Wormiston Wood


works: painting and etching | landscape and memory, scotland, 2006–2007


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Landscape and Memory, (2006–2007) is a series of paintings done in Scotland, which takes its cue from a pastel of the same name, which was done in Melbourne in 1986. It refers to a preoccupation with landscape as emblematic of the human spirit. The spiritual is sought, through an affinity with place - issues that allude to the unknowable, mysterious aspects of life.  Materials with symbolic associations such as: ash, wax, ground ochres are mixed with oil paint and used to allude to the unknown. The 2007 images are a natural extension from paintings made at Wormiston over a period of 20 years, but they depart from previous work in their conceptual focus. Four paintings are entitled, quoting T.S. Eliot, “We are only undefeated because we have gone on trying”, (4 Quartets), (2007); they use a rich, colourful palette, which many viewers attribute to Australia not Scotland. Expressionistic use of colour comes from disparate art historical sources, especially Arthur Boyd with whom I worked over an eight-year period in the nineties.

Wormiston on the east coast of Scotland is centred on a prominent wood, close to the sea, some 12 acres of ancient tall trees. It is a mysterious place to live, where an identification with aspects of nature, can act as a form of witness to human experience over many centuries. To endow trees with this role side- steps the purely subjective.  The seasons, cyclical patterns of life and the solstice, are all in great contrast to experiences of life in Australia. Materials found there, such as wood ash allude to a mnemonic mythological landscape, growth and regeneration. Very tall trees are difficult to paint from a single perspective, and yet they create a virtual cathedral between heaven and earth. An autobiographical aspect of these works refers to nurturing. Angels, dolls, and puppets are used to allude to the mystery of death and the afterlife. Sombre colours, graphic elements and a reduced palette, using earth, wax, charcoal, gold leaf are used to allude to the unknown.