On Feburary 28, 2022 the Wilsons River, a normally benign tributary of the Richmond, engulfed Lismore with the sort of ferocity that has not been seen since white settlers began this version of record keeping. Our town is prone to flooding, sitting as it does at the junction of two river systems that drain from two different headwaters. We live in the subtropics, summer is our wet season, this year more so than usual. Late February there had been seven days of constant rain – the type locals identify as “flood rain”. The river rose quickly: 2.4 metres higher than it ever had before, engulfing the second story of a flood-prepared CBD, residential north Lismore and industrial south Lismore. It even came into East Lismore, an area like so many other places, usually high enough to escape a major flood.
This flood was higher than major: it was catastrophic.
The damage is recorded in the houses pushed off stumps, the piles of household and business debris that took months to clear, the homeless, the business-less, the town so much less than it was before.
Social media has spread the stories, mainstream media dined out on the imagery and broadcast the politics of renewal. But the trauma is personal. Each person who was rescued, and who rescued, who was helped, or who helped, carry that trauma. The mud will be forever in our bloodstream. The smell of mould in our minds. The dismay and the horror in our hearts.
Formerly flood free
My friend Marie had the contents of her second-hand bookshop packed away in a (formerly) flood-free storage unit in East Lismore. Another unit held the contents of her vintage clothes business. A third: the treasures of eight decades of living – packed up ready to be shifted to a new home – antiques, homewares, books, art supplies, paintings, furniture, photographs, her childhood toys. It took a week to empty the storage units after the water inundated them.
So much had to be thrown out.
So much was able to be rescued.
Amongst her carefully packed-away belongings was her collection of vintage china: close to seventy plastic tubs of plates, cups, saucers, jugs, serving dishes, bowls, mugs, dinner sets, espresso sets, cruet sets, ornaments. Bone china, ceramic, porcelain, glass – an eclectic, precariously fragile collection.
Each object that emerged from the soggy newspaper wrapping intact, was a celebration. Each piece that could be cleaned, or mended, or saved, was a step towards returning to some semblance of a normal life.
Taking boxes of china, fabric, artwork or furniture away to clean, restore and renew, was a way for people, not able to be at the coalface, to help. The china, returned to me clean and shiny, seemed a symbol for the flood and of our recovery.
Marie’s collection isn’t complete. There were losses. Just as our town has suffered so many losses. But seeing the pieces as they emerged from the storage units, filthy and broken, then later, cleaned and mended; seeing the beauty of each piece emerge from the darkness, it’s like our town emerging from the mud, physically and emotionally. We’re cherishing each small treasure – a re-opened shop, the first car-boot market, news that the Hannah Cabinet can be saved, electricity back on in the CBD, a million other tiny steps that describe renewal.
There are big stories of this flood – this catastrophe. There is a shared horror that has shaken each of us. But it is the small successes, the small things of beauty finding their way from the mud that describes the resilience that will bring our town back.
When Floods give you China - watercolour on board
On every level the flood china series was of this flood. Watercolour on board isn’t permanent like acrylic or oils are. It washes off. It needs protecting. It shows the beauty emerging from the muddy background. It describes resilience. It was what was around me at the beginning of the recovery – it was what I was recovering. And as any artist knows: When floods give you china: Paint China.
Painting them was a way I could paint out the stories that, like everyone, I was hearing. A small story of a big event. Standing in for all the treasures recovered, and the mud from whence it came.
Contact Christine directly via our contact form to organise a phone call, zoom or email conversation. The works are small enough to freight via Australia Post, and she can take payment over the phone.
If you are near Lismore you are welcome to visit Christine’s studio/to see the artwork in person. Book visit
The works are watercolour on gessoed board. Some include acrylic, or pen. All media is lightfast, but the watercolour is unstable – just as it is on paper. Consequently the works are only sold framed, behind glass, in order to protect the painting.
Please discuss with Christine if you’d prefer a different presentation.
Price: $370 framed
How to help the flood appeal
Depending on when you are reading this, there will still be a need for support from outside the area. This blog was written mid June 2022. We are still in the midst of rebuilding. My house and studio were spared, but so many of my friends weren’t.
Google “Lismore Floods 2022 support” and there will be places to donate. Or contact me, and I’ll fill you in with what is happening now.
- To see which artworks are still available, or on hold, or sold, click on the appropriate title to filter the gallery.
- Click on image to see larger view.
- IN EXHIBITION
Many of these works have been, or are being, exhibited in various group shows late 2022, including the annual Packsaddle Exhibition at NERAM, Armidale, and Downlands Exhibition, Toowoomba. Use the filters to browse where paintings are being exhibited, then contact the gallery directly to purchase any of those particular works.
A selection of works is currently showing at “Collectables” Cowper Gallery, near Grafton. November12, 2022 – January 22, 2023. Any work not sold in Cowper will be available from Christine after January 23, 2023.