Tuesday, December 17, 2013


The Beginning of Everything oil on linen 90 x 180 cm 2010
In this post:
1. A reflection on an excellent speech made by well known Australian author Tim Winton
2. Good news about some sales! 
The Island Seen and Felt: Some Thoughts About Landscapes:
by well known Australian author Tim Winton

There's an article in last weekend's Weekend Australian Review [Dec 14-15] called 'Wild Brown Land'. It is an edited transcript of The Island Seen and Felt: Some Thoughts About Landscapes by well known Australian author Tim Winton, presented to the Royal Academy, London, November 14, 2013. It was a fascinating read. But, even better, you can hear the speech by clicking HERE The speech/article is a heartfelt and important reminder of why we need to take note of landscape, paying attention to writers and artists who continue to be preoccupied with it.

So much of what Tim Winton said/wrote resonated with me, even his first encounters with the European landscape during the 1980s. I too was travelling to Europe for the first time, with excited anticipation of seeing the landscapes I had only seen in paintings and photographs. I totally understand what Tim Winton felt when he says, In the first instance I struggled with scale. In Europe the dimensions of physical space seemed compressed. The looming vertical presence of mountains cut me off from the distant horizon. I remember driving from Italy into Switzerland and feeling locked in, as if the intense beautiful green mountains would swamp me. I remember remarking to my travelling partner that I longed to see distance.

Winton not only describes European landscapes as compressed, but that they are also humanised ie: evidence of human activity and presence is everywhere. This is definitely something I noticed and felt on my first encounters with the European landscape. The landscape space was occupied, often transformed. Whereas the Australian landscape of my childhood, living on a flat treeless black soil plain, and early married life, living further west with prickly plants and red dirt, certainly did not feel dominated by human forces. Indeed, there were always reminders that nature held the upper hand...flood, drought, wild storms, insect plagues, searing heat. The built environment of houses, homesteads, sheds, tanks etc did not provide spaces that could wilfully ignore the outside. Yes, they could be refuges, but not enough to obscure the elements. Flyscreens only kept out a percentage of insects, snakes could slither under and into houses and sheds [even tractor cabins]....whirlwinds spread dust into every cavity, fire sent soot and smell, cracked earth shifted building foundations, the heat blistered paint and varnish...So, I really, really 'get it' when Winton says, Australia is a place with more geography than architecture, where openness trumps enclosure.

Through The Flyscreen oil on linen 80 x 100 cm 2002

The distance in the Australian landscape is not empty, but replete with life forces and a spirit. They rise from the primordial dust. For me this distance, both intimate and vast, holds clues to dextrous understanding of  perspective. As regular readers know, I am fascinated by perspective, especially in an age where new cosmological research is revealing horizons never before dreamed of. For me, the Australian landscape is a preparatory teacher of perspective, even my much touted multi-perspective experienced simultaneously...but are we brave enough to listen and learn? There is certainly a kind of 'safety' in the closed distances of cities, but it's the myopic distances of technology that concern me more. By this I mean the literal distance between a phone, computer, tablet and user...where 'entertainment', 'community' and 'connection' are 'experienced'. Metaphorically speaking this diminished distance perhaps does not bode well for imagination, laterality, independence.

Cosmic Dust oil on linen 120 x 160 cm 2011

Even, buildings have windows to look out of, but where are the 'windows' to create a textured experience in the distance between person and phone? I am reminded of my recent posts where I discuss the metaphor of 'looking out the windows'...please check them out: Looking Out The Windows and Looking In The rear Vision Mirror - Cosmically Speaking

Now to something else Tim Winton said...On my island the heavens draw you out like a multidimensional horizon...I just love this! Can I repeat... the heavens draw you out like a multidimensional horizon. The cosmos has the ability to draw out of us a multidimensional horizon! Regular readers will know why I am excited by this sentence. To me this is perspective teasing out the potency that exists within and all around us. The potency that an Australian landscape is replete with. Distance connecting us to the cosmos. We are the essence of horizon, like everything else...and not just one horizon, but a multi-dimensional one! And, if this is the case, learning skills in multi-perspective should not need to be learnt, but remembered...don't you think?

And, again from Winton At night in the desert the sky sucks at you, star-by-star, galaxy-by-galaxy. You feel as if you could fall out into it at any moment. It's terrifyingly vertiginous. I need to repeat another short and excellent phrase...fall out into it... Note Winton does not say 'fall from it'. That would be far too simple for a being who has been drawn out like a multidimensional horizon!

Galactic Horizons and Beyond oil on linen 85 x 150 cm 2012

Winton ends by discussing the sense of patriotism that is born from a reverence for land. He says, Patriotism has evolved to include a reverence for the land itself, and the passion to defend the natural world as if it were family. I am reminded of the passionate displays of protest regarding the environment that reverberate around the world. In Australia two issues [related] that excite passion are potential threats to the Great Barrier Reef and coal seam gas extraction, a process that certainly does transform a landscape, both on top and below. Winton goes on to say that this reverence for land, and defence of the natural world, are reasons for why artists and writers, especially Australian ones, return to it. If he's right about the drawing out of us a multidimensional horizon then we also have the capacity to defend with cosmic perspectives...!

Over the last few weeks I've had some painting go to lovely homes: Three in fact...!
The two most recent sales are Sending Love and Night Time Electric Storm


1 comment:

Audubon Ron said...

I love these paintings.