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- responding with charcoal and paint to a journey into the Northern Grampians.

Walking away from the human into the natural or wild landscape, steps us closer to an awareness of the land as a living system. We find ourselves alone with the landscape, more in tune with the weather patterns, listening to the underlying wordless language of the land. Perhaps we form a deeper connection or a hyper sensitive way of relating to the landscape, because we are alone and responsible for our own well-being, our path is not predetermined by others, decisions are our own, and straying off the path connects us more deeply with the land. We need to be aware of potential dangers, points of reference, stepping lightly so as not to damage small plants and insect homes. We become more aware of moving through the dwelling places of others, the non-human beings who inhabit this land. We look more closely, we feel more acutely, our senses are heightened and we move through the landscape more gently. We see tracks and pathways and signs that are not human, we become aware that we are the guest, and need to be considerate. We are the ones who need to be accepted into this land that is not our home, but at the same time, it is our wider home. If we reach out with the energy of our being with all our senses alert, the animals and the land respond with wordless communications; with suggestions, warnings, and a delight at showing us new and beautiful things.

As an artist I responded to this experience with my own wordless language of charcoal and paint. Through this series of paintings I am sharing an aspect of this journey into the Northern Grampians at a time when it was recovering from bushfire. Many blackened limbs reached up to the sky denuded of leaves, but at the base of these fire-ravaged trees, bright splashes colour sprouted from epicormic buds, showing a landscape renewing itself. The landscape was disconcertingly empty of animals, insects and birds, not yet returned. The loss of tree canopy exposed the strong presence of the lands’ underlying rocky nature. My journey was accompanied by the changeable weather; with its’ exhilarating wild winds, hail storms and gentle calm sunshine, a reminder of the true nature the living land. I used charcoal as a guiding material in the works; an underlying thread running through the paintings. It seemed appropriate to incorporate charcoal in the paintings. I felt it helped connect me to the memory of the burnt landscape. At the start of my journey I felt my connection dimly, but as I walked, I became more in tune and more open to the wordless language of the land. Without words I heard the story of the struggle of the land that is determined to recover, to thrive and grow, to live in all its complexity despite the unmaking that threatens it.

Wendy Havard

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Updated: Jan 8, 2020

Ikara, the Flinders Ranges stays in my mind like a dusty dry film of orange earth. We travelled to this land in early November when the land had not seen rain for many months, the wildlife had drawn near to the sanctuary of the park which provided shelter and what little moisture that trickling springs deep within the gorges still supplied. But the harsh dryness and the heat was a stark contrast to the cool temperate rainforest region that I call my home. The ochres and oranges, reds and deep shadows stand out in my mind, also the patterns on rocks and trees of lined shapes both meaningful and meaningless. The rocks speak an ancient language that I can only barely hear; the trees talk of many seasons that they have survived.

The land here shapes the animals and vegetation into tough wiry-strong survivors. This land works its way into your fibre; making a hot breeze feel like a cooling fan, a respite from the relentless heat pouring down from above and reflecting back from rock walls. The wallabies and kangaroos slump in the shade, waiting out the day, until the relentless sun drops low on the horizon. The emus stalk slowly the dusty plains, gular fluttering and trancelike as their brains sit baking in their skulls.

Spending time in one place and observing with an artist’s eye, you can start to catch a glimpse of the cycles and patterns. Colour changes on the rock faces, marking time as the sun arcs through the sky, the routine movements of the animals as they adapt to the changing time and temperatures of the day, light and clouds connected to and influenced by the landforms, yet free-floating.

I find I must adapt, rising early, clothing myself against the sun, wandering slowly and always observing. Always so aware of where the water is, but mostly where it isn’t. Only ten days in place, and yet in the months following, I have taken myself back to that place many times, embedding myself in the experience, scratching and scraping, forming and un-forming, tracing lines of the landscape in my mind and then finally onto canvas; seeking the language of a land that seems to hover between the physical and spiritual realms. It is when I am alone, listening that I feel most connected. Away from the noisy footprints of humanity, there I hear the otherness of this terrain.

Wendy Havard

July 2018

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As the Dandenong Ranges Open Studio weekend is almost here, I thought that I would reflect on the art piece that I created for the group exhibition which will close on the 6th of May. (The image shown is a section of the work from one viewpoint.) The theme was a great inspiration for me to produce a work outside my comfort zone.

'What Lies Beneath the Lies' is an artwork made from translucent images painted with acrylic ink on nylon. The irony of using plastic in a work critical of the way we treat the environment is not lost on the me, but it was important to use transparency to indicate the fragile nature of environmental balance. The work consists of four parts.

The first layer is a cool temperate rainforest with its' lush greens representing the idea that the biosphere is a delicate, translucent layer that drapes our planet in a living breathing ecosystem; cycling water, nutrients and air whilst maintaining food, shelter and habitat for many animals, birds and insects.

The second layer is a veil of flimsy transparent lies that we tell ourselves because we are told that the destruction of the natural environment is regulated, kept at ‘acceptable levels’ and is necessary to keep the economy strong.

The third layer of vibrant reds represents drought fire and desert. Just beneath the surface; without rainfall, without vegetation; there is a drought-ridden land, prone to fire and desertification.

The fourth scrim represents the water of our blue planet. We seems to have a mindset that if we throw our rubbish and pollution into waterways, that it becomes someone else’s problem to deal with or that it will be diluted to nothing.

When viewed together the layers intermingle with the complexity of the issues of an over-exploited environment out of balance.

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