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‘The Stoat and the Serpent Queen’ presents a collection of recent artist books by Australian artist Jazmina Cininas. For these one-off creations, printed ephemera such as used business envelopes, packaging and redundant encyclopaedia illustrations are collaged narratives of cross-cultural transformation and migration, incorporating unconventional approaches to binding and page construction.
The books draw on Baltic motifs and references, interspersed with antipodean imagery and/or alluding to trans-global voyages, reflecting the artist’s cultural heritage as the Australian-born daughter of post-WWII Lithuanian refugees. The visual narratives allude to ongoing trans-national migrations that not only impact an individual’s identity but also continually adjust a country’s cultural make-up. The reconfigured motifs from both the northern and southern hemispheres challenge the notion of static national or cultural identity, rather presenting these in a state of flux and open to re-negotiation. Such themes are highly topical in an era of Brexit and the current political re-evaluations of Australia’s immigration policy. The now redundant Soviet motifs are also a potent reminder that even the most powerful nations are susceptible to incursions and change.
Source material for the books was gathered during a 2017 residency at the Estonian Printing and Paper Museum in Tartu, supplemented by decommissioned books from the Melbourne-Lithuanian library, charity shop finds and the steady stream of business envelopes that carry bills to the artist’s letterbox. Along with themes of transformation and migration, the books consider the capacity for materials to drive content and structure, offering novel possibilities for re-imagining everyday printed ephemera. The use of recycled materials also opens new possibilities for engaging with more sustainable art-making practices.