Living in Australia, having been to the great desert wilderness of the north (and centre), I cannot help but work with ochres over the years, again and again. It is the Earth, in depth. It always reminds me of how the original people of the country painted on rock using countless shades of ochre, and painted their faces too, thus connecting themselves yet again to that which produced the Dreaming. The Earth is the Dreaming.
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.
Having seen and been immersed in the stunning shades of ochre in the far north of Australia (The Kimberley and Kakadu), I find myself painting the colours….well, trying to approximate them. It’s not easy. There were shades of pink that I saw in the rock cliffs of the Berkeley River….not a colour that my otherwise very good camera could capture. When we took our photographs of the amphitheatre-like cliff walls of the river, I was inexplicably taken back to a the temples of the Angkor Wat complex in Cambodia. Maybe they are both sandstone? They are definitely both majestic formations of rock that cannot be forgotten.