Magical Golland is a faraway place where the history of coronations, royal marriages, battles and beheadings flowed from the imagination of Kathleen Rouse, a child of the late 19th century who grew up on Rouse Hill estate.
Acclaimed sculptor Alison Clouston was commissioned to respond to the real and imagined realm of Kathleen’s childhood worlds. The strange new world came together in Magical Golland, an exhibition at Elizabeth Bay House, a place where child’s play met art and nature met history.
In Magical Golland, Alison Clouston’s sculptural works were brought together with creatures from natural history collections and some objects from Kathleen’s domestic realm at Rouse Hill estate where the furniture breathed animal scents of horsehair, hide and horn, and the women preened their feathers and furs. Cloustons’ sculptures seemed to animate the inanimate from days gone past.
Although third generation Australian born, Kathleen envisaged her Golland as an English place, peopled by dukes, princes, lords and duchesses. In the exhibition, Golland took root in local soil. This Magical Golland had her duke as the Heraldic Falcon coiled from native grasses and clutching in its talon a sceptre of straws and bottle caps. The Crown, so powerful an emblem to Kathleen, was made from ephemeral grasses, Yass tussock and clustered Bathust burrs, crimson velvet became red checked flannelette. The Tube Bird toy was stitched and stuffed inner tube, regally plumed with Australian bustard feathers.
In Magical Golland, landscapes by Archibald Prize-winning painter Euan Macleod gave depth to a wardrobe that contained a country, a province inside a drawer. Exquisite tiny shoes from Kathleen’s dolls shared another wardrobe with horses’ iron footwear. Magical Golland also featured music from Sydney musician Boyd. Fragments of his composition were heard in a drawer of clarinet and birds or tiger quolls, or upon taking a seat on the magical furnishing where a sow sofa and her piglet footstools seemed to shift on their carved hooves as sounds emanated from within her upholstered flanks. An extraordinary entwinement of silvery Eucalyptus twigs climbed through the exhibition, regenerating in a room where children and their grown ups were invited to participate by adding their own twig constructions to the growing environment (before it disappeared up the chimney).
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