Very cold too. My first university post was a few hours to the east of my home at that time and the journey took me across the Blue Mountains to the edge of the Sydney Plain. For over a year I passed this place several days a week morning and night, always, as the saying goes, driving into the sun (ADITS). At Katoomba near the top of the range the highway slid round this bend and the sun always hit me right in the eyes – sunglasses could never beat it.
So one day I recorded the scene, of which this painting is a small part (the most interesting part to me), jumped back in the car and kept going… you guessed it, “always driving into the sun”.
The scene was just one of those places/times/whatevers that sticks in your mind until you give in and do something with it, even though we’re talking some thirty years later now.
I liked the light bouncing off the road markings that made them ribbon-like, hard-edged, high contrast bands leading your eye around the curve and around the painting. This, in contrast to the soft light forms of morning wood-fire smoke and cloudy mountain mists clearing to a bright winter’s day.
Interesting to me at the time and just wouldn’t go away whenever I looked back on it – perhaps the scene just fed the boredom of a long drive. Perhaps I just like the abstract quality of it, but here it is.
“The Grove At Magdala” was a happy place for me. Infested with that colonial curse Lantana and inhabited by kangaroos, snakes, goannas and bugs of all kinds I took it on myself to tame it to my satisfaction – that is to say I wanted it to remain wild, but interesting. I mowed and cleared tracks all through the Grove, an acre or two of forested land on the slope just down from the house at the edge of the area we kept clear from bushfires and so we could see any pests, like snakes.
Snakes tended to skid across my tracks when I was charging through on my trusty John Deere ride-on but kangaroos would just stand there staring at me as if they couldn’t possibly take me seriously. The local farmers probably thought I couldn’t be taken seriously either, tearing around on a ride-on mower more often than not with dust billowing everywhere drifting across the road onto their washing lines. While living there we were never challenged by bushfire and only occasionally chased by goannas.
I loved getting in there in amongst the twigs and branches, piles of Lantana and the wildlife. The birdlife flourished in there too. It was full of the smells of the Australian bush and that odd herb-like smell of Lantana – surely a leftover from pre-historic times. This painting shows the start of the main trail veering to the left between the trees and down into the grove late on a summer afternoon.
The light spears across the ground and winds it’s way deep into the forest behind. The tree trunks and dead Lantana rods were always silvery at this time of day.