Joondalup Community Invitation Art Award: Uncomfortable truths in Susan Roux’s winning Wives

Wives by artist Susan Roux. Judges voted it the overall winner in the City of Joondalup Community Invitation Art Award 2018.
Wives by artist Susan Roux. Judges voted it the overall winner in the City of Joondalup Community Invitation Art Award 2018.

IT could be part of a giant sea anemone.

An evocation of tentacles swaying in the water. Of mesmerising colour.

But Susan Roux’s Joondalup invitation art award-winning piece is in black and white, as if stranded on a beach. And its title, Wives, suggests the artist wants us to think about her stitch and paper-covered ‘tentacles’ differently.

They in fact represent wives. A first wives club? No – women taken as ‘second wives’ in the 17th century when the Dutch came ashore at Cape Town, WA and Jakarta, as Roux explains.

“These are body-sized bolster cushions,” she says touching her work.

“The colonisers came from the Netherlands; they were very uncomfortable sleeping on the ship so they slept with a bolster cushion.

“When they landed they took a second wife.

“The first wife stayed in the Netherlands.

“So it was the comfort of the man and the discomfort and trauma of the second wife.”

“This is stitch on traumatic landscapes.”

Roux, who came to Perth from South Africa six years ago and lives in Wembley Downs, has covered the bolster cushions with Canson paper and thread to create a new tactile surface.

“The needle and the poking of the needle in the paper becomes an interplay between self and other,” she said.

“It’s very important to me to keep that connection all the time. So I’m making a new matter.

“Underlying all this is that I’m making cloth from paper like the British who were the colonisers with their cotton mills.”