Well, I am finally here at my artist residency at the Nancy Fairfax Studio at the Tweed Regional Gallery in Murwillumbah, NSW. This is a special place overlooking wonderful country including the ancient volcano Mt Warning/Wollumbin and its world heritage listed Caldera and rainforest. The rainforest is home to magnificent trees and wildlife and the Tweed River Valley is a beautiful landscape for an artist. The Gallery is also home to the Margaret Olley Centre and houses her ‘home’ – or at least a couple of rooms of it containing all her wildly idiosyncratic belongings. It is a treat to be amongst all this.
In an artist residency you are supposed to ‘work’ and I am, it’s great not to have any distractions and to just play, although there is some personal pressure to fulfil my project aims. In a nutshell I am examining the environment of the Tweed Valley from the time of the painting of Elioth Gruner’s magnificent oil, ‘Valley of the Tweed’ (1921) to the present in an artistic and historical way.
One of my first tasks was to try to find the exact spot where Gruner painted his view. I did manage to finally find a reference to it being on the border of NSW and Queensland on the Tomewin Mountain Road where the Cobb and Co. Coaches used to travel across country. When I eventually found the spot it was very different to Gruner’s view of cleared land as it is now blocked by the growth of large trees and from what I could see, the pasture below was less open and along the river there was much more vegetation than was present in 1921. I have since painted my version of the Valley of the Tweed.
The artist residency itself has a wonderful view of the countryside to the great volcanic plug of Mt Warning/Wollumbin, so I have sketched it and now have painted a large work in acrylics.
There are cows in the next paddock and their mooing greets me every morning and the sunset behind the mountain says goodnight each evening.
One morning I drove to the base of the grand mountain where there is true rainforest, some sketching done there but I was hoping to find a Richmond Birdwing Butterfly. I did see a couple I think, but they were to high for me to identify so I have to be content with other illustrations!
I have worked on sketches of leaves indigenous to this environment including the Hoop and Bunya Pines, the Richmond Birdwing Butterfly Vine and the Red Cedar. Although I have not identified a mature Red Cedar, with the help of a Landcare friend, I have been monitoring the growth of a sapling for over a year now. I have six months at the end of the artist residency to finish my work, so there is much more to come!
In other news
My next Saturday Workshop is 16th November and is all about the colour GREEN. Contact me to reserve a place.
I have put all the details for the next Art and Culture Tour in France, September 2020 here.
The current exhibition at Lennox Arts Collective is Brett Belot’s Superstars and Signatures – fabulous signed portraits of well known elite sports people – continues to the 14th November.