I am an artist and writer. I have lived in Rozelle, Sydney in the same house for over thirty years but I also live and paint in the Blue Mountains west of Sydney and at my old family home on the Hawkesbury River. Other people live in these houses at different times but they are all “home” in different ways.
I gather my thoughts and share them on the web. This site is about my art practice. My work includes 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.
Although I started oil painting in my teens, it wasn’t until after I came back from two years in remote Central Australia that the desire to paint became overwhelming. I started painting pictures inspired by the blues of the Blue Mountains and the reds of the Red Centre. I had no idea what I was doing but I loved doing it. Time passed, loved ones died, suddenly the past was slipping away and I wanted to explore the places I had lived and experienced, the aesthetics of time and memory. This went along with a dedicated exploration of my own genealogical past and the writing of several family-history memoirs some of which will soon be published.
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 thought I might use this image as the basis for a monochrome self-portrait but that hasn’t happened yet. 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 provided the basis for my series Monochrome and Memory.
Hawkesbury River people.
From the early 1920’s on, my father’s family in various combinations lived at the Hawkesbury River, mostly in this house but also in other nearby shacks and houses in the area. They gathered together every Christmas and Easter and celebrated the abundance of the river environment with the other neighbours of the time. Many residents on this part of the river today are the descendants of those original people and I have known them all my life, watched their children grow and marry and have children themselves while the old people pass away. Now it’s getting close to my turn. My adult granddaughters are the fifth generation connected with this place. I am beginning a project documenting my family’s life on the river in a new book with photographs and illustrations, to be called Fluvial.
The people in the photographs below are relatives or neighbours. All have passed on, although they have populated my memory and inspired my research and writing for decades. I have only realised recently that this is a photograph of the planting of a tree in memory of my grandfather Owen John Arnold who died in 1932. I remember that tree so well but it too is gone now, a casualty of its own too-powerful roots. 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 has long been my home town. I live in the same house in Rozelle as I did in 1981. It was once part of a mostly nineteenth century working-class area full of early openers and butcher shops and timber yards. No longer. By the mid 2010s it was obvious that the good times were over. There was constant arboricide. There was nowhere to park. The traffic, the aircraft noise and above all the ceaseless sounds of “renovation” made it a daily struggle to be there. Those who had taken over this gentle historical area were gleefully engaged in the destruction of century-old streetscapes, destroying sandstone cliff-faces and overgrown gardens in order to build pocket-handkerchief size swimming pools with paving. It hasn’t been possible to leave this place, but it is painful to be there all the time.
The Blue Mountains has always inspired me. For a long time I tried to paint the amazing landscape, the greens, blues, the extraordinary shapes. I didn’t want the classical landscape look. I liked the idea of flatness, in the way that indigenous people draw on the surface of the earth, but my painting teacher Tim Allen said that wasn’t right, I needed to use a properly painterly approach, with brush-strokes and perspective. So now I am learning how to do that, and how hard it is!
Then I started on the built environment. A recent series, Views of K-Town, was 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.
The series tried to capture some of the bizarre juxtapositions and the historical structure of this mountains town. I had hoped to complete a full set of 10 paintings. I more-or-less finished around six for my graduation assessment and intended to keep going. But other things intervened. In 2013 I had to give up my studio in Leichhardt and destroyed many of the half-completed paintings which I thought were terrible.
More recently I threw out another bunch of paintings. I kept a couple. The 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. The Gearin Hotel is now no longer: the building is there but the pub is closed, a sad loss after its long history.
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 multimedia works focussing on the close details of the mountains landscape – its botany, geology and visual forms. But in the aftermath of illness I had to be in Sydney again to visit doctors, hospitals, physiotherapists and counsellors. I tried recovering and editing my memoirs and fiction, hoping they could be published quickly.
Soon though I had to be painting again. I decided to take workshops with painters such as Luke Sciberras, John Wilson, Robyn Collier, Robert Malherbe and others, mainly focussed on landscapes in the mountains or nearby country areas. I felt I was just getting going when the bushfires hit, then the pandemic and lockdowns. I still couldn’t finish the books either. The year flew and by November it seemed maybe everything might come together again. My new works were included in a group show in Blackheath. I will be putting some of these works up here. The landscape work is continuing and I am experimenting with acrylics in my Rozelle house which may be a good place for my non-oil works.
In 2021 I am going to really focus on my landscape painting. This will overlap with writing about the history of landscape painting in Australia. Read more about this project on my Art Writing site.
Visit Annette Hamilton Art Writing here
The Writing Zone is here
The Image Field photography site is here
Visit my Instagram: Instagram.com/anndemot
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