Meltdown - Our House is on Fire

Have you ever travelled to a place that made you so connected but you couldn’t say why? I did and then several things happened 30 years later to make me create a painting about it - 'Meltdown - Our House is on Fire'

Winter of 2019/20 and world news is full of incredible footage about bush fires that are spreading uncontrollably in Australia. This was very uncomfortable news to watch, the fires had been raging already for longer than expected. Australia’s prime minister, Scott Morris, went on holiday saying it was all normal and that New Year fireworks in Sydney should go ahead despite the fires. People on the ground were getting angry. The start of a new decade in the 21st century was signifying fast climate change.  For me it propelled my thinking back to the late 1980’s and my year spent in Australia.

“This earth, I never damage. I look after. Fire is nothing, just clean up. When you burn, new grass coming up. That means good animal soon, Might be goanna, possum, wallaby. Burn him off, new grass coming up, new life all over.” – Bill Neidjie

One of the powerful messages I learnt back then was how indigenous people of Australia viewed the land they walked. ‘Taking from the land’ was regarded as something that may have to be paid for at a later date and was to be avoided if possible.

I travelled to the far north to see the Aboriginal Cave Paintings. I had also read Englishman Bruce Chatwin’s 1987 novel The Songlines which complimented where I was at the time; driving for days on a long straight distant road, through orange  and rust landscapes, watching Emu run as fast as we were travelling and seeing these amazing cave paintings. 

I was completely in awe of the space and vastness of this continent, I travelled on the route of the back packers along with my Lonely Planet guide to Australia, jobbing along the way; picking cotton on a remote all male farm in NSW but it was the incredible space that I experienced driving from the north through the middle that really made a life lasting impact.

It was in this northern most point that I met the first wallabies. They assembled round our tent waiting to see what our breakfast would be and greedily pinching our museli.

The year experience down under really changed everything for me.

I was fed up with my job in the UK and had the travelling bug and so I decided to follow my brother and jet off to Australia. Armed with a sketchbook and a tiny set of watercolours this was also to be my first artistic project encouraged by my dad who was an architect, to sit and draw Australian buildings, to see how I progressed with drawing. After my trip I went to live in Germany before returning to the UK to care for my dad. I then started my artistic career in Fine Art.

Years later in 2013 I visited the Royal Academy to see the Australia exhibition and they featured three enormous canvases by Aboriginal painters which I loved. I regarded them as powerful, beautiful and amazing but disappointingly were barely given a mention let alone featured on the front cover of the RA. They transported me back to the hot arrid time of the northern territory of Australia.

To wander and travel this continent meant I learnt and experienced so much - it left such a lasting impression. I still hold those feelings today and wish everyone’s future to be a healthy one in accord with the land, people and nature so that others can have amazing experiences just as I did.

Under the Paris climate agreement, Australia has pledged to cut emissions by 26% to 28% by 2030 compared to 2005 levels.

However, Mr Morrison said a "global solution" was needed to tackle climate change.

Source: BBC News

In 2020 there are plans to consult with aboriginal communities to ask their expertise in fire management so that further bush fire devastation can be managed. Hopefully this is not too late for everyone.

'Meltdown - Our House is on Fire', Acrylic on Canvas 121 x 91cm

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