In this city, only about 20 minutes’ drive from downtown, you can walk along a bush track and feel thousands of miles away from the crush of central Sydney.
Turn a corner, though, and you’ll find yourself facing a familiar line of skyscrapers across the harbour.
I recently came across the term “urban forest”, used to describe all the trees in a city, with no distinction between bushland, street trees or those on private property.
It’s a prompt for me to think of the bush not as something separate from the built environment, but as a network extending through it, as vital as any human-made infrastructure.
Images: self-portrait and landscape drawings from art journal, c. 2016
After dance classes I would walk back through the city keeping an eye out for reflective surfaces in which I could record myself as part of the urban environment.
In the absence of a mirror, an ordinary selfie would do.
This small performative exercise developed into more involved photo sessions in chosen locations, which in turn became material for sketches and paintings.
It’s an ongoing (maybe life-long!) project, partly inspired by the whole-body self-portraits of US painter Joan Semmel, where the focus begins to shift away from the face to the expression of the body in response to place.
Images, top to bottom: Mirror Selfie, Wynyard (acrylic on watercolour paper); Martin Place (acrylic on watercolour paper); back arch with cranes, North Sydney (pen drawing in sketchbook); pen and watercolour sketch in art journal
The Beaten Track, 2018, oil on linen, 56.5 x 46.5 cm (detail). An icebreaker to get back into oil painting after a very long period working in acrylics. It was also nice to return to the uncanny bushland of my subconscious.
In August this year I moved out of my studio of nine years, after the landlords had their development application approved. This three-storey warehouse opposite the Annandale Hotel in Stanmore, Sydney, was at different times home and work space to a number of artists including Elizabeth Day, Justin Trendall, Maria Cruz, Stephen Birch, Jacky Redgate, Brandt Lewis and India Zegan. Sculptor and painter Peter Hardy had been there for about 30 years. So we had a pretty good run, but it’s sad when these increasingly rare inner-city artists’ spaces go.