Makeshift studio, Karijini, Western Australia. 2018

Makeshift studio, Karijini, Western Australia. 2018

During 2018 I spent 15 weeks travelling through Purnululu, El Questro, Manning Gorge, Karijini, Uluru Kata-Tjuta, Lesueur National Park, Boodjamulla and Ikara. Some of these places were visited for the second and third time, some were entirely new experiences. Tentatively titled ‘Peripatetic’, this body of work considers moving through remote landscapes ‘at human speed’, a phrase borrowed from friend and author Nathan Brown, writing about walking the Larapinta Trail.

It was the healthy, full, alive silence that can only be accessed at human speed. Even if we could drive to such a place, such a moment, we would need the experience of stopping or at most walking for some period of time before it could be felt.
— Nathan Brown, "At Human Speed" Spectrum Magazine, Nov 7, 2012.

The landscapes visited are vast and epic, but my work is typically focused on relatively small vignettes of those places, views that give a sense of intimacy. I choose to paint the clusters of trees among rocks, the intersections of rock platforms, and varying textures in grasses. These are the story telling elements in the landscape; the details that reveal where we are and when we are; elements that can only be observed and absorbed ‘at human speed’, that is, when sitting or walking in the landscape.

These details and this slowed pace establish a kind of immediacy and focus on the present,and also recognise that what we see and feel of the landscape is a limited view; a tiny piece of something far bigger than ourselves. In those ancient and spiritual places, I feel very small, but I don’t feel lost. Rather than trying to contain enormous rock formations or wide desert plains within a single painting, I hope to reproduce the feelings of safety, belonging and peace I experience in those places. 

I filled sketchbooks with energetic drawings, charcoal and ink studies, and then set up makeshift studios at campsites to work on acrylic paintings. Materials were kept in a custom built drawer in the family 4WD, and finished paintings were stored in the camper- trailer. Since my return, I have been working from these sketches as well as a detailed daily diary. I am processing the journey region by region, and developing my own visual language for each place.

Our human speed would get us there soon enough but I wanted to savour this moment for a little longer. Sometimes even human speed feels too fast.