In the early 1980s I had developed several large prints about the landscape of this same western Tasmania. They were ’postcards’ for imaginary audiences far over the horizon – images of wild, desolate, indifferent places just beginning to feel the pressure of the approaching bulldozer.
Imaginary Landscape – Eighteen months in Tasmania (1984) and Florentine Valley: displaced landscape (1984) were big panoramic images intended for audiences in big city galleries. That is where they rest now – in National and State Gallery collections, in plan drawers and in dark quiet archives beyond the gaze.
My new print work ‘bookends’ that earlier work. It shares some characteristics with those artworks from 30 years ago but essentially it represents a big change. That shift in meaning and context is bound up with the fact that I live and will hopefully die within the pictured landscape and that the audience for these paintings surrounds me in the ‘here and now’. I began developing new etchings of some terrain on Mt Lyell, near Queenstown, which is still heavily scarred from late 19th century/early 20th century mining impacts. Plants are re-colonising the area, however, with the White Waratah, Blandfordia punicea or Christmas bells, Celery top pine and even King Billy pine in evidence. It is in this sense of the possibility of another world, ie. one that is lost but one that might be reclaimed that I was interested in speculating on in the new work. John Lendis, an English painter and friend, co-incidently sent me a volume of Seamus Heaney poems during this early phase of the etchings development. I found the words for a title of the new etchings in that book:
…an elsewhere world.
Where can it be found again,
An elsewhere world, beyond Maps and atlases,
Where all is woven into
And of itself, like a nest
Of crosshatched grass blades?
I see the project as a way of rounding off my print oeuvre and the culmination of a lifetime’s work. I see it as a way ofbringing a type of stability or balance to the array of projects and print outcomes I’ve worked on since 1977 when I made those first connections to the print medium. I see it as a palimpsest of flora, fauna and geology I encounter on daily walks with my partner Helena and our pups in the Queenstown hills. I see it as an expression of how I now live and an expression of what I love!