Art, Identity & Place

How wild places, deep time and archaeology inform my contemporary art process


Anbangbang Billabong Revisited – cont.

The collage treatment of my original artwork digitalised into an edition onto printmaking paper continues, allowing strong colour beneath to show through the finely textured rice paper. This effect is similar to an oil painting technique where a thin semi transparent veil of paint can be painted over often flat strong colour as a way to give atmospheric depth to a composition. I love the play of opaque surfaces with tonal atmospheric and nuanced texture and much overlapping adding to the sense of ‘painting with paper’.

Nuanced texture and atmospheric tonal values made from overlapping transparent, semi transparent and semi opaque layers of either paper or paint produce and effect that seem so characteristic of outback Australian landscapes – no glaringly obvious focal points, in-defined shapes, blinding sunlight and obscuring dust haze and quivering mirage obscuring clear any horizon line.

We arrived at this location in the dry season when burning off was in progress making the haze, glare, heat contribute to how I imagined these images as I sat next to the dried billabong with its remnant and dried vegetation transported by wet season floods left caught on sticks and branches scattered across the dusty surface that resembled triangular stooks of hay.

Anbangbang Billabong Flood Plain, 2017

Anbangbang Billabong Flood Plain, 2017, rice paper collage and pen and ink, 75×30 cm

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Flood Plain Across Anbangbang Billabong, 2017, rice paper collage on original digital image plus ink wash and pen, 75×30 cm


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‘Painting’ with Paper (continued)

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Point Roadknight Littoral 2, 2016, collage, 30×40 cm

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Point Roadknight Littoral 1, 2016, collage, 30×40 cm

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Foreshore Sunrise, 2016, collage, 40×30 cm

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Rock Pool, 2016, collage, 50×30 cm

Materials used in these collage compositions consist of handmade paper, failed viscosity prints, and their ghosts and a piece of frottage in Point Roadknight Littoral 2.  Once again I have ransacked my remnant department and the images almost arranged themselves, I think because of the way I am immersed in this coastal area and its atmosphere.

At dawn and pre dawn I often wait for low tide, no wind and some cloud before I capture  the transient nature of different elements such as the juxtaposition of water and sun, sand and reflections, rock face reflected in rock pools.

The photograph informs my work (as well as taking frottage) in a round about way that seems to make a slowly developing  mental pattern that over time distills into an image/s.

 

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Etching collage

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‘Where Sun Met Rock at Point Roadknight, 2016, intaglio, handmade paper and chine-colle, 24×40 cm

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Toward the Rock Ledge, 2016, intaglio, drypoint, chine-colle and handmade paper, 60x40cm

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Between Sand and Rock, 2016, intaglio, chine-colle and handmade paper, 2016, 50×35 cm

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The Swell, 2016, intaglio and pastel paper, 48×54 cm

A continuation of collage consisting of intaglio and drypoint mixed together with various types of paper into compositions about local environment and human interaction.


Pilbara Revision: “memento mori”

I returned to last incomplete artwork about the Pilbara in Western Australia where ancient rocks termed the Banded Iron Formation, 2-3 billion years old reminded me of memento mori  paintings. In the traditional versions of this topic a figure holds a skull contemplating life’s fleeting span. As an alternative, I get a buzz from observing geological layers in particular landforms that like a type of calendar remind me of my mortality.


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Mungo Collage and Sounds of Drought

Both these images, the composition and forms were arranged randomly, settled into this format as I pushed around each element then blew air onto the, at first, carefully arranged pieces of collage and then let hand made paper waft around and land anywhere. A bit more shuffling around, walking away, letting a few more elements land around central pieces of imagery, tearing more paper, overlapping to obtain transparencies and nuanced areas until the desired effect settled in my mind.

The pieces of collage consisted of torn drypoint etchings, intaglio etching, pastel and handmade papers as well as dotted pianola roll paper.


Collage with Drypoint Etchings about Mungo

I continue this Mungo series with the addition of three more collages consisting of pieces of printed collagraph, gold leaf, handmade paper and pastel paper on BFK Rives print making paper. The strange glow of sunset on the Mungo dunes has eluded me in the past as the chocolate box look was an ever present danger. But I’ve often tried to depict my sunrise and sunset feelings of excitement, anticipation and joy.


Collagraph and Collage

These two images were ‘accidents’ at the time but then developed into something else. The pink bleeding  happened accidentally when red coloured handmade paper and wet yellow tissue contacted each other. While part of the Mungo series  another direction presented itself, bring back memories of Mt Lyell in Queenstown, Tasmania.

Vegetation in this area of West coast cool rainforest in the roaring forties, denuded as a result of sulphur etc that spewed from the mine smoke stack was like being in a desert surrounded by earth colours.  Standing next to the open cut when the sun set and glowed on the bare earth’s surface was electric and it took a few days for me to get what I was on about. The dunes of Lake Mungo and the archaeological discoveries there were made possible by sheep grazing, removing grass thereby denuding and exposing  concealed dunes held together by that vegetation .

The presence of pink. gold, yellow and orange at Mungo was in my mind reminiscent of a copper mine open cut over a thousand miles south – a link between inspiration and memory.

Archaeologist at Latrobe University, Nicola Stern recently made further discoveries at what is one of Australia’s most important archaeological sites, described by Science Editor, Bridie Smith in The Age (Melbourne) on Thursday , the eighteenth of June, titled, ” Lake Mungo reveals its hidden secrets.”

To summarise, researchers established that the lake’s high water mark was 5 meters higher than realised and created an island between Lake Mungo and Lake Leaghur to the north, on which archaeologists found embedded in sediment stone tools and fireplaces. However Lake Mungo dried out 15,000 years ago as evidence to the east of the area attests.

New technology  now allows archaeologists to study a new line of beach gravel 5 meters above the main shoreline, therefore indicating that the lake held 250% more water than previously thought. The high water level lasted about 1000 years.

Dr Stern said that when the lake level dropped fine clay sediment from the exposed lake floor was wind-borne and dumped upon the coarser sand of the dune that originated from the beach at the lake’s edge when water levels were higher. ” When you’ve got sand, you know the lake was full and when you get clay you know that the lake was lower,” Dr Stern said.

These insights mean that the ancient indigenous inhabitants would have relied on watercraft in which to navigate this inland sea 24,000 years ago before the climate changed and turned this location into desert country.

This new information adds to how I reimagine this place. Although I printed and collaged several collagraphs, my new oil paintings will benefit from a more thorough understanding of how to look at traces of change left within the landscape.