The Meeting Place (Hanging Rock, Macedon) is part of the VAS Regional Victorian Visions Exhibition 2022, a pop up exhibition which has just started at the Victorian Artists Society. It is my first departure away from the momentum I have generated with the fruit still life series which have been selling well at different venues over the past year.
The reasons I was interested in painting a scene from regional Victoria now that the Covid restrictions and lockdowns are well behind us, was to reconnect with where I left off first year out of uni many years ago. I had gone on a week long solo camping expedition to Hanging Rock back in the late 80's, when it was possible to do that kind of thing.
I got to experience the energy of the place at all times of day and night. It was a quiet time of year and the ranger at the time knew I was there, so I was perfectly safe. Equipped with two tents, one for myself and the other for supplies, I used most of my time observing and making mental notes.
Even so, I had four paintings completed by the end of my trip - all in oil paint and later framed and gifted to a family member. The style I was exploring in those days was more energetic - in a sense evoking my intuitive understanding of Turner's style of painting "atmospheres" which I was very familiar with, given that large Turner prints were all over the lounge and dining areas of my parent's home in my teenage years.
Spotted some bush tucker ripening up along the way!
To paint Hanging Rock this time, I contented myself with painting from a very different perspective. I went on a field trip to gather many photos and luckily whilst I was there the clouds cleared and it was possible to capture striking cast shadows which I felt was a great way to ease myself back into approaching the landscape, after all these years.
I don't usually work from photos and so I didn't know what would come of it. Also the exhibition guidelines stipulated works on paper. So I mounted paper on the canvas support and then worked over that with my signature style painting border treatment.
Things worked well winging it this way and then I continued with acrylic paint to complete the picture. I did seal the paper first due to concerns that the wet media might seep through the paper and cause buckling. I am thankful that I did that as the surface stayed as tight as a drum throughout the whole painting process. I had a hard copy of the image in front of me from my field trip and it was like looking through a window to paint the scene. I could see the landscape as fresh as if I was really there in person.
During this exercise I worked out my substantial fear of channelling spirits in the painting process, which onset after a member of my ancestral lineage long passed, informed me of my father's passing whilst I was painting, in the same studio I was using when this information was revealed. The fear was worked out because, well, there are spirits everywhere at Hanging Rock and I feel safe there. So it was an awesome opportunity for me to transfer the feelings of safety from my previous experiences at Hanging Rock to my painting studio where I had intuitively received upsetting news and which I had previously abandoned for seven years. It did take a fair bit of time balancing the spirit side and the physical side of this scene during the painting process, yet it was thoroughly enjoyable.
I may or may not continue painting landscapes, as it depends on a few factors: such as the relevance of the site, it's subjective meaning to me, the spiritual and personal growth factors involved and the challenges of painting the landscape itself. Studley Park, Kew would likely be a good place to start, however that would be working en plein air and require a totally different approach to the subject of landscape painting altogether.
This work is one amongst others done by enormously talented artists which are currently on display at the Cato Gallery at the Victorian Artists Society until May 30.