Tuesday, April 8, 2008


I often find myself contemplating my journey markers as I traverse a small portion of the Kaurna plains on my way to and from Pitjantjatjara language class - the minor airfield at Parafield, an ever-expanding Mawson Lakes, the conspicuous adult store, obligatory golden arches, historic brickworks...

As I immerse myself in Indigenous culture, varying portrayals of Kathleen Petyarre’s Mountain Devil Lizard Dreaming frequently cross my path. Petyarre’s work illustrates an inspiring story of custodianship and home, through perfect compositions, repetition of iconography and mesmerising dotting technique. I imagine what my world would look like, were it painted in acrylic dots on canvas. I try to think about my connections to place and whether in fact one particular place has had a continuous presence in my life, has shaped who I am, or called me back to it. I consider what my physical landscape would look like, my manta, which essentially is not my own, but one that I regrettably use without permission.

I sit and think about the icons I would include in an aerial view of my life. Which particular places of significance might form the centre point of a single work and which would recur throughout a whole body of work? What have been my places of core necessity? Where have I drawn my life source, or more simply, seasonally come to rest? As a child I believed one of these places to be my Grandmother’s house across town, red brick and semi-detached with a tank stand out the back and the smell of freshly baked pastry wafting through the kitchen window. That disappeared when she did years ago. I struggle to raise an alternative, and sadly suppose that the perpetuity of asphalt and concrete would be an obvious overarching theme in my work.

Clutching for a link to nature, my thoughts pause on the many gum trees that frame my current geographic location. I conclude, however, that the Eucalypts are remnants; strategically reserved in an attempt at aesthetics by the local town planner. As Tea Tree Gully has derived its name from a term coined by explorer Cook and naturalist Banks in response to the myrtaceous shrubs they found in an exploratory voyage to Australia in 1770
[1], I am constantly reminded of the settler nation I live in.

I ask myself what colours my canvas would be? I’ve not experienced the spectrum of natural pigment in situ, but I do have a clear impression of what a palette comprising driveway paver hues might look like. The colour of my night is inhibited by street and neon lights, obstructing the natural glow of the stars. And the scent of chlorine, granulated and dirty white, lingers on my hands as I do my best to maintain the English dream of a swimming pool in the backyard.

The composition of my canvas in under construction; perhaps to remain incomplete. For so many reasons I feel disconnected from this land. And whilst solace can be found in faith and family, I feel like a balloon, caught on the wind and drifting far from the earth; an earth that has borne a people, Creation spirit incarnate, for thousands of years.

Nerina Dunt

[1] E A Weiss in Southwell I & Lowe R 1999 Tea Tree: The Genus Melaleuca, CRC Press.

1 comment:

Lauren Sutter said...

This was great to read! I found it really evocative and feel as though I now have a few things to think about, trudging through this red brick desert of ours.
Thanks for sharing your work!