Sending Things Home

John Wolesley

I promised myself not to pick things up, not to bring more bits of Australia home – and mostly it worked. All the watercolors I made from soils of Australia in the workshops really could not be left behind so I boxed them up with gifts, mementos, books, baskets, scraps of papers that seemed important for some reason.  The tipping point for sending a parcel home was the purchase of the John Wolesley book on his exhibition I would be missing at the National Gallery Victoria in Melbourne.  He is an artist who has continually worked with the land in a collaboration to give it a visual voice through marks made by them both. It is a large and heavy book that needs to opened slowly over a long period of time. This book is not to be rushed.

Now I need to send something in the other direction.  In all the shuffling of papers and pieces I have lost the card of a young woman I met in Halls Gap at Grampians Texture. We were having a bit of wine at the petanque game when she told me that she grew up in front of this fireplace. It is an egg tempera painting I made a few years ago from a photograph I took at a shearers kitchen.

Shearers kitchen

It takes a long time to do an egg tempera painting. There is the making of a gesso from scratch using calcium carbonate and rabbit skin glue – cooking it just so. Then coating the board several times and sanding even more until it is like polished milk glass. Then you begin making the tiniest marks with pigment mixed with thinned egg yolk to eventually layer into the luminous rendering of something that mattered enough to bother. I think that really does sum up egg tempera painting. And I would like this piece to go back to Australia to the woman who had a childhood in front of this fireplace. I am hoping she will see this and contact me. As an artist it is important that I do the work – not necessarily sell or own it.