Joan Ross moves between mediums deftly; whether drawing, print, animation or virtual reality, it is impossible not to recognise her poignant works, not least for the hi-vis yellow which marks them. This insidious yellow—the yellow of safety warnings, of demolition crew vests, public wardens and terrified cyclists—is everywhere. It bestows upon its wearer some ambiguous authority to take up space; to take space.
For over 20 years, Ross has used this yellow to perform a literal highlighting of the violence of colonisation on First Nations peoples and Country. It burns and spills toxically through the hairs and skirts of colonial ladies who pick apart and rearrange a nature that they want only to own and control. It gathers grossly in the skies of stolen landscapes, some airborne disaster behind Glover’s curled trees. It alights the sails of the Empire’s deadly fleet. It seeps across picnic rugs and is ingested by flora and fauna.
The danger is that the metaphor is too apt, as the eye adjusts the yellow might be dumbly accepted, orders followed, danger averted—peoples, culture and country subject to mechanisms of control in the name of power’s safety—acknowledged for a moment and then again ignored. Battling her own complicity, Ross keeps working: more yellow, yellow under her fingernails, yellow traces throughout the studio, its everywhere, creeping.