Gunyah artist in residence – North Arm Cove NSW

Have you seen Miranda, oil on primed paper, 2013

Gunyah Residency 13-27 September

For two weeks in September I was lucky to undertake a self directed artist’s residency. The Gunyah house is beautiful and set amongst the bush on a slope that leads to the waters of North Arm Cove, a gentle sheltered cove where a boat could seek refuge from a storm. During my two week residency the weather was all over the place, a sunny warm morning followed by a thunder storm at lunchtime and a calm mild afternoon. Typical Spring with four seasons experienced in one day. Towards the end of September the weather was windy and warm and a high danger for bushfires.

Apart from enjoying the exquisite natural surroundings of Gunyah, I was able to develop and play with some ideas central to the Australian bushland environment and the dense and twisted Gums of North Arm was the perfect place to do this. My focus at Gunyah was to explore the anxiety of the Australian bush through ‘lost children’ narratives. I found myself working with one image of two little girls, painting it several times. When working with images of children, one can often be overtaken by sentimentality. I tried to avoid this by not painting in facial features or by blurring the portrait with a broad gestural sweep.

In the studio and out in the field I favoured painting on primed paper as my support. For one work, I painted two portraits of the same child’s face, one showing facial detail while the other face is blurred and diminished like a fading memory. I wanted to take these dual portraits out of the studio and into the bush, simply to see how they would appear juxtaposed next to the landscape that enticed so many children away from their families and homes to their own detriment and peril. By pinning the paintings to the trees I found I could evoke something that alluded to a memorial or memory, of loss, erasure, missing person’s posters or bush telegraph, something along these lines. I found I could create a multi layered experience with a two dimensional and traditional object, such as, a painting. I took black and white photographs to document this work.

The location of Gunyah and the spring light and colour, one could not help but do a few little landscapes en plein air! I was lucky to have my family and a couple of friends visit me and enjoy together the beautiful property. I enjoyed very much driving into Tea Gardens on occasion and eating and drinking coffee at the Boatshed.  I also enjoyed exploring Mungo Brush, seeing an abundance of flannel flowers and swimming in the aqua waters of Jimmy’s Beach on the hottest day.

A sincere thankyou to Kath Fries and the Gunyah property group that make this wonderful residency available to artists. I found the two weeks very productive and positive for my practice.

Peta Dzubiel, 2013

Kath Fries: Gunyah artist-in-residence co-ordinator

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