The Red Case and Killalea

I had not made plans to go with the Picknick Painters this week but things changed last-minute and they were going to Killalea. I thought that I may not be able to do this again for a while because of other commitments, so I threw my stuff in a bag, a book on Philip Guston for Kaye, some book binding notes and my sketchbook.  It looked pretty black towards the south so I wasn’t expecting to stay long. Killalea had its own plans for me.


It’s beauty never fails to amaze, pushed to the edge by McMansion after McMansion just a small mottled concrete barricade to stop the grey roofs from spilling in on the green hills. To the east, Bass Point, a quarry and the constant rumble of trucks on dirt that disappear behind the hill. To the west vivid yellow-green hills and escarpment hem us in even further. For me it’s the view northwards that tugs at my attention and draws me away from the natural beauty.

The stack sits embedded in a finger of coast, surrounded crucifixion like be a scattering of smaller inconsequential chimneys. Mum always said -“I know I’m home when I see that stack.” Each time I look at it, it conjures childhood memories in some form. Scanning out to sea eastward from the stack, the five islands off Port Kembla float amongst the shipping containers like large bags of jetsam. The last page in my sketchbook contained notes on jellyfish within the lake. Images and sketches sometimes merge and I found myself humming “Five Jellyfish sitting on a rock…” meanwhile I sketched my thoughts. A tanker towing the island and in turn the island towing the jellyfish. It made me think of the dreaming stories associated with the local Wodi Wodi people of the starfish and  the whale.

I couldn’t decide whether they were heading ashore or out to sea but it made me think of the red suitcase, a symbol of my need to run, to escape.

Each time I work it feeds more and more into the lake series which is becoming stronger in my mind through my experience in this landscape. I feel I have opened the suitcase a little more, perhaps feeling more ready to settle.

Fred, Clifford Possum & The You Yangs

Old Mans Love Story Clifford Possum

It’s not long til the Fred Williams show at The National Gallery of Australia. I’ve been waiting. This SMH article today made me even more determined to get there. To have an indigenous artist connect with your work, really means that you have captured the landscape. You’ve done it right. Especially Clifford Possum. I hope it’s not one of those moments you gear up for, building expectations, thinking it will have a miraculous impact on the way you work only to find you come away with something completely different. This happened on the trip to New York – I was expecting to be enlightened by De Koonings en masse, instead I enlightened by just a few Philip Gustons. Either way the trip to Canberra NGA in winter to breathe in that cold air and walk on crisp leaves will always motivate me – after Aida Tomescu’s talk maybe I’ll try to spend a little longer with Cezanne and Titian rather than Tuckson and De Kooning.

Pilbara Fred Williams



Have you looked at Diebenkorn, Sue?

If only.  Advice from great painters I admire was always “Have you looked at Diebenkorn?”  NO!NO!NO! and why? Because there are no bloody Diebenkhorns in Australia to look at. All painters know that you can’t study a painter from books, no sorry, you can! but there is nothing like the real thing for the student, to get in close and sometimes even whiff the oil. If I hadn’t gone in search I wouldn’t have seen those thick luscious marks made by Philip Guston.

So I took myself on an art trip to study those brush marks. One side of the USA to the other.  I have looked at Diebenkhorn. Wow.