Fowlers Gap, Far West NSW – Landscape Painting

May 2017. The joy of slow travel, in this case a train journey over 13 hours from Sydney to Broken Hill. Across several NSW regions: the Blue Mountains in early morning mist and fog, across the farming regions of the central tablelands, the central west slopes and plains, five hours across the vast, what seemed to be never-ending plains. Sunset somewhere between Eurabalong West (population 70) and Ivanhoe (population 200). Far horizons red gold landscape.

Intensive six days of painting and art practice discussions at Fowlers Gap, a remote research station in the arid zone of NSW in the Barrier Ranges which form the border between NSW and South Australia. Located 112 kilometres north of Broken Hill. A working sheep station with an abundance of kangaroos, emus, goats, and bird life, with several studios for visiting artists. For this time of year, sublime weather, warm to hot dry still days, clear clean air.

First impression flatness, vast infinity of space. Need to focus on scale and details while trying to walk the fine line between realism and abstraction without tripping over entirely into either. Some of the artists discussed and other art references, NSW western regions and Central Australia, below.

Maybe too much fresh air out there, but came away with a simple question. Why not aim high and try to pull together the entire history of landscape painting? Symbols, fact, fantasy, ideal, natural, light, order (reference Landscape into Art, Kenneth Clark 1949, history of western landscape painting), swill it all around for long enough in the hope, in future, to achieve the probably impossible one shot action painting with a sense of place.

Locations
Fowlers Gap
The Tanks
The X Box Studio
Ochre House Studio
The Lake

Sense of Place

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Sunset on the plains from the train 22/5/2017

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Remains of a sheep pen at sunset 23/5/2017

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Far horizon from the X Box Studio, dusk 23/5/2017

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Far horizon from the tanks, painting location 24/5/2017

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X Box Studio, painting location 24/5/2017

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Near the X Box Studio, painting location 24/5/2017

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On the way to the Ochre House Studio, morning 25/5/2017

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The Ochre House Studio 25/5/2017

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Near the Ochre House Studio, painting location 25/5/2017

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Ochre House interior late afternoon 25/5/2017

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Snake attempting to eat over-sized lizard mid-afternoon 25/5/2017

 

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Early morning grazers near the cottage 26/5/2017

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The Lake painting location 28/5/2017

Sketches in ink, gouache, and acrylics

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Near the X Box Studio, gouache 24/5/2017

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From the X Box Studio, gouache 24/5/2017

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Section of ink scroll Ochre House 25/5/2017

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Near Ochre house studio, gouache 25/5/2017

20170526 Fowlers Gap Work in progress P1020765

The outdoor studio, 26/5/2017

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View from the cottage, acrylic, 26/5/2017

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View from the cottage, acrylic, 26/5/2017

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View from the cottage, acrylic, 28/5/2017

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The exhibition (the no smoking sign not mine) 27/5/2017

Art References

Broken Hill Regional Gallery 29/5/17
Henry James Johnstone, A Ford on the Acheron River (1881)
Lloyd Rees, Summer Morn Near Kiama (1945)
Lloyd Rees, The Pool (1946)
Emily Kame Kngwarreye, Wildflower Dreaming 2
Sidney Nolan, Little Boy Lost (1983)
John Olsen, Clarendon Spring Make Sure the Sun Wipes its Feet (1984)

Other landscape references

Gyokudo (Uragami) Frozen Clouds and Whirling Snow early 19th century
Uragami Gyokudo, Frozen Clouds and Whirling Snow, early 19th Century, Kawabata Collection, Kanagawa Prefecture

Friedrich (Caspar David) Monk on the Seashore (1808-10) Alte Nationalgalerie Berlin
Caspar David Friedrich, Monk on the Seashore (1808-10), Alte Nationalgalerie, Berlin

Hokusai (Katsushika) Tama River in Musashi Province 1830-32 MET
Katsushika Hokusai, Tama River in Musashi Province (Bushū Tamagawa), from the series Thirty-six Views of Mount Fuji (Fugaku sanjūrokkei), ca. 1830–32, MET

van Gogh (Vincent) Fishing Boats at Sea
Vincent van Gogh, Fishing Boats at Sea, 1888, Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum

Picasso (Pablo) Landscape with Two Figures) 1908, Musée Picasso, Paris
Pablo Picasso Landscape with Two Figures, 1908, Musée Picasso, Paris

Picasso (Pablo) Landscape 1972

Pablo Picasso Landscape, 1972, Musée Picasso, Paris
Exhibition: Picasso masterpieces from the Musée National Picasso, AGNSW Nov 2011 – Mar 2012

rouault-georges-solitude-1937
Georges Rouault, Solitude, 1937

Guston (Philip) Painting 1954 MoMA
Philip Guston, Painting, 1954, MoMA

Morandi (Giorgio) Still Life 1957 AGNSW
Giorgio Morandi, Still life, 1957, AGNSW

Art references NSW western regions and Central Australia

Streeton (Aurther Fires On 1891 AGNSW
Arthur Streeton, Fires On (Lapstone Tunnel, Blue Mountains), 1891

heysen-hans-the-hill-of-the-creeping-shadows-1929
Hans Heysen, The Hill of the Creeping Shadows, 1929

Rees (lloyd) Evening on the Bathurst Hills 1936
Lloyd Rees, Evening on the Bathurst Hills, 1936

Rees (Lloyd) Evening Landscape Orange 1943
Lloyd Rees, Evening Landscape, Orange, 1943

Drysdale (Russell) Road with Rocks (1949) AGNSW
Russell Drysdale, Road with Rocks, 1949

Nolan (Sidney) Salt Lakes, Wimmera, 1966
Sidney Nolan, Salt Lakes ,Wimmera. 1966

Nolan (Sidney) Desert Storm 1966 (1panel of 8)
Sidney Nolan, Desert Storm 1966 (1st panel of 8)

Williams (Fred) Lysterfield Landscape 1969 NGV
Fred Williams, Lysterfield Landscape, 1969

Boyd (Arthur) Rocky landscape with two figures, 1973, NGA
Arthur Boyd, Rocky landscape with two figures, 1973

Whiteley (Brett) 8 miles out of Cootamundra 8.28 pm 4.1.84 1984 (2)
Brett Whiteley 8 miles out of Cootamundra 8.28 pm 4.1.84, 1984

Ngal (Poly) Bush Plum Country 2002 NGA
Poly Ngal, Bush Plum Country, 2002

Cummings (Elizabeth) From the Two Tanks Fowlers Gap 2012
Elizabeth Cummings, From the Two Tanks Fowlers Gap, 2012

 

 

 

Palm Valley, Finke Gorge National Park, West MacDonnell Ranges, Northern Territory – Landscape Painting

May 2009, first field trip to Central Australia. The location of the camp in Palm Valley in the West MacDonnell Ranges was spectacular: the amphitheatre of massive eroded landforms, the gorges, palm trees, water bleached rocks, and deep red earth after a long dry period. Struggling with drawing and watercolour, after a couple of days in an attempt to loosen up a bit, picked up a piece of palm frond from the flood debris wrapped around a tree near my swag, rolled out some paper on the ground, poured out some ink, thought about traditional Chinese scroll painting, abstract expressionist action painting, gesture drawing, and got into a rhythm. An attempt at combining calligraphy and action painting. Within about ten minutes produced an ink scroll with landscape features from around Palm Valley (see below). A breakthrough at last. Still practicing this on most field trips over the past eight years. I take what’s left of that palm frond and use a roll of Chinese paper as my sketchbook.

There is usually a close encounter with wildlife on these field trips. Anyone who has stayed at a Central Australian national park camp site will have a dingo (Canis dingo) story. Fortunately dingoes will not approach anything taller than themselves. On the first night, savouring the fresh, clean, dry, cold, desert night air, an escape from frenetic city work life, stargazing, stretched out in a swag, deep sleep. Suddenly the sound of a loud siren. Thought I’d been in a car accident, bright light shining into my eyes, but when fully awake realised it was the full moon. Sat bolt upright to witness fellow painter’s swag levitate to the sound of another blood curdling howl. To put it politely, a shout rang out something like ‘what in the name of hell was that’. Moved the swags closer to camp. Now wide awake and wide-eyed in this incredible place. The four legged shadows melted into the darkness. Then the howling chorus started. There must have been some youngsters given the high pitched timbre of some of the howls, sometimes solo, sometimes with the full chorus, sounded like at least a ten strong choir. The following night made sure everything was packed away, didn’t want to lose a boot, and our dingo friends kept their distance. The melodious dingo choir became a nightly soothing, reassuring, routine.

Locations
Finke Gorge National Park
The Amphitheatre
Cycads
Palm Valley
Arankaia Walk
Mpuiungkinya Track
Kalarranga Lookout
Hermannsburg
Desert Park, Alice Springs

Sense of place

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Ghost gum stretch 10/5/2009

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Cycad gorge 10/5/2009

 

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Amphitheatre painting location 12/5/2009

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Looking back to camp and the amphitheatre 13/5/2009

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Water bleached rocks along the riverbed 14/5/2009

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Palm Valley, Mpuiungkinya Track 14/5/2009

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Sunset, 14/5/2009

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Sketching location, track to Kalarranga lookout 15/5/2009

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‘Where’s the food’, Desert Park 17/5/2009

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The old crack open an emu’s egg with a rock trick, Desert Park 17/5/2009

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‘No food here’ hotel car park, Alice Springs 17/5/2009

 

Sections of Palm Valley Scroll 12/5/2009

Art References
Huang Gongwang, Dwelling in the Fuchun Mountains, 1350 Yuan dynasty
Essay by Hung Sheng.
‘Handscroll over 22 feet long. The format of the handscroll allows for multiple perspectives in the same painting, embracing the landscape’s breadth and depth along the river and mountains as a continuous journey progressing through time and space. A Chinese landscape is not a visual record of a particular day or a single view, but rather it captures the flow of traveling through changes in atmosphere and multiple perspectives. According to Huang’s own inscription on the handscroll, it took him three to four years to finish the painting. It was not consciously constructed, but executed in a spontaneous state. Huang added to the painting when the mood was right, using six sections of paper to create “The Master Wuyong Scroll.” Huang did not paint for the court or the art market, but painted for himself as form of leisure and self-expression.’

“The Remaining Mountain” section of the scroll, Zhejiang Provincial Museum in Hangzhou
51.4 centimetres (a little more than 20 inches)

Huang Gongwang, Dwelling in the Fuchun Mountains 1350 (1)

“The Master Wuyong Scroll,” section National Palace Museum in Taipei
636.9 centimetres (nearly 21 feet).

Huang Gongwang, Dwelling in the Fuchun Mountains, 1350 (2)

Huang Gongwang, Dwelling in the Fuchun Mountains, 1350 (3)

Huang Gongwang, Dwelling in the Fuchun Mountains, 1350 (4)

Huang Gongwang, Dwelling in the Fuchun Mountains, 1350 (5)

Huang Gongwang, Dwelling in the Fuchun Mountains, 1350 (6)

Brushstrokes: Styles and Techniques of Chinese Painting from the Asian Art MuseumEducation Department Asian Art Museum – Chong Moon Lee Center for Asian Art and Culture (1995)

 

Finke River, West MacDonnell Ranges, Northern Territory – Landscape Painting

Reminiscing on past expeditions, in this case a second field trip to the West MacDonnell Ranges. A completely different experience to the previous year which marked the end of a long dry period, the land was a deep red then, arid, scorched. The only signs of life, a couple of eagles feasting on roadkill and some dingoes. In the year between May 2009 and April 2010 rain had returned to the red centre. I came prepared with earth colours but the landscape had been transformed. Water in one of the worlds most ancient rivers, the Finke River, a cormorant (probably flew in from Darwin), frogs, moths, tiny fat finches (aka popcorn for crows), and green everywhere. Best part, Ormiston and Glenn Helen Gorges had plenty of water for swimming, the water reflections on the rocks mesmerising.

Fantastic helicopter flight from Glen Helen along the Finke River to Ormiston Gorge and back. One pilot, two passengers, it was cramped but once over the white knuckle take-off phase, the view was amazing, the colours, the waterholes, with ridgelines disappearing into infinity.

In hindsight, great experience to help focus on perspective: central desert Australian Indigenous art, aerial perspective and symbolic language, and multiple perspective found in traditional Chinese landscapes (see art references below).

Locations
Finke River 2 Mile bush camp
Ormiston Gorge
Glenn Helen

Sense of place

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View from the camp 18/4/2010

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Across the river painting location 19/4/2010

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Mount Sonder dawn 20/4/2010

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Dawn textures 20/4/2010

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Gold nugget sunrise 20/4/2010

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Ormiston Gorge painting location 20/4/2010

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Wave Rock painting location 22/4/2010

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Glen Helen Gorge painting location 22/4/2010

From the helicopter flight

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Finke River and Mount Sonder 23/4/2010

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Finke River camp location 23/4/2010

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Infinite ridgelines 23/4/2010

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Near Ormiston Gorge 23/4/2010

Drawings, ink and watercolour sketches

2010 Finke River 18 April 2010 P1020636

Riverbed Finke River 18/4/2010

2010 Finke River 18 April 2010 P1020637

Riverbank Finke River 18/4/2010

2010 Finke River 21 April 2010 P1020653

Riverbed Finke River 21/4/2010

2010 Finke River 21 April 2010 P1020655

Evening Finke River 21/4/2010

2010 Finke River 21 April 2010 P1020656

Rock face Finke River 21/4/2010

2010 Finke River 22 April 2010 P1020654

Wave Rock Finke River 22/4/2010

2010 Finke River 23 April 2010 P1020638 F (2)

Venus Rising Rock Finke River 23/4/ 2010

 

Sections of Finke River Scroll 22/4/2010

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Art References

Namatjira (Albert) Mount Sonder, MacDonnell Ranges 1945-1953
Albert Namatjira, Mount Sonder, MacDonnell Ranges (between 1945 and 1953)

Aboriginal art – aerial perspective

Bedford (Paddy)
Paddy Bedford

Tjapaltjarri (Clifford Possum) Warlugulong 1977
Clifford Possum Tjapaltjarri, Warlugulong (1977)

Gaboi (Sally) Dibirdibi Country - Topway 2006
Sally Gabori Dibirdibi Country – Topway (2006)

Tjapaltjarri (Bill Whiskey) Rock holes near the Olgas 2007
Bill Whiskey Tjapaltjarri, Rock holes near the Olgas (2007)

Watson (Tommy) Waluntja 2010
Tommy Watson, Waluntja (2010)

Chinese landscapes – multiple perspective

kuo-hsi-early-spring-1072
Kuo Hsi Early Spring (1072)

Fan Kuan Travelers Among Mountains and Streams (early 11th century)
Fan K’uan, Travellers among Streams and Mountains (early 11th century)

Wang Meng Dwelling in the Ching-pien Mountains 1366 copy 3
Wang Meng Dwelling in the Ch’ing-pien Mountains (1366)

Ni Tsan The Jung-his Studio 1372
Ni Tsan, The Jung-his Studio (1372)

Tung Yuan Wintry Trees by a Lake (14th century)
Tung Yuan, Wintry Trees (14th Century)

Li Yin Loading Carts (early 18th century) Palace Museum Beijing
Li Yin. Loading Carts (early 18th century)

 

Mpwelarre, Sandstone Country, Northern Territory– Landscape Painting

In July 2011 it was a great privilege to be able to camp at Mpwelarre a small Aboriginal outstation about 30km northwest of Rainbow Valley, 75km south of Alice Springs, Northern Territory. Pristine sandstone country with sandstone remnants of an ancient inland sea (from 350 million years ago). Incredible sandstone formations shaped by wind and rain, like being on the coast except it is in Central Australia.

As on most expeditions, painted a scroll in ink of landscape features plus some drawings and attempts at watercolour.

This expedition in retrospect was all about colour. At Mpwelarre, like Rainbow Valley, the sandstone is topped with iron-rich sandstone that has dissolved through the sandstone to create deep red/orange abstract surfaces, often represented in indigenous art from central Australia (see reference below Emily Kame Kngwarreye).

The landscape has features shaped like a mushroom and an owl (see below) and where, while sitting silently, you can hear the sandstone rocks slowly disintegrating.

The sunset at Rainbow Valley produced an amazing light show with colour changing moment by moment. Yet again nature left us completely mesmerised. No artists’ colour palette could do the experience justice.

As on most expeditions I had a close encounter with some local critics. In this case with some local horses, a Franz Marc moment while sketching under a desert oak (see below). Being friendly but not realising that the horses were territorial, I whistled and they started trotting towards me. It became obvious they resented my presence in their environment by snorting and pawing the ground. I tried some humour (a Billy Crystal meets Gene Wilder moment): hi ho Silver, hey were you a co-star in My Friend Flicker, hey Mr Ed your tail’s on fire. Seemed to backfire badly, outback horses are definitely not into a bit of snappy wisecracking, probably never been saddled with anything.

With my back pinned to the desert oak, I thought it was the end, trampled to death in the central Australian desert. Luckily, somehow I managed to call their bluff. I hid the drawing of the desert oak, kept low and quiet, avoided eye contact until they lost interest and moved on. As I walked calmly back to camp, camels appeared on the horizon. I needed a drink. I knew you can’t bluff a feral camel, they would recognise a fake pleinairist in an instant.

Locations
Mpwelarre
Rainbow Valley

Sense of place

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Mpwelarre camp site 27/7/2011

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Mpwelarre near the camp 27/7/2011

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Rock face abstract 28/7/2011

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The Mushroom 28/7/2011

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Local camel critics 28/7/2011

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The Owl 28/7/2011

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Desert Oak 28/7/2011

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Sandstone sculpture 29/7/2011

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Sandstone cliff wall 29/7/2011

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View from my swag and painting location 30/7/2011

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Rainbow Valley sunset 31/7/2011

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Rainbow Valley dusk 31/7/2011

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Local horse critics 1/8/2011

Drawings, ink and watercolour sketches

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The sandstone mushroom, drawing 28/7/2011

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The sandstone owl, drawing 28/7/2011

 

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Rock face, watercolour 30/7/2011

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Desert oak, drawing 1/8/2011

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The mushroom section of ink scroll 2/8/2011

 

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The owl, section of ink scroll 2/8/2011

 

References

emily-kame-kngwarreye-my-country-1996

Emily Kame Kngwarreye, My Country 1996

marc-franz-the-tower-of-blue-horses-1913

Franz Marc The Tower of Blue Horses 1913

marc-franz-horse-in-a-landscape-1910

Franz Marc Horse in a-Landscape (1910)

 

 

Arkaroola, Flinders Ranges, South Australia – Landscape Painting

May 2012

Into the wild again. It is easy to forget the great distances between places in Australia when driving rather than flying. The drive from Adelaide to Arkaroola (600 kilometres) with stopovers at Willow Springs and Grindells Hut made it very clear. Still, worth it for the stunning landscapes in the Flinders and Gammon Ranges.

My first expedition to the Flinders Ranges, my first attempt in painting with acrylics in the field, and I was ill prepared for what was about to unfold. We spent too long after lunch at the Sevenhill Winery in the Clare Valley. This meant night was falling as we drove further into the Flinders Ranges. It was pitch black as the four wheel drive made its way gingerly down a steep winding track to Willow Springs. Sheep were continually caught in the headlights traversing the rocky steep terrain. At least the camp fire was burning and dinner had been prepared, some hours earlier, when we arrived. But, oh the horror, sleeping bags for some had not been packed and they had to spend the night in the shearers’ quarters. Day broke and what a strange landscape to behold. Arid with pine trees. Surrealists’ landscape.

Rauschenberg would have been right at home with the creative possibilities of the remains of old machinery lying around the shearers quarters slowly rusting back into the ground.

After two days at Willow Springs, where there are no willows, and day trip to Wilpena Pound, drove further north into the Gammon Ranges and set up camp at Grindells Hut. Arid, stark landscape with a dark history. Grindells Hut namesake murdered his son-in-law, for cattle rustling and death of Grindell’s mule. On the run from the law, he set himself up deep in the Gammon Ranges. The law did catch up with him eventually in 1918.

After a couple of nights at Grindells Hut, just as the goat shooters were arriving, drove further north to Arkaroola.

Stretched out in a swag gazing at the clear night sky and the Southern Cross. It was great to be back in the outback. Away from city light pollution, the night sky can be savoured, imagining what it must have been like navigating by the stars.

This expedition even included some intergalactic experience with a late night visit to the observatory in Arkaroola. For most of us, a first close encounter with our galaxy through a powerful telescope left us amazed and stunned into silence. Seeing Saturn and star clusters for the first time has that effect, even after several glasses of wine over dinner around a campfire.

Many excellent painting locations. My first attempt at painting with acrylics in the field and the local crows seemed to know it. While painting en plein air I did get a bit pretentious one day in a dry river bed and shouted ‘sacré bleu’ at a crow for shattering the peace. The crow seemed encouraged and kept objecting to my white paper scroll flapping in the wind or, more likely, my naïf attempts at painting the overwhelming. The crow followed me around most of morning and didn’t shut up, probably trying to warn me about the hazards of being out there. The crow was probably right as I was also aware of other silent and stealthy fauves, fauna, and feral critics constantly on watch, ready for the right moment to pounce on anything edible.

Locations
Willow Springs
Wilpena Pound
Grindells Hut
Arkaroola
Rock Pool, Arkaroola
The Pinnacles, Arkaroola

Sense of place

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Willow Springs 16/5/2012

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Willow Springs 16/5/2012

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Wilpena Pound painting location 16/5/2012

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Sculptural remains from bushfire, Wilpena Pound 16/5/2012

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The Cazneaux Tree, a lot healthier than in 1937, on the way back from Wilpena Pound 16/5/2012

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View from Grindells Hut late afternoon 17/5/2012

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Grindells Hut painting location 19/5/2012

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Local crow critic third branch from the left, Arkaroola 20/5/2012

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Waterhole, Arkaroola painting location 20/5/2012

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The Pinnacles, Arkaroola painting location 21/5/2012

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Leaving Willow Springs 23/5/2012

 

Sketches in ink and acrylics

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Wilpena Pound16/5/2012

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Grindells Hut 17/5/2012

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Grindells Hut 17/5/2012

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Grindells Hut 7/5/2012

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Rock Pool, Arkaroola 20/5/2012

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Rock Pool, Arkaroola 20/5/2012

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The Pinnacles, Arkaroola 21/5/2012

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Foothills, The Pinnacles, Arkaroola 21/5/2012

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Willow Springs 23/5/2012

Moolooloo, Flinders Ranges – landscape painting

July 2013

As on most expeditions I set out with serious determination to make painting progress. However, the old fall back came into play: if it’s not working blame someone else. In this case, the gods of Mount Olympus were creating chaos out there. Don’t know what they were doing there but something was going on. Tired and emotional, after about three hours of painting in high wind, at an amazing lookout, blown over, and fell into my palette. The paint on my hurricane jacket looked better than what was on the canvas. Muttering, cursing, swearing, nothing was working, not ink, not paint, nothing. Then it happened. Time seemed to stop. The clouds parted for a moment as the sun was setting and the whole landscape turned to gold. Standing transfixed, in a state of suspended animation, then the rational analytical side of the brain kicked in, fumbled around for the camera, and then the light show was over in an instant. Threw down the brushes, walked around with hands on head, and then packed up. Impossible to paint, all you can do in these situations is hope the camera is close by and the photos do some justice to the scene. Back at camp I tried to explain what happened. The response: ‘oh yeah and what were you drinking?’ Yeah well no wonder the surrealists and abstract expressionists escaped from realism. How can a plienairist hope to be a realist when nature throws a surrealist light show?

Back to reality and observation. The sheep lifestyle at Moolooloo Station gives a whole new meaning to the term ‘free range’. No risk of the wretched live sheep exports for these sheep. They roam at will, far and wide, mixing freely with local fauna, and then make themselves available for round-up by the waterholes whenever their fleece becomes a problem load. Although I did see the remains of one unfortunate who left it too late, probably got caught in a downpour, consequential torrent, and swept away, unable to run with about half a bale of wet wool on its back. All that was left in the dry river bed was a large pile of wool laced with clods of dirt, leaves, rocks, and twigs. The hard working sheep dogs must have dined out on free take away.

Before the trip revisited the Art Gallery of South Australia and some of the classics of Australian landscape painting:

H.J Johnstone, Evening shadows, backwater of the Murray, South Australia (1880)
Tom Roberts, A break away! (1891)
Hans Heysen, Foothills of the Flinders (1929)
Hans Heysen, Patawarta: Land of the Oratunga (1929)

Locations
Moolooloo Station
Hannigan Gap
Blinman Hut
Parachilna Gorge lookout
Angorichina Gorge

Some photos of locations and sketches in ink and acrylics below.

Sense of place

p1010598On the track to Hannigan Gap 1/7/2013

p1010596Hannigan Gap painting location 1/7/2013

p1010607Moolooloo Station painting location 2/7/2013

p1010625-2Local critic Moolooloo Station 2/7/2013

p1010641Blinman Hut painting location 3/7/2013

p1010666Parachilna Gorge lookout painting location 4/7/2013

p1010668Parachilna Gorge lookout sunset 4/7/2013

p1010683Angorichina Gorge painting location 5/7/2013

p1010685Local critics passing by, Angorichina Gorge 5/7/2013

p1010694Parachilna Gorge lookout painting location 5/7/2013

p1010700Parachilna Gorge lookout painting location late afternoon 5/7/2013

p1010705Moolooloo Station early morning 6/7/2013

p1010701Some of the coiffured sheep 6/7/2013

 

Sketches in ink and acrylics

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Hannigan Gap 1/7/1013

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Moolooloo Station – part of ink scroll 2/7/2013

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Moolooloo Station 2/7/2013

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Blinman Hut 3/7/2013

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Angorichina Gorge 5/7/2013

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Parachilna Gorge 5/7/2013

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Parachilna Gorge 5/7/2013

 

Angorichina, Flinders Ranges – Landscape Painting

August 2014

Another escape from the urban jungle. Wandering in the landscape away from the cityscape, the air conditioned termite mound that never sleeps. Away from the maddening crowd. Even though the urban jungle is a great place to live, it has reliable water, food, shelter, transport, art galleries, libraries, and museums, there is nothing like being in the outback to reconnect with clean air, space, intense colours, the silence, the night sky. However, only a true pioneer can survive out there with only a couple of camels and a dog 1. For most urbanites at least one or two experienced persons are essential to the team in wild places to do the navigating and for dealing with repairs both human and mechanical.

Much of the Flinders Ranges could probably be best defined as landscape not wilderness, that is it has been managed by humans for tens of thousands of years (Australia the greatest estate on earth)2. Since European settlement much of the land has been overgrazed, mined, and feral animals (particularly goats in the Flinders) now run rampant, and yet in these remote areas the wildness continually reasserts itself, a ‘bewildered landscape’3. It’s overwhelming and if you stray too far, or put one foot in the wrong place, it can kill you. Gives the edge to painting out there.

No matter the definition, wilderness or landscape, the Flinders Ranges best described as vast, timeless, with special light, the ‘bones of nature laid bare’4. Before the expedition revisited the classics Hans Heysen and Harold Cazneaux who captured the essence of Flinders Ranges (see below).

Locations
Angorichina
Parachilna Gorge
Blinman
Ochre cutting – road to Blinman
Riverbed – road to Blinman
Brachina Gorge

Some photos of locations and paintings below.

Sense of place

p1020020Riverbed, Angorichina 7/8/2014

p1020031Riverbend, Angorichina 8/8/2014

p1020028Riverbed painting location 8/8/2014

p1020048Sunrise Angorichina 9/8/2014

 p1020056Near the sheep station painting location 9/8/2014

p1020083Down river ruin – goat herder’s cottage 11/8/2014

 p1020066Road to Blinman painting location 11/8/2014

p1020079Sunset Angorichina 10/8/2014

 p1020088Ochre cutting Road to Blinman painting location 11/8/2014

p1020094View from the camp, Angorichina 11/8/2014

p1020097Riverbed Road to Blinman painting location 12/8/2014

p1020104Local critic on a grassy knoll Angorichina 13/8/2014

 p1020112-2On the road to Brachina Gorge 13/8/2014

 p1020122Brachina Gorge painting location 13/8/2014

p1020110-2Local critic on the run, Brachina Gorge 13/8/2014

 p1020129Riverbed early morning Angorichina 14/8/2014

 p1020132Riverbed early morning Angorichina 14/8/2014

 

Sketches in ink and acrylics

p1020024Angorichina late afternoon from the camp 7/8/2014

p1020032-2Riverbed 8/8/2014

 

2014-angorichina-2View from the camp, Angorichina 11/8/2014

2014-angorichina-flinders-ranges-p1020133Riverbed early morning Angorichina 14/8/2014

References

1 Robyn Davidson, Tracks (1980)
2. Bill Gammage, The Biggest Estate on Earth – How Aborigines made Australia (2011)
3 John R Stilgoe, What is Landscape (2015)
4 Arid Arcadia – Art of the Flinders Ranges, by Alisa Bunbury, Art Gallery of South Australia, 2002

Hans Heysen, by Rebecca Andrews, Art Gallery of South Australia, 2009

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The Hill of the Creeping Shadows (1929)

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Patawarta: Land of the Oratunga (1929)

Cazneaux – Photographs by Harold Cazeaux 1878 – 1953, National Library of Australia 1978

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Harold Cazneaux, The shadowded hills the Flinders Ranges (1935)

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Harold Cazneaux, Far Flung Ranges of the Flinders (1937), Art Gallery of South Australia

 

North East Coast Tasmania – Landscape Painting

October 2015

It had been a while. My last journey to Tasmania was in January 1983 during the Franklin River Campaign (see links below). At the time an escape from life drawing classes and surrealist parties to engage with far more important issues. A large proportion of the state has been protected since then, but I was apprehensive given the continuing threats to open up logging in old growth forests. The fight to protect the Tarkine goes on. The drive through part of Freycinet National Park on the way to Bluestone Bay brought home the problems facing national parks and wilderness areas. Major fires the previous two summers, lower than average rainfall and no green shoots. Normally there would have been signs of regeneration within a month. The forest looked dead. The frequency of major fires in the old growth forests and alpine regions signal that the tipping point on climate change has been reached (see article link below). The other extreme hit Tasmania in June 2016, flooding rains, and probably more damage.

Before I left for Tasmania, I revisited some of the greats of Tasmanian wilderness photography: Olegas Truchanas and Peter Dombrovskis (see additional links below).

As the trip unfolded, optimism restored to some extent by the stunning coastal scenery. Zen- like experience in some places with pure white sand, sculptured granite rocks, and turquoise sea. ‘The true method is no method’ (Sengai Gibon). With that idea in mind got the most out of the painting days. Although, the wind caused some extra interest on a couple of days with the need to lash a painting to a sign post and then on another day to the side of a boat shed. All experimental, being in the moment anything can happen.

Places
Queen Victoria Museum and Art Gallery, Launceston
Low Head
St Columba Falls
Binalong Bay, southern Bay of Fires
Sloop Bay, Bay of Fires
The Hazards, Freycinet National Park
Bluestone Bay, Freycinet National Park
Wineglass Bay, Freycinet National Park
Museum of Old and New Art (MONA)

Some photos of locations and paintings below.

Sense of place

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Low Head at Low Tide

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Low Head from the light house

 

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St Columba Falls

 

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Binalong Bay

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Beach, Binalong Bay

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Sloop Bay, Bay of Fires

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Sloop Bay, Bay of Fires

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Local critic, Bicheno

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The Hazards, Freycinet National Park

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Bluestone Bay, Freycinet National Park

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Bluestone Bay, Freycinet National Park

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Along the coast, Freycinet National Park

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Along the coast, Freycinet National Park

 

Sketches in ink and acrylics

Focus on line, tone, and texture. Will tackle composition and light further down the track. Yet another step on the learning curve.

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Low Head

 

2015-binalong-bay2-sat-3-oct-2015

Binalong Bay

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Sloop Bay

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The Hazards

2015-blue-stone-bay-freycinet-national-park-wed-7-oct-2015

Bluestone Bay

Reading and video links

The Franklin River Blockade – Part 1 and The Franklin River Blockade – Part 2).

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Peter Dombrovskis – Morning mist, Rock Island Bend, Franklin River, Tasmania, 1979

Dombrovskis collection of Tasmanian wilderness photographs, 1978-1995, National Library of Australia.

Gordon Splits, film by wilderness photographer Peter Dombrovskis.

Olegas Truchanas and Peter Dombrovskis, edited excerpt from ABC TV’s Wildness website.

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Olegas Truchanas – Lake Pedder 1968

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Olegas Truchanas – Beach & dunes Lake Pedder 1971

Olegas Truchanas Lake Pedder audiovisual collection, National Library of Australia.

In the Balance: Art for a Changing World, exhibition. Museum of Contemporary Art, Sydney, 2010, included David Stephenson photographs:
Drowned No. 62 (Lake Gordon, Tasmania)
Drowned No. 176 (Lake Pedder, Tasmania)
Self portrait looking down a survey cut, proposed site of Gordon below Franklin Dam, Tasmania

Into the Wild – Wilderness Photography in Tasmania, Exhibition Catalogue, Queen Victoria Museum and Art Gallery, Launceston, 2013

Fires in Tasmania’s ancient forests are a warning for all of us, David Bowman, The Conversation, 29 January 2016.

The Future Eaters, by Tim Flannery

The Savage Crows, by Robert Drewe

Death of a River Guide, by Richard Flanagan

 

sengai-gibon

Sengai Gibon 1750 – 1837

Zen mind, Zen brush
Japanese ink paintings from the Gitter-Yelen Collection, exhibition AGNSW, 2006.
The true method is no method – Zen master Sengai Gibon 1750-1837

Ross River, East MacDonnell Ranges, Northern Territory – landscape painting

 

August 2016

Painting out in the landscape is always a challenge. Perhaps no-one can claim to be a landscape painter unless they paint plein air? Although, following a recent visit to the Drill Hall, ANU, to answer that question, Nolan painted one of his most important paintings  Riverbend from memory, not a specific location, but he did have imagination, experience, and connection to country to make that possible. Great read on the topic: Simon Schama’s  Landscape and memory.

That’s the challenge – being out there. The wilderness and pursuit of the sublime. Turner claimed to have lashed himself to a ship’s mast in a gale to get ‘it’ – the inspiration/expression: Snow Storm – Steam Boat off Harbour’s Mouth (1842). Not quite, but similar experience to a night in a tent in high wind in the East MacDonnell Ranges to get the work happening the next day.

Experienced all weather conditions at the Ross River camp: from sub zero to high 20s, wind, mist, fog, light rain, torrential rain, plus flies, bees, moths, and a snake. Unforgettable petroglyphs (Aboriginal engraved rock art) and geology, especially the stromatolites*. It was totally unpredictable from one day to the next, and that is a real positive for action painting where anything can happen. It’s all about chance. Art materials behaved completely differently from one day to the next as black ink turned to tar, and acrylic paint turned to cement as soon as it hit the palette. Best days were the rain days when ink went in all directions – perfect for attempts at gestural abstraction and one shot action painting.

*stromatolite – a calcareous mound built up of layers of lime-secreting cyanobacteria and trapped sediment, found in Precambrian rocks as the earliest known fossils, and still being formed in lagoons in Australasia. (Oxford Dictionary definition).

Some photos of locations and attempts at painting below.

Sense of place

p1020377

Waterhole Ross River Crossing

p1020402

Bloomfield Bluff

p1020433

Anticline in the rain

p1020441

Local critics

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Evening after the storm

20160822_112224_moment

N’Dhala Gorge

p1020455

Petroglyph N’Dhala Gorge

p1020473

Cave N’Dhala Gorge

p1020493

The Sphinx

p1020523

Trephina Gorge

 

Paintings

Painful, but some progress. Aiming for structure, line, texture, and tone. Another step on the learning curve.

20160821-ross-river-in-camp-rain-p1020438

View from Ross River Camp

20160821-ross-river-in-camp-rain-p1020451

View from Ross River Camp- rain day

20160822-ndhala-gorge-p1020486

N’Dhala Gorge

20160824-the-sphinx-p1020511

Piece of the Sphinx – scroll – day 7

20160824-the-sphinx-p1020513

The Sphinx

20160825-trephina-gorge-p1020535

Trephina Gorge

20160825-trephina-gorge-p1020531

Rock Overhang

20160826-ross-river-bluff-p1020585

Rock Overhang

p1020605

Exhibition installation