I spent much of my childhood on the lower Hawkesbury River north of Sydney. My research as an anthropologist took me to remote Australia and parts of Southeast Asia. During my academic career I also wrote on cinema, art and representation. My own art practice embraces photography, drawing and painting in different media although I prefer working in oils. In 2015 I completed the Advanced Diploma in Visual Arts at WSI-Nepean with a major in painting.
My work explores the aesthetics of time and memory. I am fascinated by the traces of passing time on the surface of the earth in coastlines, rivers and mountains, and in the visible relics of past human activity, including my own. In the photo here, taken by my father on a day when I wanted nothing to do with fishing, I sit on a pole and stare morosely into Dad’s old German Leica camera. I will use this image as the basis for a monochrome self-portrait. The house in the background was built by my father and uncle in the late 1950s and replaced the original family house which was built from random bits of tin and board in the 1920s. This old house and the people it drew together provides the basis for my series Monochrome and Memory . All but one of the people in these photographs have passed on, although they have populated my memory and inspired my research and writing for decades. In the first go-round for this project I painted a series of black and white oils, each 20 x 20 ins. One or two of them came out well, the others … disappointing.
Apart from the Hawkesbury River, Sydney’s inner-west was my home town. But by 2012 we had to get out. we couldn’t take it any more, the arboricide, the traffic, the aircraft noise and above all the ceaseless sounds of “renovation” and the types who were were responsible for the destruction of century-old streetscapes.
So my partner Michael and I joined the throngs from the Inner West moving to the Blue Mountains, a place I have been fascinated by since childhood. We have been living in Katoomba (most of the time anyway) since 2013 and have hardly scratched the surface.
In the early 2000s I started trying to paint the Blue Mountains landscape, the greens, blues and extraordinary shapes. I wasn’t trying for a classical landscape look. I liked the idea of flatness, in the way that indigenous people draw on the surface of the earth, but people said that wasn’t right, I needed to use more painterly approaches, with brush-strokes and proper perspective.
After living in the mountains for a while, the need to paint landscape receded. The built environment took its place, temporarily at least. A recent series, Views of K-Town, is based on photographs taken in and around Katoomba, where unique buildings and streetscapes from the 1930s and earlier meet modern demands for tourism and development.
This project was originally thought of as a visual ethnography, and I proposed to display it through the photographs and the paintings based on them together with a soundscape appropriate to each image. Far too ambitious said Tim Allen my painting teacher, just learn to paint better. He was right but I haven’t given up on the idea yet.
The series tried to capture some of the bizarre juxtapositions and the deep structure of this historic mountains town. I had hoped to complete a full set of 10-12 paintings, all in oil, in rectangles from 30cm-80cm. I finished around six for my graduation assessment and intended to keep going. But other things intervened. In 2017 when I had to give up my studio in Leichhardt I destroyed many of the half-completed paintings which I thought were terrible. One or two survived: the sketch painting below shows a travelling man waiting for a donation, with two of the most beautiful dogs imaginable, outside the historic Gearin Hotel near the Katoomba Railway Station.
In early 2018 I moved into a studio space in Katoomba and planned to start work again on the Katoomba series, along with some new semi-abstract multimedia works focussing on the close details of the mountains landscape – its botany, geology and visual forms. An unexpected problem intervened and I spent too much time visiting doctors, hospitals, physiotherapists and a counsellor. Under the pressure of temporality I spent most of my other time editing and re-writing memoirs and fictions so they could be published quickly. I will be returning to my art projects very soon.
More general themes and reviews appear on my companion Art-Writing site. Begun as an assessment project, it traverses art history, theory and philosophy with an emphasis on contemporary Australian and post-war German painting.
Visit Annette Hamilton Art Writing here
My Writing Zone is here
My Image Field photography site is here
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