Hill End Residency

Upon resettling to Australia in 2018 I immediately began a residency at the historic mining town of Hill End in rural New Sew Wales. The Bathurst Regional Art Gallery (BRAG) runs a wonderful residency program for artists who can live and work in several charming cottages- originally the homes of the important artists Donald Friend and Jean Bellette.

For the month of June last year I had the chance to create a small body of work which was exhibited at Lethbridge Gallery in Brisbane.

After several years overseas it was a lovely experience to be in such a quaint and isolated place, back in the Australian landscape and able to work directly from life. Long European winters had prepared me for a somewhat chilly month, so I could stay fairly productive.

Below are many of the studies and the final artwork which I created at that time.

Home. Don’s Cottage.

Home. Don’s Cottage.

Preparing canvases. Running out of things in an isolated town- such as staples- really sucks.

Preparing canvases. Running out of things in an isolated town- such as staples- really sucks.

While walking around Hill End I came to love its sunken areas and bizarre landscape, now eroding after many years of mining. The small drawing on the left is my first response that prompted me to prepare a canvas and set up using mid-morning light. A daily routine of rotating paintings was a great discipline which structured my days on the residency, allowing me to consider each subject at a consistent time and in changing weather conditions. It is interesting to let the forms evolve in the painting process and depart from the subject so dramatically. It took the longest time to develop the surreal landscape and hold back from painting the finer foreground structures.

While walking around Hill End I came to love its sunken areas and bizarre landscape, now eroding after many years of mining. The small drawing on the left is my first response that prompted me to prepare a canvas and set up using mid-morning light. A daily routine of rotating paintings was a great discipline which structured my days on the residency, allowing me to consider each subject at a consistent time and in changing weather conditions. It is interesting to let the forms evolve in the painting process and depart from the subject so dramatically. It took the longest time to develop the surreal landscape and hold back from painting the finer foreground structures.

“Dissolving Mine. Hill End” 41x51cm. Oil on linen  I love the low viewport/ rugged middle-ground/ band of blue and towering tree forms. The dark pockets of shadow in the bottom half contrast the openings of sky at the top of the format.

“Dissolving Mine. Hill End” 41x51cm. Oil on linen

I love the low viewport/ rugged middle-ground/ band of blue and towering tree forms. The dark pockets of shadow in the bottom half contrast the openings of sky at the top of the format.

My nights were spent drawing by the fireplace from objects that I collected while on walks- but always finding a new position to draw my other hand.

My nights were spent drawing by the fireplace from objects that I collected while on walks- but always finding a new position to draw my other hand.

A study made on the first day looking south from Kissing Point.

A study made on the first day looking south from Kissing Point.

I knew instantly these dead tree stumps had to find their way into a painting. The tight cropping was useful to exaggerate their writhing characteristics and create a competitive tension between them.

I knew instantly these dead tree stumps had to find their way into a painting. The tight cropping was useful to exaggerate their writhing characteristics and create a competitive tension between them.

This was the early morning painting, so there were often difficult sessions because of freezing temperatures and volatile weather. I quickly discovered that the spot which I sat for this painting (on the west slope of Kissing Point) was the only location in the town where I could get phone reception and chat with my girlfriend who was on the other side of the world. The background was not much developed and let to recede, but originally I hoped to use the broad pink plane of a neighbouring mountain to feature small scale trees, as a kind of wall paper behind the foliage.

This was the early morning painting, so there were often difficult sessions because of freezing temperatures and volatile weather. I quickly discovered that the spot which I sat for this painting (on the west slope of Kissing Point) was the only location in the town where I could get phone reception and chat with my girlfriend who was on the other side of the world. The background was not much developed and let to recede, but originally I hoped to use the broad pink plane of a neighbouring mountain to feature small scale trees, as a kind of wall paper behind the foliage.

Sketchbook pages were filled as I tried to find the right subject to paint. These moments have stimulated new painting ideas which I am now developing at a larger scale, back in my Brisbane studio.

Sketchbook pages were filled as I tried to find the right subject to paint. These moments have stimulated new painting ideas which I am now developing at a larger scale, back in my Brisbane studio.

First thumbnail for the Golden Gully painting.  On the right is the early block-in stage, as I stand in a dry creek bed.

First thumbnail for the Golden Gully painting.

On the right is the early block-in stage, as I stand in a dry creek bed.

This small drawing helped me articulate the major forms and organise the debris, preparing for the larger painting.

This small drawing helped me articulate the major forms and organise the debris, preparing for the larger painting.

“Golden Gully. Hill End” 50x71cm Oil on linen  The afternoon painting.

“Golden Gully. Hill End” 50x71cm Oil on linen

The afternoon painting.

Monster split rock at Kissing Point.

Monster split rock at Kissing Point.

Two sketchbook pages made while wandering around.

Two sketchbook pages made while wandering around.

As Hill End is a gold mining town, quartz is scattered everywhere. The backyard and gardens of my cottage were lined with these beautiful rocks which I schlepped inside to paint, as well a few faux gold nuggets found in the cottage.

As Hill End is a gold mining town, quartz is scattered everywhere. The backyard and gardens of my cottage were lined with these beautiful rocks which I schlepped inside to paint, as well a few faux gold nuggets found in the cottage.

Donald Friend made this stove the centre of his home many years ago. A comment on my  Instagram  account reminded me that Friend and  Margret Olley  found these tiles at various abandoned homes around the town. The branch is from a blackberry plant, beautifully placed for my future painting by a former resident from France.  Unfortunately the locally grown pumpkin was never eaten because it took me the whole month to develop the painting.

Donald Friend made this stove the centre of his home many years ago. A comment on my Instagram account reminded me that Friend and Margret Olley found these tiles at various abandoned homes around the town. The branch is from a blackberry plant, beautifully placed for my future painting by a former resident from France.

Unfortunately the locally grown pumpkin was never eaten because it took me the whole month to develop the painting.