When I first met with Jon Dixon and Great South Coast Leadership Group representative and local arts advocate extraordinaire Gareth Colliton on the Port Fairy site we were greeted with lightning flashes and thunder claps. It seemed an auspicious welcoming. The night before we unveiled our completed work in March 2016 thunder again crackled through the sky. This time it was louder and the charged air felt alive. Not only alive but continuous with the life force in my own body as well as the creative life force which had guided our whole project. In the speech I prepared for our opening I decided to be courageous and share this sense of the living landscape with the audience. It was an important turning point within my practice which enabled something to gel.
The earth is alive.
And as Professor Tom Griffiths from the ANU Centre of Environmental History points out in his 2018 Australian Museum address, it has only been in the last 300 or so years that we have forgotten this.
CHARGED LANDSCAPE awakens in the evening sky. I have had the pleasure of guiding Grade Two School children on a night time exploration of the space as well as making numerous trips just for fun. On clear summer and autumn nights you can find the Dark Emu in the Sky looking over the Dark Emu imprinted in the ancient stone.
The Great South Coast Leadership Group enabled this amazing project to happen. Check out their site for more about the project and scroll down to the 2016 section of their photo gallery to see more images of the opening night.
If you want to find our more about Indigenous Australian Astronomy the following links are a good place to start:
Our Kitchen Table Art Expedition takes a great deal of inspiration from Eugene von Guerard. This Colonial artist made several trips through South West Victoria through what is now called the Kanawinka Geopark that spans from near Geelong to Mt Gambier. This is a volcanic landscape that has rich history and soil.
Our project started in May with our visit to von Guerard’s masterpiece Tower Hill at the Warrnambool Art Gallery, painted in 1855. Later that same decade he trekked to Mt Eccles and undertook drawing studies there as well. With this in mind we made our second expedition outside Macarthur to Mt Eccles. (You can get a better look at Eugene’s work by clicking on the image above to enlarge it)
We started at the top look out where the Explorers used drawings and iPads to record the environment. Breaking up into our Expedition Parties we made our way around the crater and down into the cave were our explorers observed the effect of darkness on their eyes as well as the sounds and smells inside the earth.
We were “blessed” with rain for most of our expedition but under the strong leadership of Mrs Lyles we still ventured on to the camping ground where the explorers we asked to find a solitary spot to contemplate Mt Eccles- without chattering, to listen, look, smell and wonder…..
This wonderfully wet day of exploration provides us with the source for our next five weeks of work. I have begun my time with my next group: the Light Expedition Party. I am very interested to see what things we discover about our environment together…..
We’ve already noted how overcast days diffuse the light making shadows almost non-existent and how light rain seems to smudge light causing a loss of visual detail as the landscape recedes….
…… and on my way out of Macarthur I was met with a huge Rainbow, as if to mark the start of this new round of inquiry working with the Light Expedition Party over the next 5 weeks 🙂
One of the really exciting parts of the Kitchen Table Art Expedition is the creation of the Light Chamber Observatory….. This structure will be built at the end of Macarthur Primary School’s Kitchen Garden. It is a “child centred” design that includes bench seating, a blackboard and the real treat: a coloured Perspex atrium!! It will also include observation equipment like a thermometer, rain gauge and weather vain. Each of the three expedition parties will make a set of permanent sculptures which will be used to decorate areas of it. We will also take a digital photograph of a drawing/painting by each explorer which will be turned into a transparent sticker and then adhered to the Perspex to create a stained glass window effect- it will look pretty amazing!
We have been working in collaboration with the Macarthur Men’s Shed to organise the construction. We will use as much recycled materials as possible in the building, this is for environmental and economic reasons but mostly because we this that a collage of materials- corrugated iron, timber etc- will contrast with the bright Perspex to make a really intriguing space for the children. We have already had our roof donated by one of the Men’s Shed members, an old corrugated tank cut to size…
The initial design is picture at the bottom right of the above image (you can click on it to enlarge the view), over the last few weeks I have undertaken a re-design process in line with the Light Chamber Observatory’s evolution. The large image above is the final form that it will take…. construction begins in July for a September completion…..