To ‘breathe’ new air

Morning Mist in Jackadgery (NSW)
Morning Mist in Jackadgery (NSW), Medium: Acrylic on Canvas

I grew up in the salty air of southern Adelaide (South Australia (SA)). The sea was a huge part of my life, in fact, I couldn’t image not living near a beach. My childhood local beach, Port Noarlunga Beach, was about 10-15 minutes drive away and has featured in a lot in my paintings. The colours, light and feelings associated with beaches are pretty instinctual to me. When we moved to Sydney nearly 8 years ago, we moved inland to the foothills of The Blue Mountains. Instead of the sea being our local ‘water’, our new local water became a river known as the Nepean River.

Adjusting to inland Greater Sydney and the inland rivers of New South Wales (NSW) has taken me time. The colours, smell and light is so different to what I grew up with. For one, Adelaide doesn’t feature the tall trees found along the Great Dividing Range of NSW. In fact, many of the original Australian paintings featured in the Adelaide Art Gallery and art books I studied in High School I could never relate to. I had never seen such ‘bush land’ before until I moved here. I remember driving up north along the old convict made Putty Road and seeing the same bush land that featured in the paintings of Australian Artists such as Tom Roberts, Arthur Streeton and Frederick McCubbin. It was a real revelation to see what inspired them to paint what they did. I always admired their artwork, but it didn’t feel accessible. To me it was Australian Art, because that is what I was told it was. It wasn’t until I was looking at the same type of bush land that they painted did I see ‘Australia’.

South Australia’s main river, the Murray River, may be long and winding, but it is actually quite small in comparison to the local Nepean River that I now live near. When I first moved here, I was astonished at the width of the local river and the amount of water it contained. Every time I travel up the coast of NSW what always amazes me is the amount of rivers I cross on the way. The ‘Mighty’ Murray River is not so mighty at the Southern end of Australia. The largest water source in my childhood wasn’t a river, it was the sea (the Gulf of St Vincent) that the metropolitan city of Greater Adelaide sits along. Adjusting to this new ‘land’ that I now live in is the reason I haven’t painted a landscape for many years. Most of my paintings are beachscapes, or portraits.

Recently I decided to stretch myself and paint a moment that I experienced while staying by an inland river, Mann River, in Northern NSW. I will be honest I wasn’t able to relax into this painting and rely on instinct, but I really appreciated the different colours and the way the light expressed itself through the trees. Was it my best painting ever? Probably not, but that wasn’t what I was aiming for. I was looking to see differently; to appreciate the new in my life. To ‘breathe’ new air.

The moment in this painting, “Morning mist in Jackadgery (NSW)”, was beautiful and still. The mist rested low in the trees, hiding features and creating interesting shadows. To my then 8 year old daughter the fog was, “Just grey” and featureless. She didn’t understand that the beauty was what the mist was hiding and the light was revealing. The muted colours, stillness and the moist chill in the air was what made the moment so memorable.

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