Darwin artist Winsome Jobling moved to the Northern Territory in 1982 after completing art training in Sydney and began teaching at Belyuen Aboriginal community on the Cox Peninsular near Darwin.
The experience was a life-changing event; there she learned to make dilly bags, baskets and natural dyes, went hunting and fishing with the local women and attended ceremonial events.
Jobling's work is informed by her considerable botanical and technical knowledge, which is complemented by an enquiring and creative process of thought and action. Her practice is intrinsically linked to the environment on intellectual, aesthetic and physical levels.
Jobling is indebted to the Belyuen community for her experience and acknowledges this cultural awakening as an important point in her art career.
Her knowledge about plants is extensive not only in terms of species, habitats and ecosystems, but also historical and economic links to objects made from plants. The basis of Jobling's philosophy is that human beings are part of the natural environment and therefore have a responsibility to treat all things with respect and to hold them in the same regard as we do ourselves. With the natural environment under increasing pressure Jobling believes the relationship between people and their environment and the existence of concurrent knowledge systems is fundamental to human existence.
This seminal experience at Belyuen has informed Jobling's unique and insightful art practice. It marks the beginning of a lifetime of exploration combining elements of cultural awareness, history, natural science, observation, philosophy, skill and creativity.
Jobling is a prolific and engaging artist. Her participation in exhibitions and art events are always wholehearted and noteworthy. Her practice extends from teaching spinifex papermaking across the Barkly to developing papermaking as an alternative income in West Timor.
Although she had begun studying papermaking at art school in Sydney, it was at Belyuen that Jobling first started experimenting with making paper from plants. The first papers were created from species used for making dilly bags and baskets, these included sisal, sand palm, banyan, coastal hibiscus and sedge.
Jobling has exhibited nationally and internationally since 1981. Her printed works on paper, paper installations and sculptural forms extend traditional notions of papermaking and have attracted an enthusiastic and appreciative audience. Her art is tactile and sensual, often contrasting elements of texture, translucence, fragility and strength.
Now with 30 years experience Jobling has experimented with around 60 local plant varieties both native and exotic. She has developed unique systems of papermaking and ranks highly amongst artisan paper-makers worldwide. She has presented at international forums and workshops including the Watermarks conference in Cleveland USA in 2012 (International Association of Hand Papermakers). Through these presentations Jobling has demonstrated distinctive techniques she has developed such as layering of paper pulp, use of phosphorescent materials and watermarks in paper.
For Jobling the papermaking process is encompassing. The methodology involves historical, environmental and cultural research, sourcing, harvesting and even nurturing plants. Each plant produces a certain quality of paper with different properties and can be blended to achieve a specific result.
The combined disciplines of papermaking and art convey insights into northern Australian life and culture. Collecting and incorporating material for fibre-based production involves an intimate knowledge of the environment, political perception and cultural awareness.