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Listening to the Land

- 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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Listening to the land
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