Queenie (or Mingmarriya) was born on the banks of the Ord River in the Kimberleys to an indigenous mother and white father at a time when children with mixed parentage were often removed by the Government and sent to an institution. In an effort to keep her safe her mother rubbed charcoal into her skin enabling Queenie to remain on the cattle station where she worked as a cook and gained a love and understanding of country. She is quoted as saying “Every rock, every hill, every water, I know that place backwards and forwards, up and down, inside out. It’s my country and I got names for every place”.
She displayed this feel for the land in her contemporary Indigenous art which remains among Australia’s most collectible with many artworks being autobiographical, and others depicting the violent colonial past.
McKenzie’s importance has been recognized by the government of Western Australia, which declared her as a “State Living Treasure” the year of her death.
I failed art at high school. It harks back to those first years of formal education back in the early 60’s when teachers would rap you on the knuckles with a ruler for colouring outside the lines. This torture continued as I progressed to learning cursive writing using a slope card. Do you remember them? If you failed to negotiate the appropriate guidelines you copped another slap on the wrist. Add this to learning to write using an inkwell and having to earn your “pen licence” and I was petrified throughout most of years at primary school. No wonder I never took to art…….(Don’t even ask how arithmetic classes affected my mental wellbeing, especially with an overachiever accountant as a father.)
Years later in my own home I rebelled and let loose developing a keen eye for colour : colour and art works by developing creatives. Treated myself to a piece of art every year for years. Lost them all in the divorce from a man who only liked the interior walls of a house to be beige. Beige is Boring especially in the days when Mission Brown was splattered across every neighbourhood in Australia.
So I celebrated by painting my house feel good colours, colours that added warmth to my life, such as Sunflower Yellow and Budgie Green. Real Estate Agents laughed at my colour scheme, but it was I who had the last laugh.
In retirement, and with these days of Covid isolation and reflection, I have rediscovered the benefits of art. I still lack any artistic talent but creating something tangible and playing with colour has kept me sane. I’ve completed a couple of Paint By Number Kits ( never again, thankyou, fruit of my loins ) and successfully completed two Art Therapy study programs.
Last week we attended a guided paint workshop under the marketing umbrella of Paint And Sip. All very casual and social where you receive instructions on how and what to paint whilst grazing on BYO nibbles. Loved playing with the paints and mixing colours so much so that I will investigate local classes. It was also interesting to see that although everyone received the same instructions all results were different. Here’s a case in point :
Pablo Picasso once said ” Art washes away from the soul the dust of everyday life.” I’ve got a damn lot of dust to get rid of yet………
To end, here are five fun facts about colour:
Mosquitoes are attracted to blue
There’s a name for the colour you see when you turn the lights off, just before it turns dark – eigengrau
3. Red is the first colour a baby sees.
4. Pink can curb anger. Pink prisons, do you think?
5. Colour can affect taste.
And from my very own Natural Therapist, did you know that there are 66 different shades of green and that the state of your health can be determined by the number of greens you can see?
It is only over recent months that I became aware of Australian Aboriginal Astronomy after having listened to Astrophysicist and Science Communicator, Kirsten Banks, on of all things, a home renovation show.
Of Wiradjuri descent Kirsten has a particular interest in how Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders have used the stars for over 65,000 years for navigation purposes, predicting weather seasons, and for determining when the best time is to hunt for certain foods such as emu eggs. “ Aboriginal Astronomy can teach us about the link between the sky and the land”, she said.
My interest was further piqued on my recent outback Queensland travels and in particular Winton. Winton’s small population, low humidity, and low light pollution make it the ideal location to stargaze and the area around the Australian Age of Dinosaurs is now one of only ten internationally recognised areas certified as a Dark Sky Sanctuary.
Since then I have been receiving social media alerts regarding Aboriginal artwork related to the skies. ( see Aboriginal Skies)
With a daughter in Nhulunbuy, Northern Territory – which I grew up calling Gove – an area in East Arnham land populated for some 40,000 years by the Yolgnu people, we all have a new appreciation for the story tellers from our First Nation. Contemporary Australian Indigenous art often references astronomical subjects and their related lore such as the Seven Sisters.
Here are examples of some of the art works:
This fabulous artwork was submitted by Annette Joy. Annette is a Gourmanjanyuk/Wergaia artist and the painting represents Yerrerdetkurrk, which is the star Achernar. Yerrerdetkurrk is the ‘Nalwinkurrk’, or mother of Totyarguil’s wives. The ‘Nalwinkurrk’ never allows’ her son-in law to see her. Achernar is a bright, binary star system located in the constellation Eridanus, and is the ninth-brightest star in the night sky.
“Hydra the Water Serpent” from the ‘Shared Sky Exhibition’. This exhibition highlighted the connections between Aboriginal & contemporary astronomy. This artwork is acrylic on linen (70cm x 52cm) and the artist is Nerolie Blurton. “The Water Serpent, stretched across the sky with its many heads, was a monster until it was cut and killed. The red blood drips down from the clot. The browns and orange show that the Hydra can be seen best in autumn.”
If Aboriginal Astronomy intrigues you I recommend reading the story of The Emu In The Sky by Ray and Cilla Norris. Fascinating and guaranteed to give you a brand new perspective.
Dark Sky and Dinosaur Country at Winton overlooking Banjo’s “plains extended” and “vision splendid”.
Isn’t it bizarre how watching something on TV simply to learn how to stop bugs eating young eggplants can take you on such a convoluted journey ? * shaking head and muttering.
Forty kms out of Toowoomba along the highway to Millmerran you bypass the town of Pittsworth. Take your foot off the accelerator or you’ll drive past some of the prettiest murals along the trek each depicting the township’s history, culture, produce and attractions.
It’s amazing how much you learn from a mural and how many fellow travellers you meet along the way. I had to google Arthur Postle, a Pittsworth lad with the nickname “ The Crimson Flash” who held records in running in the early 1900’s, racing all around the world.
Another 40kms along the highway and this greets you at Millmerran.
Just WOW with parkland and onsite parking where you can stretch the legs. ( And a coffee cart. Yay!)
Just up the road is the Visitor Information Centre housed in a defunct railway carriage which is worth a visit in order to pick up a brochure about the historical murals dotted throughout the district.
My ex brother-in-law lived in Millmerran for a time. Because I didn’t like him one bit by association I did not like Millmerran. I know; makes me sound horrible but you wouldn’t have like the dipstick either.
I owe you an apology, Millmerran – what a lovely little town!
100 kms down the track is Yelarbon, with a population of 350 and with 8 grain silos covered with the most magnificent artwork telling the story of When The Rain Comes using over a 1000 litres of paint.
Australia is a big country, and Queensland is bigger than Texas, so you can drive vast distances and see nothing but landscape. Luckily I’m partial to landscape.
Last drive for the day, thirty minutes west to Goondiwindi.
Get a good nights sleep. You’re going to need it.
All of these rural towns have so much more to offer. In this instance I am restricting the attractions to murals and painted silos.
The Queensland State Government has been dishing out tourist dollars in an attempt to encourage residents of the South East corner to visit attractions right along the coast of the state that are doing it tough because of closed international borders.
So of course we opted to travel inland following the Southern Queensland Country painted silo mural trail throughout an area that had endured years of devastating drought, followed by damaging floods. Our five day road trip took us to two painted silos, three painted water tanks, and nearly 100 murals. We experienced some great artwork, gained further insight into Australia’s history, and sampled a smorgasbord of country hospitality.
Let’s start in Toowoomba, only 2 hours west of Brisbane and Qld’s largest regional city.
The original First Coat Festival took place in Toowoomba in 2014 as a creative initiative to encourage public places to be transformed into street art spaces with the walls of buildings and laneways used as backdrops ( as well as reducing graffiti issues). Over the next few years over 55 murals had been completed, and although the Festival is now defunct, the artworks continue to grow in numbers. The most recent additions are within the Grand Central Shopping Centre.
And here’s my first confession:
Toowoomba with its four distinct seasons, despite being only 120 kms away, is so unlike Brisbane (that is either hot and humid or warm and dry) I tend to visit some of the 150 parklands dotted across the city simply to enjoy the gardens. Traffic lights and shopping centres are avoided like the plague. We did walk down Ruthven Street to take in the murals.
We hit the Fluffy Ducks. Big time. Think the last Fluffy Duck I consumed was in the late 70’s at the Hilton Supper Club listening to The Commodores. Long time ago….. Totally my fault. Couldn’t face the crowds.
The Visitor Information Centre has two brochures available: one to follow the mural trail, and the other to follow the mosaic trail. Both are very helpful.
I failed Domestic Science at High School. The only F I ever received on a report card. I knew better than to enrol in Sewing Classes after having received a D, in a scale from A to D, at Primary School. My mother, a seamstress who could turn a parachute into a wedding gown during the war years, was appalled. She gave me her first Singer Sewing Machine thinking that it would provide encouragement. Never switched it on and it later became a garden ornament alongside the gnomes.
Unable to use a needle and thread the only thing I used a needle for was removing splinters out of little fingers when the children were small.
Knitting, crochet, and quilting were never options though I’ve always been pretty handy with a paintbrush. Over the years I have painted both the exteriors and interiors of several houses. Unfortunately, often in colours that have had real estate agents cringing. My last house I opted to bulldoze and redevelop after comments about my sunflower yellow and budgie green colour scheme.
(Personal Note : That’s what comes of living with someone whose life is coloured by beige).
So I’m a little surprised with two new hobbies I’ve picked up since retirement. Having the time to explore new interests truly is one of the positives of the finality of a working life. No guilt whatsoever. Loving it!
Mind you, I’ve had some EPIC fails. Like square dancing. Who knew it was so hard to differentiate between your left and your right? The popularity of using the clocks on our electrics as opposed to a watch has only exacerbated this issue (for sum of us). And those flouncy skirts were cute when I was six, not so at sixty.
What I am enjoying is an online Art Therapy study program. I’ve done collage, meditation to promote creativity, learnt about colour therapy, created my Tree of Life, and am currently working with clay. Well, plasticine really – it’s less expensive.
Art Therapy is used as a healing process. I was creatively stunted when I was young and perpetually fearful of having my knuckles rapped with a ruler by over zealous teachers when I coloured outside the lines. A bit like Harry Chapin’s song :
(Personal Note : Probably accounts for Mr Beige).
My search for Trailblazing Aussie Women is proving fascinating. I started with names of well known women but this exercise has led me down a rabbit hole and I have stumbled upon an 8 year old who walked the Kokoda Track and proceeded to climb Kilimanjaro and Everest, an Indigenous woman with a degree from Harvard, and a lass who has been working on the Mars Mission.
LIFE LESSON : You can teach an old dog new tricks.
Our State Government has spent millions of dollars promoting Queensland in an effort to jump start tourism with the recent relaxation of Covid 19 restrictions. Now I know I’m being judgemental ( Sorry LA, Waking Up On The Wrong Side Of Fifty), but MORONIC: point me to a Queenslander who doesn’t know the location of the Great Barrier Reef.
The Northern Territory Government had the right idea in handing out tourist dollars to the first 200,000 Territory travellers, bypassing the Marketing gurus completely and putting the dollars directly into the hands of those who would share it amongst small business. Love your work…..
However, good breeding dictates that one must not discuss politics before supper and/or a bottle of vino.
Some five years ago a movement began in Western Australia to beautify the landscape and encourage tourists to rural communities by using silos for murals.
Yep, painting murals on silos depicting regional history and points of interest.
This has since grown to become The Australian Silo Art Trail and continues to flourish and attract thousands to regional centres. There are currently 36 painted silos which can be covered in six Silo Art Trail road trips in five states, as well as artworks on 40 water towers.
I’ve just purchased the Silo Art Calendar for 2021 – because I’m optimistic that we will get through this wretched year – and am amazed by some of the stories reflected in the artwork.
It has been said that “we develop our desires and drives during our childhood then our whole adulthood becomes affected by these childhood experiences”.
There have been a couple of experiences as a child that I have carried through to my adult life and all pertain to my home life.
I never touch walls and never have I been in a state requiring a wall to hold me up.
I don’t breath on windows
I never put holes in walls.
These behaviours exist because my father was not good with his hands, detested working around the house ( including cleaning windows and painting the family home) and because most houses of that era came with picture rails. Truely, he couldn’t change a lightbulb ……which seems to be hereditary.
I share this because I’m in a bit of a quandary. Yep, the knickers are well and truely in a knot.
The Old SchoolHouse Gallery is a community art gallery run by the artists which promotes the visual arts by instruction, information and inspiration. It aims to celebrate artistic expression by providing opportunities to exhibit projects for sale.
On the first Wednesday of every month the theme changes which provides an opportunity for different creatives to have their work featured. The February exhibition opens on Thursday, 6th of February, showcasing works by Nicole Darlington and Natasha Gibson-Scott. The theme “Our Country” features Australian native wildlife, flora and landscapes in a wide variety of media including ink, oil pastels, ceramics, jewellery, and acrylics.
The artists are donating 25 per cent of all their sales to wildlife organisations to assist in the rescue and rehabilitation of fauna devastated by the summer bushfires.
I make an effort to visit the Old SchoolHouse Gallery once a month to view the ever changing exhibitions and occasionally purchase hand made jewellery items as gifts for family and friends.
I’de really like a painting, and I’de really like to help this worthy cause. But I have no more spare hooks on walls and already have artworks and photos on tables being propped up by empty wine bottles.
A lack of wall space is not the issue – it’s the putting of holes and marks on walls which gives me anxiety.
The Old SchoolHouse Gallery is located at 124-126 Shore Street North, Cleveland Point and is open every Thursday, Friday, Saturday and Sunday, 9:30 am to 4:30 pm. Entry is FREE and there is onsite parking and wheelchair access.
Fire Update : Much needed rain has fallen along the East Coast of Australia over the past few days putting out many of the fires. One Rural Fire Service closed shop yesterday leaving a sign “ Gone To Jump In Puddles”. Wags, love ‘em. There are still fires blazing in the Alpine regions with hamlets being evacuated. Keep on doing those rain dances please.
Stringybark Publishing Update : Here are the books I received as Bookpack 1 of short story anthologies with all profits going to organisations assisting our native animals.
I’m a little concerned that my last post about the Miles Franklin Award winning book, Too Much Lip, may have provided too many negative connotations about our First Australians.
So I thought I’de even the score by sharing a positive Indigenous experience from my recent road trip.
DownsSteam Tourist Railway & Museum is located at Drayton, an outer southwestern suburb of Toowoomba, South East Queensland, which makes it a perfect day trip to escape from the Big Smoke.
Toowoomba is on the crest of the Great Dividing Range, around 700 metres (2,300 ft) above sea level. This makes it substantially cooler, or less humid, than Brisbane with defined seasonal changes. Thus, the annual Carnival of Flowers to which those on the coastal fringe have been flocking each September to view the beautiful gardens for the past 70 years.
Operated by the Darling Downs Historical Railway Society and staffed wholly by volunteers, DownsStream Tourist Railway and Museum is dedicated to the establishment and preservation of a tourist railway for the Darling Downs region.
And the big bonus? You don’t have to be a train buff to enjoy this environment – it’s got this really pleasant vibe…..
The gardens are beautiful, you can enjoy a coffee on the station, and view the restoration of Toowooomba’s very own steam locomotive the “Pride of Toowoomba” which was built locally in 1915. After a little more than a century and well over a million miles steaming her way around Queensland, this once proud steam engine is now the only one of her class not to be scrapped. She is being restored to fully operational condition by volunteer craftsmen for mainline tours across the Darling Downs. (Keep an eye open for updates : there’s plans for train travel to the Granite Belt for wine tasting).
You can even enjoy a light lunch in one of the rail carriages!
The highlight of my visit was a tour of the Dreamtime Journey Coach which is a fascinating insight into Indigenous culture.
To acknowledge the contribution made by the indigenous workers to the construction of the railway up the range, an indigenous inmate from the Westbrook Correctional Centre volunteered to paint one of our carriages as part of his prison rehabilitation program.
Inmate “Domi” commenced painting the carriage in 2012, taking 19 weeks to complete his awe-inspiring, unique Indigenous Art Gallery on wheels (static exhibit).
The coach depicts the Aboriginal theme based on ‘Baiami’ who created the earth and all the wonderful landscape, mountains, lakes, rivers, billabongs, oceans and islands.
Experiencing our ‘Dreamtime Journey Coach’ is to take a spiritual journey from dawn to dusk. Domi’s paintings represent the traverse of a day, starting from the entrance with the orange and yellow colours of the dawn, then in the middle of the carriage the bright colours of the day and the other end of the carriage with the pink and purple colours of the dusk.
The Archibald Prize, first awarded in 1921, is Australia’s favourite art award, and one of its most prestigious. Awarded to the best portrait painting, it’s a who’s who of Australian culture – from politicians to celebrities, sporting heroes to artists. It garners a great deal of interest each year because of the subject matter, regardless of the painting style.
All finalists will be on display at the Art Gallery of New South Wales from May 11, 2019 to September 8, 2019. ( Add to To Do List : Book Tickets).
As a prelude to the announcement of this award the Packing Room Prize is chosen by the Art Gallery of NSW staff who receive, unpack and hang the Archibald Prize entries — with the head packer having 52 per cent of the vote.
The winner of this award was announced earlier this week with a portrait of actor David Wenham by Tessa MacKay. Just love it!
He is best known in Australia for his role as Diver Dan in SeaChange.
And Diver, I can never forgive you for walking out on Laura the way you did………………
PS. Disappearing for a few weeks. I have some major commitments which require focus, and God knows focus isn’t my strong point, and then I’m flying out to put a dent in the Bucket List. Retirement’s tough.