Sometimes I don’t get a chance to visit my bush studio for weeks on end as I live in the city. When I do get there, it’s an interesting experience to follow a path in the forest to enter a roomy studio with familiar and large paintings that seem to be made by someone else. (Generally I feel most “good” artists are the best at opening themselves to that creativity that surrounds us.) So the bush studio feels like a decaying and abandoned monument in a forest few people ever enter. This is how the place feels. Special to me at least. The meditation deck next to it adds to the atmosphere. Ghosts everywhere.
Those of you that read this blog know that I return to lakes again and again. Is it just another place to take photograghs? Maybe.
In reality, I travel to lakes again and again because for me they represent all I feel alienated from, living in the city. It’s not just living in the city. It is all the associated dysfunctionalities of living a city life, despite the obvious positives of life in a city. I believe there is a deeper part of the human psyche that longs for the solitude of nature, the non-human intelligence that seems present in the bush and the profound beauty of the water meeting the sky around a lake. There is something that cleanses you from the pent-up stresses, trivialities and annoyances of city life. This is just touching on what I could write about being in the forest or on a lake. Photographs say so much more. There is a sacred silence.
Having lived in the city all my life, and having experienced the archetypal cities of the world while travelling, I have found that my favourite creative space is one close to nature. I have even noticed how the work I do out of my city studio is different to that done in the Retreat House. My dream is to one day allow access to my Retreat House (under some kind of arrangement) to emerging artists. There is something in the peace and the sounds of nature especially as the sun sets or as the sun rises, that is great for the creative soul.
I am haunted by seeing the northern edge of my country, particularly the Kimberley region and Kakadu. You can travel the world and see the great centres of human culture and that’s fine but the Deep North is something else. There was no road access to the lodge we stayed at in the Kimberley…so we sat crammed in a light plane and watched the miles and miles of plains and rivers pass by below. Once there, we spent days exploring the waterholes around the Berkeley River and the great sandstone gorge it snakes through.
Kakadu was more populated with tourists but equally mind-altering in its grandeur and untouchability. Both places felt as if the Dreamtime storylines continue to sing to sensitive ears. Our aboriginal guides wanted us to hear the distant voices of ancient time.
Maybe we did.
Life these days in the cities of eternal business and busy-ness is inherently depletive of meaning. It only takes a short trip away into the wilder zones outside the city to realize there are many places of quiet. Or at least places where the sounds are less human : the sound of the waves, the hum of the forest, the silence of the forest at night. We are often offered now techniques of meditation and contemplation, in an effort to regain what we have lost (see the great book “The Quiet” by Paul Wilson regarding methods of meditation).
There is also the mere presence of other humans that bring us back into the white noise of our social nature. We seem to crave some alone time as well as down time. These thoughts are not inherently misanthropic… just more realistic. Perhaps a sign of age? Perhaps honesty ?
These paintings are about finding the Quiet, whether in a landscape or internally through a meditative practice. The colours are muted. The atmosphere is one of peace and perhaps silence.