LANDforms Exhibition Preview

Several friends, unable to come to my exhibition can view selected parts of the show online here. Many people relate to the bleached-out landscape of Lake Mungo and are haunted by it and, like me, have had quite a battle engaging with this amazing place as an archaeological, cultural and geological site.

I hadn’t set out to arrange artwork in a narrative sequence, however in the corridor of the gallery

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I’ve noticed that on both walls are images about sand, erosion and climate changes. The ancient climate change thousands of years ago at Mungo depicted in small etchings sit opposite slightly larger etchings in which I had depicted aspects of erosion around Point Roadknight that is being rapidly transformed by incoming tides.

The images depicting aspects of Mungo are part of a variable edition. That is, one plate is used many times and combined with chine-colle and collage with the result that each image is a one off. I get really bored printing an edition in the traditional way, same image repeated as reproduction. I’m ok with about four identical images then I get bored and my mood demands change and variety. I’m sure I’m not alone here.

The chine-colle can be transparent or semi-transparent letting through underneath layers or alternatively opaque or metal leaf.

Sometimes in bleached-out places like Mungo the air has a metallic quality that’s hard to explain but its ‘shiny’ and ‘thin’.

Somehow by applying metals leaf I think I’ve made the atmosphere look a bit heavy but it does shine.

Because I had once lived in Central Queensland I was ready for the blast of heat and sensory bodily exposure. There are no cosy elements here; streams in which to cool off or gorges or foliage for shade, just desertification and dryness.

My first trip here was like a return to that type of country when I used to look for small micro climates in endless expanses of brigalow and mulga trees or like trying to paint in a dry river bed and observe small details like rocks and detritus left behind after the Wet.

LANDforms Finishing Touches

The last painting, part of my exhibition titled LANDforms  to be shown at 69 Smith Street Gallery, Fitzroy, Melbourne was completed yesterday, apart from a few minor touches, after so many changes.

I began with a frottage on paper taken from the site in 2001 and incorporated it into a composition on canvas in my studio as a way to stay connected to this place.

Coming from a comfortable coastal village to camping in a remote desolation, from air heavy with ions to pink metallic like aluminium shiny air (words failing), from sparking cold ocean to dry creek beds. yellow dunes to burnt sienna plus pink sand dunes, I found it difficult to enter this landscape.

Working through this composition was quite frustrating as I kept changing the format. Part of the reason for this was the way in which I tried to combine a sense of vast distance and mirage, where time and space seem stretched, with a more intimate focus. The close focus on a dune and its formation demanded manipulation of the composition to integrate and combine contrasting time frames into the composition.

The stretched time, just finding an elusive distant horizon, the slow walking pace caused by desert sand and lack of obvious features in which to gauge position and space, forced my eye to search for a way to place myself on the land in order to find and image a viewing space. This mental space had aspects of observation as well as internal imaginings. A heightened alertness, ears casting about for familiar sounds was also a type of invisible safety boundary around myself, quite an unsettling, elemental primal feeling.

The dune looked almost personified in an early rendition, looking out at the viewer through a large eye-shape before I changed it back to horizontal landscape format where the frottage marks partly indicated the way the dune formed. My statement and focus became the parts of dune shaped by water and coloured by red soil but the up close look detracted from the sense of vastness in which the dotted appearance of dunes almost seemed to float in a heat haze.

Back to vertical and then focus on red drift of soil from the nearby hills and a small allusion to precipitation. When I adopted oil washes in many layers that concealed and revealed different parts of the eroded dune I felt that I was getting somewhere. Atmospheric perspective, a flattened sense of space and depictions of gouged and layered sand all came together but also retained their specific qualities.

It has taken me ages from a 2001 frottage on paper to the 2014 and 2015 paintings and collage etchings to come to terms with this haunted place. A palimpsest-like place with a Wabi Sabi type of aesthetic, washed and eroded away, an archaeology that discovered traces of the original inhabitants who lived at least 40,000 years ago. To modern eyes it is hard to see the ‘map’ beneath the surface without samples of ancient tools from archaeological digs and fossilised footprints.

Then there is a memento mori aspect to Mungo when I consider the Mungo time frame and that of a life time. As well as witnessing what a changing climate can do to a place that was once inland seafarers’ home country and now is arid desert country. When I first tried to enter this country, firstly in 1989 and then 2001, the emotion I felt on both occasions is what I call a memento mori moment. Not an awe-filled sensation like the sublime of the Romantics or something too somber like pondering mortality but a freedom, an insignificance and at the same time being very alive.

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LANDforms Exhibition Preparation

Lately my printmaking has stopped and paintings for my exhibition in October are demanding attention. The last one that is not quite finished is about how dunes form in Mungo National Park in NSW. Sand, an earthy pink colour ‘painted’ by red hills to the west from which fine dust blown across the dry lakebed, is sculpted into pyramid shapes by rain falling that seeps with the red dust into the porous surface. My painting titled Red Earth Trajectory at Mungo, 2015 is about imagining the process.



While it dries the edge of other large canvasses needed touching up.

The artworks drying are 3 mixed media canvasses about Katherine Gorge in Nitmiluk National Park, NT and aspects of its geomorphology.

Raku Sculpture Elephants at Muddy’s She-shed

I couldn’t resist taking home with me one of these elephant sculptures when we had a tee pee firing at an informal opening of Muddy’s She-shed during the Surf Coast Shire Arts Trail.


The sculptor, Maggie Jean, a ceramicist/sculptor and now printmaker also has a small elephant sculpture collection that caught my eye this morning. Displayed together they appeared to trumpet ‘conversation’ to each other. I added my sculpture to the couple for fun.