Drains, Creeks and Blaze Trees

It’s not that hard to imagine the paradise Eugene Von Guerard in the 1800’s. Winding up Macquarie Pass there is still remnants of that forest. Huge tree ferns, flame trees, cabbage palms and gum trees to park a horse inside. What is hard to imagine is the persistence of painting.
The light coming back from Canberra on the tips of the gums reminded me of his scenes I had just looked at in the National Gallery Canberra. It was bitterly cold outside and the last light when it is optimum for painting. I tried to imagine how he worked, a stool? a french easel? a board?


I went to a talk at Wollongong City Gallery by Dr Joseph Davis on works surrounding Charcoal Creek.  I arrived a few minutes late so didn’t catch who he was. It was later revealed by Google  he is a cultural historian. That would explain it. He was passionate and knowledgeable. The talk centred around works by those colonial painters. I have been desperate in my attempts to capture the areas in a contemporary way, drawing on the same works and vantage points of those artists so this talk couldn’t have been more apt to my work. On the way to the NGA to see the Eugene Von Guerard and Indigenous Triennial  my head was fresh with the works Dr Davis had talked about.

The exhibition in Canberra didn’t have the same punch, it was that dis-connection to the landscape but useful all the same as I could see where he began and how he arrived at Charcoal Creek. I felt a little flush of pride when I saw the flame trees and the brilliant cadmium red flashes in amongst the thick ferns.

Dr Davis had said that Von Guerard had referred to them as blaze trees – maybe wishful thinking whilst he was in the cold depths of the forest floor. Maybe they gave him a little warmth.

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