Rapid Landscape Change

I see landforms in terms of the denudation-deposition cycle, metaphorically equal to what happens over the life of a human body, including the less tangible aspects of being ‘alive’ – such as personality, character, knowledge, relationships, perceptions, beliefs and so on. In short, nothing stays the same over time. We are surrounded by change, but it is often at such a slow pace that we don’t even register it happening day to day right before our eyes.

But sometimes things happen really fast, too. In Australia’s current bushfire season, beginning September-October 2019, bushfires have wreaked havoc over much of the country. Vast areas have been burned out, people have lost lives, homes, businesses and farms. Many people were compelled to flee to safer areas to escape roaring walls of flame driven by strong winds, heading their way too fast to fight and contain. Sometimes their property was spared, but often evacuees had nothing left to return to, and in some instances whole towns were obliterated. The loss of human life, which though low considering the cicumstances, was devastating for the families and communities from which those people came. Several were firefighters themselves. Many domestic and wild animals were killed, with some estimates as high as a billion in total: we’ll never know for sure, but the toll was huge.

Change has continued though, as since early february many of the dried or burnt areas have received at least some rainfall courtesy a moderate cyclone and the arrival of the monsoon in the region. Much rain has fallen on the coastal plains and some, not a lot, has pushed inland, so the severe drought is not yet broken completely, but there is hope. The worst of the dreadful fires are now out or under control due to this rain, which has been so heavy in some parts that flash flooding has become problematic.

Photos and film footage are showing that in the earliest burned areas vegetation has been sprouting. Some trees are sprouting new leaves, and grass has returned to bone dry paddocks, illustrating how rapidly the Australian landscape can regenerate, as it has for countless thousands of years. It is this story of regeneration and hope that I want to underlie some planned new works. There is no problem with colour schemes themselves – think black, various shades of grey (up to 50 …) red, orange, sandy colours, dark brown and the bright greens of fresh new vegetation.

I’m thinking in terms of mini-landscapes such as this sample I made to be part of a presentation to a mini-landscape workshop a few years ago:

Mini landscape area approx 7cm x 5cm , on black background. 2013.

I’ve often used such little landscape compilations or units within larger works, and looking at these next two quilts reminds me of how much Outback travel I have done looking at the passing changing landscape!

Songlines” 1997 40cm x 200cm
Ticket To Munmalary ” 1997 120cm x 150cm.
Landscape scenery changing as if on a long journey by car bus or train. Photographed against a yellow background, for some reason!

These patchwork units were all improvisationally pieced before being machine appliqued to their background fabric. However, I’ve just realised such units could also be constructed by cutting to fit precisely together like a jigsaw puzzle, fused to a background, cut out from that before hand or machine sewing onto the quilt top. I’m experimenting.

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