Image: 24.5 x 49cm Paper: 39 x 66.5cm on Hahnemuhle 300gsm
Gara – String Figure
McCarthy collected 193 mounted string figures, now in the Australian Museum, Sydney. They were made by slipping the finished figure off the maker’s hands and affixing it to a cardboard support. The ephemeral nature of string figure making as a performance process, was thus turned into a fixed and stable two-dimensional form. These mounted figures, both strange and beautiful, the product of a cross-cultural encounter between Yolngu and western anthropology, have inspired a further exchange. This is the third series of prints made as a result of the Yirrkala community’s reconnection with the collection.
The prints were made using a soft-ground etching technique. First the string was made from the pounded and softened inner bark of Darraŋguḻk (Kurrajong) and then the separated fibres are twined on the thigh and then retwined into a two ply string. In Yirrkala, the string figure designs were transferred by the artists from their hands to a cardboard support, and then pressed and secured. In Yirrkala, they were placed on etching plates treated with a soft-ground medium, and run through the press, leaving an imprint capturing the fine textured detail of the bush string. The acid biting into the metal plate then made these marks permanent and replicable. In the lines of the figures can be read the controlled manipulation of the string to form a pattern, against which play the random energies of chance.