Recently in the shop I met a woman who lives in Mount Victoria whose house had burnt down during the recent bush fires. She was about to have her house bulldozed and invited me up to see if I could find anything useful in all the cinders and debris that were the remains of her home.
As my new work is exploring the idea of Burnt Landscapes and found materials and souvenirs, I jumped at the chance.
We met at her pink and black charred shell of a house that for the past six weeks she and her partner had already been sifting through every weekend, looking for anything that might have made it through intact.
Although they assured me it was OK for me to be picking through their property, it felt acutely uncomfortable to be there. We were strangers and this was an intrusion. Thoughtfully they had brought along a spare pair of Fire Brigade issue boots and socks because they knew I would not have come with sensible enough footwear. They knew I had no idea just how much destruction to expect.
Together we walked through the house, warily crunching through glass and ash and charcoal and twisted shards of metal.
We unearthed her spare glasses case with frames still intact, her art materials tin with pans of watercolour inside, a pencil case tin with the coloured leads lined up inside brittle to the touch, wooden casing burnt away. Lots of tins and spoons and frames and trays. A medal her Dad was awarded. All covered in ash, warped and unrecognisable. She gave it all to me.
I filled my ute and after a cup of tea down the road at her friend’s house followed by a glass of wine I left them in peace and returned to my studio to review my treasure. I was feeling very honoured knowing that I had found material with such resonance.
I coaxed out the patterns held within the surfaces with the help of a traveller’s set of watercolours. I discovered landscapes within all these pieces of metal, just like I thought I might.
There is something that intrigues me about the fragile delicate quality of painting in washes of watercolour, combined with the ferocity of the ash and rush and burnt paint of the fire affected metal.
I am right in the middle of this process and need to discover more about the experience. I haven’t yet formed enough of the right words but they will come. All in good time.