Hunkering down

After a ferocious night and the wind still howling, we hunker down, mostly on the front veranda of the Coward Springs residence once the Station Master’s House when the Ghan passed this way. The sun shines on us and we are out of the wind.

Janine continues with her daily diary – a timeline of the camp in found objects, natural and made. ‘Things I see in the course of the day – linear things.’ The long strip of jute is reminiscent of the long horizon or the old railway track.

“It was a pre-planned exercise because I wanted to make something that was durable and transportable.’ But the value of the group dynamic revealed itself on the first day when Kenita suggested hat she pull jute threads from the strap to sew on the objects.

‘I choose things that appeal when I pick them up but I lay them out for contrast in colour and material.’

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The artists on the veranda seem to have a plant focus, perhaps concentrating on the small things to block out the larger all consuming wind.

Maggie is focused on space and her place in it. She first visited the wetlands but could not find space there. She certainly found it at Lake Eyre and is contemplating how to convey the scale – on the edge the enormous cracked plates and the corrugations, the expanse of blindingly white salt. Perhaps a vertical Japanese paper series. ‘With the vertical you feel like you go a long way. But with the horizontal …’ She and Deb discuss the possibilities and rummage through their sketchbooks. Deb is thinking about corrugated iron.

Whatever Maggie and Deb, realise, I have no doubt it will be evocative of the space we are all in for this short time. Each in her own way.

The day ends with a group meeting. Do we want an exhibition to come out of this camp? Yes we do.


Island to Outback is supported by the Australian Government’s Regional Arts Fund through Country Arts SA

Island to Inland in Adelaide

At last. Island to Inland: contemporary art from Kangaroo Island is open at Flinders University City Gallery in Adelaide from Saturday 1 July.

The Kangaroo Island inspired exhibition, more than two years in the making, has the theme of the isolation and inspiration of island life.

In it, the exhibition’s artists – Kenita Williamson, Maggie Welz, Caroline Taylor, Deborah Sleeman, Janine Mackintosh, Indiana James, Scott Hartshorne, Audrey Harnett, Quentin Chester and Ria Byass – reveal works of the finest order, which such time makes possible.

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Also making the works the best they could were the two professional curators, Eleanor Scicchitano, Visual Arts Coordinator, Country Arts SA and Celia Dottore, Exhibitions Manager, Flinders University Art Museum and City Gallery. They suggested and prodded, listened and watched, and admired and supported.

The exhibition is built on our arts-infused community which has many more fine artists, both professional and amateur, in a population of only 4500. No doubt this exhibition will bring even more attention to Kangaroo Island’s treasure trove of art.

It is a rare community that values and supports community art and fine art practitioners the way Kangaroo Island does.

And it’s not just the community, it’s the inspirational surroundings, and the time and space to explore, to meditate and to enjoy nature’s gifts. This exhibition reflects all that and more. It does our island proud.

Island to Inland opens on Saturday 1 July and runs until 3 September at the Flinders University City Gallery in the State Library of South Australia building, North Terrace, Adelaide. Gallery hours: Tuesday–Friday 11am–4pm, Saturday–Sunday 12 noon–4pm.

From January 2018 the exhibition travels to 13 regional galleries around South Australia over 18 months.

Me and my favourite bird

Wedge-tailed Eagles are my favourite bird and I’ve now been able to tell one, close up.

Yes I'm happy happy but she's taking Nellie away from me
Yes I’m happy happy but she’s taking Nellie away from me

They are found across the Australian continent outside urban areas, and on Kangaroo Island they are quite common and often seen. I should be getting blasé about them but I doubt that will ever happen.

I’ve had two close encounters before, one on Kangaroo Island when my friend Mark and I were driving along the two-wheeled track named Jump Off Road out west on the north coast. We didn’t see the eagle which must have been feeding on the side of the track. And it can’t have noticed us until the last minute. It flew up over the bonnet and its body and wings covered the windscreen for an instant – and left a lasting impression.

At the Palmer Sculpture Biennial, west of Adelaide, up near the highest point an eagle hovered only about 2 or 3 metres above us possibly on the updrafts from the nearby cliffs. It was close enough to see the feathers and the patterns on the underwings.

I’ve scared off eagles feasting on road-kill carcasses on Kangaroo Island and avoided them as they lumber away with a full belly. But I’ve never been able to just get a good look close up. So when Raptor Domain offered me the chance to hold the adolescent Nellie for a mere 10 bucks, I was there.

Wedgies get darker as they age. Old bird are practically black. Nellie is about 18 months old. I was captivated by her fabulous array of neck feathers. What an experience. Thanks Raptor Domain – it’s always a fabulous show. And thanks Sue Carson for the photos.

Tourism Australia has a beautiful video of a Wedge-tailed Eagle pair with indescribably gorgeous chick (thanks Janine Mackintosh for the link). Have a look!

Country Arts SA visits Kangaroo Island

Kangaroo Island served up quite a helping of visual artists when Eleanor Scicchitano, Visual Arts Coordinator and Craig Harrison, Manager Artform Development, of Country Arts SA visited recently.

Rosemary Whitehead, with her fabric work exhibiting at Chapman River Cellar Door until 13 April.
Rosemary Whitehead, with her fabric work exhibiting at Chapman River Cellar Door until 13 April.

It was quite a whip-round – 30 artists and their works, galleries with the works of many more, and almost 400 kilometres covered in two days. And I got to go with them.

I’ve written about and supported the artists and arts of Kangaroo Island for about 10 years, and I compiled the list of artists to visit.

I thought I knew quite a lot about these artists but now I’ve learned so much more. What a fine range of artists – working in so many media, with so many styles – we have as part of our tiny population of 4500.

So what stood out? A couple of things:

Craig and Eleanor from Country Arts SA at Shep's workspace
Craig and Eleanor from Country Arts SA at Shep’s workspace

But there was so much more. I’m sorry I can’t mention them all. Come visit Kangaroo Island to see for yourself.


Kangaroo Island artist Janine Mackintosh is my friend (declaration of interest right up front).

We all have friends for various reasons, often because we just ‘get on’. But sometimes people’s beliefs, passions and actions add depth and substance to a friendship. That’s how I think of Janine.

Coevolved Kangaroo Island Narrow-leaved Mallee (Eucalyptus cneorifolia) leaves (patterned by lerp insects), linen thread and bookbinder's gum on canvas 105 x 105 cm framed
Kangaroo Island Narrow-leaved Mallee (Eucalyptus cneorifolia) leaves (patterned by lerp insects), linen thread and bookbinder’s gum on canvas
105 x 105 cm framed

She is s true environmentalist (definitely my type of person) who lives a full life while being circumspect in the retail, waste and travel sectors. She’s a knowledgeable advocate for biodiversity retention and owns a Heritage property of woodland, heathlands and wetlands that is the source and inspiration for her art.

And she is an artist of power and originality.

At Janine’s current exhibition (complemented by the works of Peter Syndicas) at Hill Smith Gallery in Adelaide, her signature mandalas and other enormous assemblages sit beautifully with samplers – biodiversity versions of the embroidery exercises of previous centuries.

All the pieces, in Janine’s words “highlight the complex connections that exist between coevolved species in this swathe of ecological antiquity”.

The exhibition was opened last Wednesday by Art Gallery of South Australia’s ball of energy, and curator of the next Biennial of Australian Art, Lisa Slade.

Lisa Slade (l) and Janine Mackintosh discuss Witness, a mandala of Banksia ornata leaves
Lisa Slade (l) and Janine Mackintosh discuss Witness, a mandala of Banksia ornata leaves (photo Scott Hartshorne)

For more photos of the opening see Hill Smith Gallery’s Facebook page

Sales have been exceptional – almost everything is sold. I wonder what that says in a world where art has not been selling in the past year or so, and where ‘environment’ doesn’t feature as a priority in recent polls.

Perhaps its the combination of the two. When an artistic sensibility demonstrates the necessity of biodiversity to our survival.

And they are just stunning.

The exhibition continues until 13 December 2014.