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image icon 'Raddle', 1984

'Raddle', 1984
Art Gallery of South Australia


This is a sculpture made from jute woolpack, dry raddle (red ochre), horse grease, steel pack hooks and jute binding. Made in 1984 by Antony Hamilton (1955-), the work consists of a folded and flattened cloth bag and two U-shaped claw-like hooks that appear to have been carefully placed on top. The bag is made from jute fabric and has thick stitching on the facing outer edges and a rough textured surface. The claw-like hooks have strips of jute material wound around most of the U-shape, leaving the sharp ends of the hooks exposed. The bag and the material around the hooks both are the same red-brown colour.

Educational value

This resource is useful because it:

  • is a work by Antony Hamilton, described as an artist who focuses on tales of the Australian outback, both real and imaginary - Hamilton grew up on a sheep property near Euroa in Victoria; he studied at the South Australian School of Art (1976-78) and after completing his studies worked briefly at the Nullarbor Station Roadhouse near the South Australian-Western Australian border, where he explored the area in his spare time; from 1981 to 1983 he worked from a studio in Adelaide on art projects related to sheep shearing; in 1986 he received a grant to research the shearing industry and the use of camels within outback SA, and travelled along the margins of European pastoral settlement as far north as the Strzelecki Desert and Cooper Creek; in 1989 he made trips to Cooper Creek, tracking the fateful journey of the Burke and Wills expedition (1860-61); in 1989 he bought land at Beltana, in the mid-north of SA between Lake Torrens and the Flinders Ranges, where he continues to live from time to time
  • is an assemblage of found objects - at art school Hamilton became interested in a contemporary European movement called Fluxus (emerged early 1960s), which aimed to break down the frontiers between the arts and life, and in the work of German artist Joseph Beuys (1921-86), who proposed, through his practice, that all aspects of life could be permeated by and changed through creativity; like the French artist Marcel Duchamp (1887-1968), Beuys used found objects in his art and other unconventional 'non-art' materials, particularly felt and fat, to emphasise his idea that any object, material or 'action' (as he liked to call his works) had the potential to communicate stories or express intellectual freedom
  • demonstrates how Hamilton adapted ideas and theories about art to communicate his own beliefs - everything in 'Raddle' is a found object; the claw-like hooks are wool-bale hooks traditionally used to 'man-handle' large and heavy bales of wool; the bag is a jute sack once used in wool sheds across Australia to bag fleece; both the jute sack and binding on the hooks have been coloured with raddle, a reddish chalk still used to mark wool bales and live sheep; the application of the raddle to the jute sack plays with the idea of marking the sack in the same way as sheep
  • is one of a number of works in which Hamilton explored aspects of the history and symbolism of the Australian sheep industry - in 1997 the artist was invited to create an installation in a large historic woolshed on Arkaba Station near Hawker in the lower Flinders Ranges, SA; the resulting work, 'Raddle man' (1997), was a sculptural array of jute woolpacks (mostly hand-coloured by the artist with raddle), sticks of raddle and a large wool-bag hook; the folded forms of the arranged wool sacks deliberately imitated the folded strata of the nearby Elder's Range, which was visible through a shearing shed window
  • is an example of Hamilton's ability to use everyday (and often discarded) objects to create associations for people - these have the capacity to evoke memories or to offer reminders of the enduring mythologies of the Australian bush; the glory days of the sheep industry and the big 'sheds' have faded from the Flinders Ranges and other areas of pastoral Australia, but Hamilton has rescued a few telling objects from a dusty death in an unseen corner of a local history museum to re-present them in 'Raddle' as some kind of sacred objects laid out as if for a special ceremony
  • references Indigenous Australian culture - the close similarity between the reddish-brown raddle colour mixed with grease and red ochre as traditionally used by the local Adynyamathanha peoples of the Flinders Ranges region, has suggested to some art writers that the raddle in Hamilton's work is a form of 'whitefella ochre'.