Snakes and Ladders

Helen Tiernan

Snakes and Ladders by Helen Tiernan


Helen Tiernan
Snakes and Ladders
oil on canvas
180 x 330 cm (triptych)

signed lower right: Tiernan
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Helen S. Tiernan Storied Country, Lauraine Diggins Fine Art, Melbourne, 22 October - 18 November 2022

Further Information

In Tiernan’s monumental work Snakes and Ladders she references Indigenous Law through picking up on the Seven Sisters and Rainbow Serpent Dreamings. The Sisters are visible in the flying fish-tailed woman Spirit figures and the Serpents as writhing snakes sculptured in mulga wood. With a subtle reference to the wholistic vision of the famous quote by Emily Kame Kngwarreye, “ I paint the lot”, is her monumental gridded board game - Snakes and Ladders.  For this game of chance, players climbed ladders of ‘knowledge’ or descended snakes into ‘darkness, with ‘good’ and ‘bad’ outcomes simply often a matter of chance - confronting life-lessons, not unlike the teachings of the Dreaming to the next generation.

Further references include the serpents allusion to winding physical waterways as well as digital pathways. The reference to the Seven Sisters Dreaming is etched into the standing stones in the lower right, with the use as traditional cultural instruments of astronomy.

Snakes and Ladders brings together the past and the future of cross-cultural histories of indigenous and non-indigenous, with a focus on the cosmos and navigation, from Indigenous Dreaming to the modern space, with a rocket ship in the corner, leading to questions of identity and our place in the world.


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