Impressions of Darwin celebrates cultural diversity and unity. It draws on Dowell’s previous, smaller scaled Tin Lids (2015) work in which a number of square shaped vintage tea canister lids were painted indigo and assembled in a loose grid. The tin lids reference Dowell’s ancestry in the Docklands of London. For Dowell, the lids are an expression of cultural origin (‘tin lids’ being Cockney slang for ‘kids’) as well as cultural and material exchange.
For Impressions of Darwin, Dowell’s tin lids were used to make an imprint into clay. The abstracted number and letter forms make a ground for other imprinted objects and indigo paint and resin coating. Dowell produced almost 1,600 clay tiles during the process. Dowell writes:
The similarity and diversity within the tiles echoes the human condition. We are all different; we are all the same. The numbers imprinted on the lids have their own narrative and are suggestive of human barcodes, numbering of individuals, of the loss of individuality.
In the making of Impressions of Darwin Dowell invited friends and family to choose an object to imprint into a clay tile. The work is a rich tapestry of local, personal and communal memorabilia. In the early stages of production, Dowell notes, “I have used quite a bit of the Casuarina tree and objects found on the beach here [Nightcliff] to imprint, giving the piece a more local flavour.” Objects for imprinting would eventually grow to include jewellery, linocuts, weavings, dolls, natural forms – shells, pandanus nuts, dried peel, a soy sauce container and the kitchen sink plug, among many others.
Dowell envisages this work to have particular appeal to children who will respond to and recognise its varying shapes. Dowell writes:
Blue [Indigo] is a celestial colour, the colour of the sky, infinity, spirituality and for many the colour of heaven. It is a peaceful colour, and I am hoping the viewer gets a feeling of calm and peacefulness from the overall look of the mural as well as wanting to go close and examine the differences.
Alison Dowell, b. 1959
Impressions of Darwin, 2016
indigo painted and imprinted ceramic tile panels
Alison Dowell is a Darwin artist with a versatile community art practice. She works with a range of mediums; from large-scale collaborative mural projects to miniature sculpture, along with painting and other two dimensional mediums. Much of Dowell’s work celebrates Top End tropical life with a focus on Darwin’s natural beauty and depictions of local attractions and everyday settings. Dowell’s work can also be strongly driven by issues of social justice. She is a frequent exhibitor in Darwin’s annual Rights On Show Awards exhibition to commemorate International Human Rights Day. In 2013, Dowell was awarded the winner of Rights On Show. In 2015, Dowell was also the winner of the Pine Creek Art Acquisition Prize.