Hill End

Hill End is a small town in the hills high above and to the west of Bathurst. Settled in the latter half of the 1800’s, several original buildings are still standing and there is much evidence of the busyness of the gold-rush era that swelled the local population to over 30,000. The main street is lined with old European trees and Monterey pines planted by a Mr Beyers, after which the street is named. Motor-bikes loudly enter the town and people wander about like there is no-one living here. But there is, kindly, quiet loving people, many of them artists. Despite objection, Dept of Parks and Wildlife continue to spray numerous noxious chemicals onto roadsides near where people would prefer to grow their organic vegetables. And where does it go then? Into the earth, the drains, the water, and then us. Roundup has gone so far as to be present in the breast-milk of mothers in every country it is utilised. Known to act like oestrogen in the body, it is linked to hormone related cancers in both men and women. As we are no further ahead in prevention or cure of cancer, why is there silence on this matter?

A visionary might see this place as a being like a street in Fremantle where planter boxes line the streets with small citrus, herbs and vegetables; or like Bellingen where the people were listened to and voted to stop the spraying of nasty chemicals. The country town is beautiful and is NOT overrun with weeds, quite the opposite. Chemical companies have indoctrinated those in positions of power far more successfully than religion it seems. Is it because of the kick-backs?

Back to Hill End. I’ve been here at the old cottage known as Murray’s Cottage – the former home of Donald Friend in the late 40’s – since the beginning of November. The experience has been far more enriching than I imagined, though I did not imagine anything really. I was open. At first I felt quite lost and made some self-portraits and colour swatches. I read a lot. I began to make paintings of fragments of light and shadow. Up here I’ve noticed the light and shadow seems to contain more colour and this is inspiring. Ideas for abstract works are simmering. In the interim, I’ve been making an 18 page illustrated dairy recording my experiences here – it has been like coming home to myself, while also connecting with the artist who lived here through his writing, and also the remarkable down-to-earth people who live in this town now.

Two of those, artists – Kim Deacon and Lino Alvarez – have been especially kind. They make beautiful hand-made ceramics know as La Paloma Pottery, some of which I am now the proud owner. Kim is a talented performer also, writer of music, singer and player of many instruments including harp. These are humble and professional artists and life is better because I’ve met them 🙂

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Hello and welcome to my virtual space of some favourite things. its been slowly built, and I hope will become a real space one day. It would be nice to have you over for tea….

Painters….

I was reading an interview of Giacometti by David Sylvester in a 2003 copy of Modern Painters. Two points that struck me are worth relaying. Firstly, to limit yourself in terms of subject. AG spoke of limiting oneself to a tablecloth on a table; staying in the same room , in front of the same table and paint nothing but that. He spoke about being astonished by a glass and in limiting himself to a single glass, he had a much better notion of all the other objects- ” In having a quarter of an inch of something, you have a better chance of holding onto a a certain feeling of the universe than if you had pretended to be doing the whole sky.”

The second point I enjoyed was his idea of success – “A successful painting, a failed painting, it’s all the same to me… The failed one interests me as much as the successful one.” AG felt it worthwhile to exhibit works that were not the best because if they hold up then the good ones are sure to!

Paul Aster, ‘Beyond Illusion’, Modern Painters, Summer 2003, 22-24.

Painting light, touching space

This is the title of my doctoral project in painting, and the name of my exhibition at Liverpool Street Gallery, Sydney, two years later. It was an epic journey during and after. You can see the work online, but it is nothing like standing in front of it. The surface becomes hard to place as the colours merge, dissolve and shift into spacious and luminous optical illusions.  See here

Rustica and Grace

Orange blossom becoming oranges

ripening in the sun

making marmalade with sunshine…

there is a horse made of clouds

an old chair amongst flowers

and home-grown strawberries

and bees, happy bees in air heavy with jasmine…

notice the lightest breeze, the lengthening of shadows

one step at a time

and not getting ‘there’ until tomorrow

perhaps

and those expressions – ‘goodness gracious!’

and ‘Oh dear!’, ‘Bless you!’

My grandmothers’ dignity and interest;

the presence of heartfelt kindness, gentleness

and wisdom.

Lest we forget….

Someone else is living in the Zen house now. I am in the back of a camper van at Yallingup beach, WA. Clearly I remember the old drawers and cupboards that sprinkled the saucepans with fine jarrah-dust; the wood-fire stove beside the little modern one; his tall jars of rice, barley, almonds and puffed spelt and second-hand bowls – dusty blue, sage green and scrambled-egg yellow – crowded with apples, onions and tomatoes. He had bought new placemats for my first visit, along with tea-light votives for the bathroom and a new tea-pot. These were acts of extravagance for a minimalist in every area except books and survival skills. His RM Williams hat is beside my pillow. I wore it to the Anzac Day service at Mullalyup this morning. As I was driving along, I saw the pipe band and stopped – the locals kindly welcomed me – the march was about to begin from the apple packing shed to the memorial about 60 metres down the road. There were perhaps twenty of us plus the band of eight. Everyone cared. I was invited twice to morning tea but his presence was too sorely missed. He would have stayed for sure – right up his street. I heard from his army mate Chris who was missing him too. I thought of my dad leading the band with his drum in Gundagai, and my pa, George Elliott, veteran of Gallipoli and mum’s beautiful olive and rosemary wreath made in his memory every year. And there was his medal that I lost last year at Charlie Gairdner hospital. But then G bought me a beautiful moonstone to take its place. It was a day of remembering.

Around and about my drawings

In an old house near the beach is a small kitchen with a table and two chairs.  Aside from the bed and the loo, this is the only place one can sit and draw. I would sit in the chair facing the windows over the sink and, for long moments, watch the sun go down into the evening. Sometimes the light would have faded and a drawing would be finished, or not. It didn’t matter. I was happily lost in ideas and colours and the soft texture of pencil on paper, layers and layers of tiny strokes building colours between the colours of the pencils’ palette. Fifteen drawings came from staying recently in that place I name The Zen House. They are collections of things whimsical and gentle; favourite things and so the series is named. Some of them are visible on our stall at the Christmas Fair, and will be exhibited in 2012 at M16 Artspace in Canberra.