Oil on Canvas, March 2020
102cm x 72 cm x 1.5cm
The Lake, Black Mtn Peninsula (5 mins from our place for non Canberra friends). Sometimes I love it, sometimes I dislike it quite a lot. So many memories. The first time I heard about the Lake was as a child when we moved here and I was told it was ‘artificial’. But it’s real I told my 5 year old self, I’ve seen it! Later this was clarified, it’s ‘man made’ they said and I imagined a big bath like vessel with a plug hole that drained into the Mississippi or was it Murrumbidgee?
My relationship with the Lake is best described by the pontoon experience. On a hot Sunday afternoon we’d go sailing and us kids would swim out to the octagonal pontoons. The water was lovely and refreshing, but the pontoon would inevitably be covered in a thick, slimy brown carpet of duck poo. We’d gingerly try to ignore it taking turns at diving off the side until, as always, some fat boy,(I’m not fat shaming, it’s an adjective from the 70’s), would demonstrate potential energy becoming kinetic energy as he did a horsey (manu my son tells me it’s called now). The pootoon would lurch sideways turning the duck poo, now mixed with water, into a trip hazard and we’d go home covered in carpet burns caused by impact with the gritty, sandpaper like surface of the pontoon (underneath the poo). It was fun, to some extent, and like life in general, dependant on how you viewed the shit.
As an adult the Lake became a backdrop to some wonderful moments of oneness with nature (even though it’s artificial). Also, the site of some embarrassing and shameful behaviour from myself. Like the time during a longish, very choppy triathlon swim, where I was 10 minutes behind everyone else, and the nice kayak volunteer who had been edging closer kindly suggested I hold onto the kayak and he’d take me back to shore. “Fuck off”, I said between mouthfuls of smelly Lake water, “go away and leave me alone”. I know it’s a heresy among triathletes, but sometimes I hate swimming in the Lake.
And so to the Lake pictured in this painting. On this late summer evening, I had triumphed over my own passivity and bad mood and gone for a swim. It was lovely. At 7pm, I’d been amused at the people, families and drunken yobs alike, who in a very Aussie way, rushed onto Inflatable World for FREE, (yes, I know it’s called the Aqua Park, I just like Inflatable World better), as soon as the teenage lifeguard closed up shop. You don’t need a life guard, except for when you do. A young kid got stuck under something and almost drowned as his father, in an effort to save him, forgot that he couldn’t swim and almost drowned. Luckily both were rescued (probably by the drunken yobs) and after a moment of quiet contemplation, we all turned back to our sausages.
In the aftermath, as the sun set on another summer, the Lake looked benign and beautiful again and worthy of a painting.