Friday, October 30, 2009


Detail from Halo oil on linen 90 x 180 cm

In my last couple of posts I have mentioned that I am working on a large painting which I am going to call 'Halo'. I am still working on it and just to whet your appetites I have uploaded a detail from my work in progress.

But, I will go into a little about my inspiration. In October 1983 my cousin Bill [Fred] From died trying to conquer Mt Everest. I have often thought about Bill who was a true mountain man. He was strong, big, capable and incredibly intelligent. The kind of man you imagine conquering mountains with his little finger. Bill was 4 years older than me and I have childhood memories of him holding my arms and twirling me around in circles. I loved it and was thrilled because he was strong enough to do this to a rather large 8-12 year old gangly girl. After 12 I just got too tall and self conscious!

Bill had just received a Doctorate in Physics from the University of Queensland. He thesis was on his research into the Ionoshere. Here is a link that gives a brief description of this layer surrounding the Earth. He had also just received a scholarship to one of the prestigious Max Planck Institutes in Germany to further his research. I gather his research was cutting edge and very important.

Bill and one of his fellow climbers, a young doctor Craig Nottle, both slipped on an icy patch as they were descending Mt Everest. Their bodies fell into the great depths of ice and have never been recovered. They had been a short tantalising distance from the summit, but a blizzard forced them to turn away. They were climbing without oxygen so every step was arduous and slow. Bill was a seasoned climber and knew very well the risks of undertaking such an incredible quest. The team was lead by Peter Hillary, son of Sir Edmund.

I googled Bill's name just now and found an article which appeared in Brisbane's Courier Mail only last month. It is 25 years since Bill and Craig perished. Here is a link to the article,23739,26085462-5018552,00.html

But, back to my painting. It seems incredible to me that I have been thinking about Bill much more just recently and that it is 25 years since he died. I had not really been aware of the anniversiary until I read the Courier Mail article.

My thoughts have been about desire...a desire to reach the top of the world...a desire so strong that a person is prepared to put their life at risk. I wonder what it is like to be near the top of the world and have to turn back. I wonder what kind of views [if any through a blizzard] are possible at that height. Bill, studied the atmosphere, and one particluar part of it in great detail ie: the ionoshpere. Was he trying to reach it, to get closer to it? Regular readers of my BLOG know of my intense interest in perspective and distance...WOW what a perspective of the world from the top of its tallest mountain! Would an experience of this majestic perspective make a person feel humble as well as awed? Would this kind of perspective reveal not only the materiality of the Earth, but also reveal the substance of the atmospheric layers which cacoon and sustain us and our environment? My wonder is...did Bill see and feel the Earth's halo?

So, I am not and have never been interested in literally climbing moutains. But, all of us climb metaphoric mountains as we progress through life! Indeed, I have painted many moutain images over the years...landscape elements are important metaphors for me.

My new painting is inspired by my thoughts about Bill. And, since these ponderings seem to be serendipitously at this time of the 25th anniversiary of his death, I wonder if I am being 'spoken' to by some force from beyond? The painting will be finished soon and I hope it will be as beautiful as I imagine standing on the top of the world would be.

PS. Since writing this BLOG my next one also discusses 'Halo'

1 comment:

Audubon Ron said...

Wow, I had to do a lot of homework on this assignment. I even learned about Mt. Everest, not to be confused with Mt. Everett, although I prefer the Tibetan name of Zhumulangma. Not sure how I feel about your cousin talking such a risk when perhaps he might have contributed more in his studies had he stayed alive, but that after all is the metaphoric consequence of risk taking. Sometimes we lose and the loss can be life ending.