There were many new landscapes to explore on the way to, at, and returning from the Arid Research Station at Fowlers Gap.
One type of landscape that struck me on the drive was the big straight through what seemed to be wilderness but was actually farmland (as evidenced by a rusty fence running parallel to the road some 50 to 100 metres away).
Then there were landscapes so great that they could only be documented with a panorama.
Then there was the big sky arching over the station…
Or the one tree somehow surviving against the odds…
Although I captured most of my landscapes with cameras, eventually I had enough free time to do some painting in a style I’ve been developing during 2021. I have named it the Tote Bag series because it was inspired by a bag I painted on O-Day at the Paddington campus of UNSW. Initially the works were purely abstract creations of my imagination but I eventually decided to challenge myself by painting landscapes. Each abstraction is applied to a found canvas, with so little information that it’s not possible to separate the imagined from the representational without context generated by the titles.
I painted the first after Peter Sharp’s plein air workshop, using a canvas with a brown undercoat then added the dusty tones of dry grass baking under a clear blue sky. For the second I used a red canvas with brighter hues because I enjoy bold colours. Unfortunately, a horizontal blue field above a brown/yellow one creates a recognisable landscape pattern.
Once back in Sydney I switched up the palettes, got more creative with my horizons, intensified the colours, and I liked them even less. Perhaps it is the difficulty of painting on such small canvases; perhaps it is because I decided that I would paint these landscapes before I had seen them. I put this project on the back burner so my subconscious can mull things over.
Meanwhile, in the deep dark of a chilly 3°C Fowlers Gap morning (Bureau of Meteorology 2021), I made several performative light-based works documented by long exposure photography.
For one series I traced the branches of the tree with a red bicycle light. In the long exposure there is enough light spilling onto the leaves to suggest the subject matter in an ethereal way but not enough to reveal my presence.
I really like the photographs for Walking with Bike Lights but I lost myself in creating a performance that fitted my aesthetic rather than one which traced my perambulation. Accordingly, on the final night on site I dressed all in black like a kuroko (Jonah 2016), wrapped myself in some handy fairy lights, and went for another walk.
The stable positions of the fairy lights in relation to my body create a measurable record of my performance as affected by the shape of the land. Just visible below the light trails is my left foot generating an observable data point from which the rest of my body can be extrapolated and thence the terrain. As land art, this piece marks the least invasive trace I could leave.
So what does this mean for Assessment 2?
I’m glad that I envisaged a panoramic substrate for my final work because the panoramas capture perfectly my feeling of being in the landscape. I will also include a strong, multi-lined feature that emulates the light trails.
Assessment 2 Update
The Delta strain of coronavirus hit Sydney and the campus was locked down, meaning that I couldn’t access my studio, tools, materials, or display space so the entire project was shelved. 😦
I’m going back to Fowlers Gap in 2022! Assuming the Omicron variant doesn’t do a Delta and mess things up again, that is. I’m so keen to be back in the outback that I’m even dreaming about it, ideas bubbling up from my subconscious in dreams and daydreams. So excited!
Bureau of Meteorology. 2021. “Fowlers Gap, New South Wales: May 2021 Daily Weather Observations.” Commonwealth of Australia. Last Modified 21 June 2021. http://www.bom.gov.au/climate/dwo/202105/html/IDCJDW2155.202105.shtml.
Jonah, Salz. 2016. “Traditional Japanese theatre.” In Routledge Handbook of Asian Theatre. Routledge.