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.