Road trip 1-6 (from left to right)
Oil on ply board, March 2021
50cm x 41cm x 2cm
In 1997, I was working on a project for Opotiki District Council in New Zealand. When I left to come back to the West Island, one of my work colleagues wrote on my farewell card, “life’s a journey not a destination” and this sentiment has stuck with me ever since. Especially on road trips.
Think of that sentiment when you look at these paintings. These paintings are about the journey, any journey, nonspecific to a time and place. Well, not completely non-specific. South Eastern inland Australia, in Summer, but not specifically this summer or last summer, but any moment out the car window on any summer afternoon, somewhere between about 1975 and 2020. These paintings are without specificity; snippets in time, the view from the car, from any of the many journeys I have taken in Summer. I think that is why I’ve done six paintings. One just did not cut it.
Contrary to my NZ colleague’s annotation, the whole point of these journeys was about getting to the destination. But on all these trips, there were moments, that I probably have nonspecifically valued and remembered from the journey and that is what these paintings recall.
Moments where my mind has wandered and I have observed myself entering that slightly altered state that alternates between possibility and probability, nostalgia for times past and anticipation of things yet to come. A kind of, but not quite, meditative, and dreamlike state where I am filled with a kind of restful, restlessness that the actual process of travelling- physically moving from one location to the next, while bodily, staying still, anywhere, has sometimes taken me too.
When I was younger and, in this state, I would feel unreasonably (without reason) what could be best described as ‘horny’. Now that I am a 50’s something, post-menopausal woman, ‘horny’ is long gone from my vocabulary, as well as my state of being and the nostalgia that I feel now on such journeys is probably linked to memories of this.
Yet still, the wispiness of the clouds in the sky and fluffy tussocks of grass that I pass fleetingly by, speak to me of the whimsy of existence, like Michael Leunig’s ducks. These are paintings metaphoric of the everyday, of insignificant moments in recognizable, but insignificant landscape and as such have a kind of intangible beauty. These are not paintings about significant lifetime events such as births, deaths, and marriages. For significant moments, I think you would need instantly recognizably Instagram-able beautiful sunsets, spectacular vistas and features that might punctuate a journey or be the destination, such as the Eiffel Tower or Uluru. Maybe that’s why we are drawn to beauty, grandeur and to awe inspiring landscapes: it makes us feel that we as individuals, or moments in our lives, are significant.
The gradually changing non-descriptiveness of the landscape captures something about the passage of time and gradual change over a lifetime to the external self and the internal self that I cannot quite grasp, let alone hold onto. Fence posts in the landscape, for example, being like scars on the body, or perhaps boundaries set in the landscape of the mind, roads being well trodden patterns established and taken.
By now you know the theme: the road travelled here is ephemeral, and personal in nature, like most of the other paintings and the journey is what you make of it, at least some of the time.