Oil on canvas, August 2021
76cm x 76cm x 4cm
When the love of your life and father of your children turns 60, you know that you too are getting old. Kim does not look 60, but he was slightly in denial and did not feel a need to celebrate the impending event. Fair enough. But when plans with the Tassie family fell through, and Sydney siders started cancelling their reservations in droves, an opportunity to go Truffle hunting next to Lake George, near Bungendore arose, and was taken.
And it was glorious.
It could not have been. It could have gone either way. It could have been a quagmire. Covid lockdowns, gloomy weather, and thoughts of imminent doom were conspiring to make the day decidedly forlorn. It has not been a ‘dry July’ in Canberra. Not that we’ve drunk to excess, just more often than not. And it has rained. Alot. My expectations regarding the truffle hunt, and the day in general, were therefore muddied by these thoughts.
Fortunately for us, the sun was out, the colours were vibrant, the hunting with doggos was great fun and the truffles tasted sublime. In the afterglow of a full tummy and a day well spent with people who are creative and passionate about what they do (fun guys, not my joke) and with a happy Kim, I felt that fleeting feeling of wellbeing and joy in unexpected pleasures. I wanted to capture that feeling in the ambience of this painting.
I was going to stop writing right here, but I thought that ambience and the elements within the painting may need more interpretation. Read on if you want a more definitive and wordy, world according to Simone, narrative.
I was drawn to the marque because I liked the brightness of the red and white (and I haven’t used a lot of red paint in recent paintings, so I had plenty), but also because it reminded me of a circus. A circus being a collection of misfits, united in their difference, under a tent. And, on this day, so were we (or could have been if we had chosen to sit under the tent, being cold, we sat in the sun). The marque could also be a symbol of togetherness and celebration. A party, particular to this moment, occurring, as it must, outside. The upturned tables indicating that the party, or circus is over, or has not yet begun. I like this ambiguity.
The leafless tree places the event in winter, but is also indicative of the root system below, where the microbes in the soil work in symbiosis with the tree to both provide nutrients to the tree and grow truffles. I like the way the shadows on the grass are also suggestive of the root system below and the ‘brule’ (from the French ‘to burn’, think Crème Brulee) which is the burnt off area under the tree formed by the toxic fumes emitted from the truffles growing under a tree. I found the whole earthy, mysterious, olfactory alchemy of growing and finding truffles very alluring. There is so much going on in the world that we don’t understand. I say alchemy as at $2500 a kilogram, truffles are like food gold.
I like to put indications of roads and tracks in my landscapes, as well as other things like cars, or in this painting, a horse float (helping to define the setting as rural) because these elements are a reminder of the ever-present nature of humans and their effects on the landscape. We, like the truffles and the tree are part of the ecosystem and should also operate in symbiosis with it. Which is part of why I liked the truffle farming. I heard someone say on the radio recently that all current writing is (or should be) fundamentally about the environment and climate change. And I feel that way now about art, so I like to put a reminder of this in all my paintings as an underlying and inescapable, if not overtly obvious theme.