetheless constantly interrupted by the random cracks and fissures in the gradually curing surface.

And so in contemplating these monumental and fragile works of eternal yet rapidly changing ecosystems, we, the viewers, are also called to pilgrimage, and to consider the larger task of once more relocating the sacred within the natural world on which we so depend.