Much of your recent work has been based in an urban context, depicting semi-abstract fragments of light from the streets of Japan and the interiors of Parisian buildings. What was your first reaction to the vast, almost untouched landscape of Fowlers Gap?
Delight and awe to be in such an expansive space and relief that we had reached our destination, out of the confines of the minibus! Driving from inner urban Sydney to remote far-west NSW is an amazing and transformative journey. You experience the density and clutter unravelling into a series of panoramic landscapes.
How did you refine and focus this reaction into a mode of art-making?
The landscape has an overwhelming sense of expansiveness and continuity. It is deceptively easy to assume that it’s empty and monotonous. Concurrently, it is full and abundant with variation. I wanted to make some artworks that reflected both the landscape’s emptiness and fullness.
In a practical context, what challenges did you encounter?
I found it challenging on many levels. Physically working in a natural environment had its particular challenges: being subject to the sun, wind, dust and dirt, roaming animals and insects while sitting for hours on hard, rocky, prickly ground. However, more challenging than the physical conditions was the conceptual task of finding a subject and developing a working method with the materials at hand, in a short amount of time.
Do you enjoy working en plein air? Is this a regular mode of creating for you?
I work en plein air quite a bit, but in a variety of 21st century ways. This could mean taking photos, drawing, note-writing or making small-scale works on paper. This feeds directly into the work in the studio. Much of my work is large-scale oil painting employing the layering techniques of glazing and scumbling, making colour translucent and creating optical effects. This method of making paintings was going to be impossible at Fowlers Gap.
Many of the artists have spoken about the array of colours out there. You’ve worked primarily in black and white, charcoal on paper. How and why did you come to this decision?
I love colour and the ever-changing colours of Fowlers Gap, but I had decided before our departure to make works on paper, and charcoal is my preferred medium for this. I also enjoy working with black and white, which has become an important aspect of my language. Sometimes, stripping out colour brings its own rewards.
Has the Fowlers Gap landscape and experience fed into your other, more urban-based work?
Definitely. I am still processing the experience. My other body of work dealing with light looks and feels incredibly different, yet there are still threads that link it with the landscape drawings. When I returned home I was excited to discover the photographic work of a 19th century English botanist, Anna Atkins. I felt there was a great resonance between her photograms and the plant drawings I had just completed at Fowlers Gap.
The life of an artist is often one of solitude. How did you find the experience of working amongst a group of artists?
When we were in the landscape, I chose mainly to work in solitude. I wanted to feel something about the landscape without distraction. The wonderful counterbalance to this was coming back to base and sharing the experience with everyone. It was both inspiring and a privilege to be working alongside a highly motivated group of committed artists of all ages and stages. While we had different modes of expression, we all shared an excitement about the landscape and the challenge of capturing it. Everyone made a huge effort to make it a positive, enjoyable experience
Not The Way Home, Interview by Owen Craven (Editor, Artist’s Profile) reproduced courtesy of Artist’s Profile magazine
Artist’s Profile, April 2012 pp74-75