Name: Doolmarria Louise Mengil
Doolmarria Louise Mengil - Being part of the Canning Stock Route Project [ORAL HISTORY]
Synopsis: Louise talks about her experience as an emerging curator on the Canning Stock Route Project. She explains how she has learned how to look at a painting, and about mapping paintings to the CSR. She talks about the curatorial process and what it has been like working with Wally, Terry and Hayley. She says curating is like a sport - it's competitive. She talks about her hopes for the future and how the curators have helped each other: we're all inspiration to each other.
Language spoken: English
Catalogue number: CSROH_189_Louise_Mengil
Interviewed By: Clint Dixon
Recorded by: Clint Dixon
Location Recorded: Old Masonic Hall, Nedlands
Cultural Protocols: PUBLIC ACCESS - VERBAL CONSENT
Clint Dixon: Can you introduce yourself?
Louise Mengil: My name’s Louise Mengil. I’m 24, on Saturday. My skin group is Nangala [?] and I live in Kununurra.
CD: Since the last meeting, what have you learnt?
DLM: Heaps. I’ve learnt how to look at paintings in a different version, I’ve learnt how to compare works that are emerging, I can tell an emerging artist from a well known artist, so I’ve learnt heaps since the last trip.
CD: Can you explain how you did things differently? Mapping?
DLM: Ok, well that’s all new to me as well, but it’s all part of the experience that I’m learning. So, it was … laying the map of the Canning Stock Route was a layout to where the paintings fit in, and where the stories came in. So when we did that it was more to see what we had to play with, basically, so what paintings we could see were in each area and which country and how it related … yeah, so basically how it related to the Canning Stock Route and how we go about putting it into the exhibition.
CD: Out of the 100 plus paintings, how many are left?
DLM: Seventy-five paintings we’ve actually chosen, so far - without the paintings that haven’t come from the art centres yet, so there’s more to come and we’re thinking of having eighty paintings in the show, so we’re going to compare the new works with what we’ve got now and if it’s stronger than some work which means we have to take some out, so we can replace them.
CD: What's it like working with Wally?
DLM: It’s amazing. I’ve learnt so much from Wally, I mean, I practically now do the gallery presentation in our art centre. So, going from not knowing how to look at painting and then coming down here, learning within a week, learning so much and then going back and having that little bit more knowledge to be able to get to where I am now is huge. But Wally is an inspiration for me, he’s a hard worker, he’s like a guidance, he shows us, he explains to us, he sort of like … he doesn’t leave it all up to us. So he’s basically like a really good teacher at guidance.
CD: What's it like working with Terry and Hayley?
DLM: Personally I think they’re great and I like everything about them. They’re two different people, Hayley is very quiet and shy but also educated in a different way. They’re both older than me and they have a little bit more knowledge in the cultural background than what I have. Yeah, working close with them is good, so, I have no problems.
CD: And working with Terry?
DLM: Um … he’s funny. He’s a bit competitive in some ways, like, I consider him as a mentor as well but also a competitor, it’s sort of like doing a sport, like … doing this is like a sport as well for me. And me trying to tie in with what he knows is really, really hard, but it’s good because I learn a lot from him as well.
CD: How do you choose your paintings?
DLM: I tend to choose my paintings through connections. So I connect through a painting, it mightn’t even be by an artist who is famous, it could be an artist who’s just started off. For instance, Hayley Atkins, I connected to her paintings because she had this emotion that goes through it and I felt it from just looking at it and … when I first seen it I didn’t even know it was hers, and then when I asked it was like, it’s Hayley’s, and it was like, wow. You know, she’s got a natural … she’s a natural artist, so ... it’s more a connection thing for me, not what it looks like.
CD: You don’t go by a strong visual or stories behind the painting?
DLM: Yeah, stories definitely and um … it’s got all to do with my feelings. I guess I could appreciate a painting on my wall if I can connect and feel the emotions, the strength of it, if it’s … if it’s just something that I can see and it looks pretty there’s sort of no touch to it. Yeah, it’s more a feeling than a story background. So, yeah.
CD: How much do you know about the CSR now?
DLM: Well I know that it happened a hundred years ago and that all these horrible events that happened, about how people were moved up and down the Canning Stock Route. How a famous, painter, artist, Rover Thomas, how he ended up in Turkey Creek, or Warmun as people say. I’ve learnt heaps, considering I didn’t know anything.
CD: What were some of the funniest things that have happened?
DLM: I don’t really know, I think every day is a laugh for me. Maybe because … oh, there was one instance where Clint was bouncing around doing a ballerina dance and John singing along to it – I think that’s the most funniest thing.
CD: Where do you see yourself after the project finishes?
DLM: After the whole project? I see myself with a degree, I see myself with accreditation, with a … curator’s background and hopefully able to have the experience and knowledge to run the art centre in Kununurra.
CD: Can you tell us about your favourite painting?
DLM: The artist is Clifford Brooks, we don’t actually know what the story is, but it’s to do with the Canning Stock Route, it’s ochre based, which I’m … it’s a personal thing for me as well because where I come from ochre is used for practically everything – art, artefacts, ceremony, everything. So, it’s personal for me, but the strength of the painting and just to see the fusion of the ochre, or pigments, how it stood up against acrylics was amazing to see, I didn’t even know it was ochre until they told me.
CD: How do you help each other? [The young curators]
DLM: It works three ways. I help Hayley in trying to come out and be a little bit more … coz I can see there’s more to Hayley than what she does. I mean, I used to be that person at one stage, and um, we encourage Hayley to talk about stuff because she has every right to. She has history, background with the Canning Stock Route and it’s nice to be … she’s got strong emotions and feelings about what happened, about her country, about her family, so I sat down with her and just said express all your feelings, but use it towards anyone that wants to know about it basically, and she did, she was, wow, you know, I didn’t think she could speak that much but she did a whole day of talking and she interacted with about everyone who came through that door. And when I seen her do that I had to tell Terry to step back a bit and let her go, let her have that chance and that experience to sort of open up a bit more.
Whereas Terry, he sort of was an encouragement for me, he always used to encourage me, ‘look, don’t be shy, get up there and do an oral presentation’. There was a time last year, or in the last meet that we had, one of our artists had an exhibition down here and she wanted me to do a speech for the opening and I was like no, no, it’s so embarrassing, I can’t do it, I’d choke, and Terry was like ‘don’t worry about who’s there. Think about your grandmother, think about the work and think about your voice, tell them what you’re here to tell them’. So, he’s more of an encouragement to me, and it sort of goes down to Hayley. So I’m sort of in the middle and it’s really nice. We’re all inspiration for each other, like the whole team is great. I think that this whole project is an awesome experience for me, I see a lot of hard working people, I see fun people as well and people who’s just very laid back which I like, so, yeah.
CD: How did you get involved with FORM and the CSR project?
DLM: Well, it was funny. The position I’m in now was supposed to be for another arts broker within the arts centre. He couldn’t make it, due to whatever his excuse was, and Cathy approached me, our manager at the art centre approached me and asked me if I wanted to do it, because she didn’t want to pass up the opportunity, and I was like, well, I don’t even know what you’re talking about but I’ll go along anyway. And I’m actually glad that I did because I’m enjoying it, I’m learning stuff, I’m having experience. It’s great, it’s a great opportunity and I’m grateful that it happened to me.
CD: What's it like working with Clint?
DLM: Very fun, he’s very funny. There’s not a day you don’t go without laughing.
Provenance: This material is sourced from Ngurra Kuju Walyja — the Canning Stock Route Project, which was initiated in 2006 by FORM and developed in partnership with Birriliburu, Kayili, KALACC, Mangkaja, Martumili, Ngurra, Papunya Tula, Paruku IPA, Warlayirti and Yulparija artists and art centres.