Hot, dry nor-westerlies raised dust from farms a thousand kilometres away to fill my rainwater tanks. Wild fires ravaged 180,000 square kilometres and came to within a stone’s throw of ‘Fullers Earth’. Ferocious winds downed mature trees everywhere. Then, eventually to douse the uncontrollable bushfires came torrential rain and major flooding. Powerful forces of nature coalesced in a torrid three months of devastation.
I was on my last painting trip working towards this exhibition when the fires started. From my camp I watched the first billowing smoke. It was a portent of what was to come.
Before that trip was over I had painted smoke veiled scenes and glowing ash filled skies (alas they didn’t survive the culling process). In only one of the exhibited paintings is there reference to those unfolding events. I didn’t paint charred trees, blackened house remains or burnt paddocks. I have little enthusiasm for the grotesque, ugly or despairing, nor do I wish to reduce my work to mere record keeping. My creative energy flows when I visualise an interpretation that can bring forward the joyful, the inspiring and the uplifting aspects of what’s within sight.
Having said that, this collection is sprinkled with droughty parched landscapes, though none labour on the hardship of man or beast. They give me opportunities to celebrate harmonious colour, unique light and poetic rhythm in the stripped-down lines of the landscape.
How odd is it that we Australians continually try to impress with stories of man-eating, poisonous, scary creatures. Now it appears I am doing the same, albeit with recent natural events. But for all that I dwell on here about extremes, the overwhelming body of this collection knew nothing of those events. They were created in a wide diversity of landscapes, in all seasons and with my ever-present muse, light.
The excitement of teasing out new ways of seeing and capturing the ordinary and extraordinary in nature is more than enough to drive me on. I paint from life to immerse myself in all the nuances of the landscape, to develop a greater, more sensitive understanding, with insight.