When Beverley Meldrum (Clothier) and Ashleigh Pugh came together at Baluk Arts in Mornington, they knew it was special. Notwithstanding an almost 35-year age gap, the two have become firm friends with an emotional connection that can only be described as deeply important.
Beverley is a Kokatha-Wirangu woman whose mob originated from the west coast of South Australia, while Ashleigh’s connections are through her father, who is a Noongar man from Western Australia. From different parts of Country they may have come, bringing incredibly different stories and creative talents to the artistic table, but this mentor-to-mentee relationship whereby the more experienced artist teaches the younger binds them intrinsically.
Langwarrin resident Ashleigh explains: “I’ve always expressed myself through art and began painting on saw blades when I was 12 years old. I love painting with pastels and acrylic on anything with texture and a bit of rust. I have always been attracted to landscapes and am inspired by nature, like Bev is. She has so much knowledge and skill and is so strong. She has opened my eyes to life and practice.”
She continues: “I’ve slowly been gathering information about my family and culture as my dad didn’t have much knowledge. I’m trying to find my path. Bev and art are helping me do that. We’ve only known each other since the beginning of 2019 but we connected straight away.”
Beverley has been creating art for more than 30 years now, mostly painting until she began at Baluk Arts. Since 2016 Beverley has been making jewellery from natural and found objects such as kelp, ghost net and gumnuts and has been living on the Mornington Peninsula on and off for the past 33 years. She continues: “I wasn’t brought up Aboriginal, although Dad showed us bush tucker and tracking and we did have big family reunions. He was treated badly growing up at the Koonibba Mission in South Australia because he wasn’t dark enough or light enough. He was in between. I’ve always had a relationship to Country and my people. It’s in the DNA. My work comes from the land. I’ll reuse anything and love creating with what I find in nature. Being a part of Baluk Arts showed me how to create jewellery and from there I have created my own unique style. Honestly I couldn’t survive without it now. It has been a staple throughout all the dramas and challenges in my life. Ashleigh and I come here and make and talk, or don’t talk. It’s a safe space.”
That may be so, but the work that both of these ladies create and exhibit locally, interstate and internationally, and at art fairs and in galleries, is organically exceptional. Born from the love of Culture and this amazing Country we all call home.