Two cities, shared identity

Carmen Grostal has returned to her old love, Footscray Community Arts Centre, to help celebrate the centre’s 40th birthday by curating an exhibition that explores identity, heirlooms and heritage.

Linkages, Knots and Graftings, a selection of three connecting exhibitions, features Melbourne Western suburbs artist Megan Evans and Sydney artist Nelia Justo. Both will exhibit multidisciplinary works around a shared theme that resonates closely
with Footscray’s community.

“Footscray has a diverse culture. This exhibition about identity is responsive to that community,” said Carmen.

Carmen was the centre’s Ethnic Arts Officer from 1985 to 2004, working with local refugee and migrant communities to raise the profile and recognition of their arts and culture.

A child of Spanish parents, born and raised in France and schooled in Poland, Carmen said her own mixed heritage has given her a fascination with multiculturalism and identity.

“I feel good in any kind of culture, any community,” said Carmen.

When Carmen was invited back to the centre as a guest curator for the birthday celebrations, she decided to draw together artists from two cities exploring the themes of heritage and identity that are close to her heart, but which will also resonate with the communities of Footscray.

Nelia Justo’s work references Marrickville, in Sydney’s inner west, an area similar to Footscray.

“Marrickville has almost the same ethnical composition as Footscray. Nelia’s work will engage this community by telling its stories,” said Carmen.

Local artist, Megan Evans, examines the traces of early colonial history in the identity of the artist and the impact of that history as it unfolds today.

Originally from Scotland and Ireland, Megan’s own ancestors were early colonisers. In the early 1980s Megan met and later married an Aboriginal man who was one of the stolen generation. Through her relationship with him, Megan began to understand
the full impact of colonisation in Australia.

Portraiture exhibition, Keloid, is the result of this exploration.

“I wanted to include Megan’s work because it is intimate but political. Keloid is a completely new series. It is exciting work which is still evolving,” said Carmen.

Linkages, Knots and Graftings runs 3 April to 18 May in the Roslyn Smorgon Gallery at Footscray Community Arts Centre, 45 Moreland Street.