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A Thankyou note from across the border

Dear Stanthorpe,

This is the last weekend that my exhibition about the shearing shed at “Nundubbermere” is on display at your gallery. It closes Sunday afternoon, at 1pm. It’s been a grand journey. From when I accidentally met the Radio National announcer Eddie Ayers in a caravan park in Armidale in 2018, and we needed a shed close to Brisbane for an interview. Then meeting the Tulloch family, falling in love with the shed, deciding it was too fabulous not to do a project of, and planning this exhibition. Through an eye injury early 2020 that took me from the studio for a year. To the time spent on-site in the shed, and later in the studio. And let’s not get started on Covid! Six weeks before the opening event, I packed up my almost finished artwork, all the spare frames I had, my camping gear, and escaped to Qld to finish the exhibition. Yes, in a tent, in the middle of winter. Needs must, when Covid was threatening, then closing, all those borders.

I’d do it all again. The small adventures of taking a fairly normal project, in a straight forward art practice, to completion in bush camps, guest rooms and other people’s towns, was a lot of fun. Doing office-work in town libraries and coffee shops, finding all the necessities in your main street, slowly layering your town over my experience, made me feel so at home in Stanthorpe. It gave the project a sense of lightness that I hadn’t realised was there until I returned home.

Painting “Nundubbermere” was exceptionally rewarding. Creating artwork about shearing sheds is the mainstay of my practice, and this shed, with its hundred-year-old history, was right up my alley. I love the complicated nature of the architecture in these buildings. For all the sheds I’ve painted, there’s still something new each time. At “Nundubbermere”, it was the view out the woolroom door across to the west. The light from the skylights and doorways gave a sense of drama that I didn’t need to fabricate. Sitting on-site, at the beginning of the project, sketching what I was seeing, I was noticing how the stories I’d been told fitted in. The roof replaced sometime last century, the graffiti, the lanolin-and-dust smell, the timber polished by the wool of how many thousand sheep since the beginning.

The paintings tell a story of what I saw when I was there, but it’s also about how this shed is part of my story. Like how “Nundubbermere” the hundred and second shearing shed I’ve made artwork about, that this is my fortieth solo exhibition, that for the first time I’m sharing my sketches. I’ve been heartened by the comments about their inclusion, and it seemed timely. Even for those of us who continue to work with similar subjects, who have forty years of learning a media that is never completely mastered, each exhibition is evidence of a constantly evolving narrative. I’m humbled at your kind words about this one.

I’m writing this from Lismore. The borders are closed to me, so I won’t be back to see the show again in its entirety. It’s important to publicly thank everyone who’s supported me on this project – the Tulloch family, my friends who put me up, and not least, Mary, Dan and all the members of the gallery who have been front of house for me. And thank you Stanthorpe, for your hospitality, it’s been fun.

Yours most Sincerely, Christine – your favourite artist, (for this month at least)

First Published

The Stanthorpe Record September 15, 2021

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