Whilst working in north-western Queensland during 1999, Mulcahy discovered the deserted site where a town had been, and the inspirational mining site of Mary Kathleen, and was immediately mesmerized by the silence, the energies and the atmosphere of this now decaying mine site and environment which had only two decades ago been the home and workplace of more than one thousand people with a wide range of supporting civic services. She decided then that the Mary Kathleen experience would become the focus of her future work.
Mary Kathleen is the name of the long-defunct uranium mine situated between Mt. Isa and Cloncurry in the north-west of Queensland. It began operating in 1958, but was closed down in 1963 by the owners of the day after initial contracts had been filled, and reopened to fulfil further contracts again in 1974, only to close finally in 1982. There had long been public outcry around the emotional subject of uranium mining. That level of emotional response is considerably less today, but still has the power to ignite significant public opinion. And while the very feminine name Mary Kathleen suggests both elegance and beauty, the reality was somewhat different. After 1982 the township was sold and removed, many of the buildings being relocated to towns throughout the north-west, leaving only bitumen roads and concrete slabs. The site was rehabilitated, but for many people, the spirit of this unique place lives on. For Jenny Mulcahy, it whispers of past times and murmurs of life’s eternal mysteries.
The works in this exhibition are divided into a number of categories. The rectangular ceramic and found metal sculptures relate to the ruins which were once a mighty and powerful part of the working mine, providing evidence to the rest of the world of its seeming strength and permanence. Now they are no more than decaying symbols of their former magnitude. Their ceaseless decay continues unabated, and echo Shelley’s poem “Ozymandias”… ‘Nothing beside remains. Round the decay of that colossal wreck, boundless and bare, the lone and level sands stretch far away’. Silence echoes through the years as that decaying ruin continually becomes subsumed into the rolling landscape; just a shrinking feature of another time which speaks softly of the impermanence of all things, and while we may think of our world as being changeless, these ruins remind us that we are no more than journeyers through a continually evolving landscape.
Extract from Catalogue Essay by Gordon Foulds