Belinda Casey, 24 August – 7 September

The objective of my project was to investigate the Tasmanian-Cornish connection by exploring my own trace through the representation of my clothing upon the Cape Cornwall landscape. As it was not practical to transport my painting equipment from my home in Tasmania, I approached the residency as a research and development opportunity in preparation for a solo exhibition at the Top Gallery, Salamanca Arts Centre, in Hobart, Tasmania, Australia in May 2020.

Whilst based at Brisons Veor I was fascinated to read about the lives of the “Bal Maidens”, women who worked for the Cornish Tin Mines during the 18th and 19th Centuries. I visited both the Geevor Tin Mine and the Museum of Cornish Life at Helston where I discovered examples of their bonnets (or “Gooks”) and shoes on display. I was struck by the ephemeral nature of what remained of the lives of these hard-working women: headwear and shoes as opposed to the enduring quality of the remaining brick and stone structures upon the Cape Cornwall mining landscape which were presumably built by men. The Bal Maidens’ ghostly presence seemed all around me at Cape Cornwall, prompting me to consider the often incomplete and intangible nature of women’s histories as opposed to men’s, together with the transience of human life in the face of nature.

The Cornish presence also permeates the Tasmanian landscape. Cornish emigration to Tasmania in the late 19th Century saw the establishment of coalmines in the “Cornwall” district in the island’s North East. These people’s traces remain as abandoned mining towns, Cornish place names and in our graveyards. I was intrigued by whether the Bal Maidens may have also emigrated to Tasmania. Prior to departing for Cornwall in the UK, I spent a night in an ex-mining cottage in Cornwall in Tasmania, discovering old aprons and fancy work suggesting the presence of a woman who might once have lived there. Who was this woman and what was her story? Could she have been one of my Cornish Bal Maidens?

This led me to reflect upon my own trace upon both the Cornish and Tasmanian landscapes: here was I, a native of Tasmania, walking upon the same rocks as my Cornish counterparts, over a century later. Are my hats and shoes all that will remain of my life in one hundred years hence?