A few years ago, Janelle McMahon, The Gap High School head librarian asked me to paint four of the working doors in the school library, just to make it more interesting to students. It was a marvelous experience planning and working in situ, in full view of students, teaches and library staff. Each of the doors has its own story and reason for being. Each connects with an element and a literary theme. The four paintings took 4 months to complete … and were done with hundreds of students walking around me as I worked every day.
But recently, the library required renovations. A new home had to be found for THE ELEMENT DOORS. And I’m thrilled to say, they have … at Sheldon College on the south side of the city, Brisbane. Can’t wait to see them up on the wall again!
WATER – Down by the Bay ©
Along our closest land’s edge, the waters of Brisbane’s Moreton Bay are constantly under threat from pollution and over-fishing; or in danger of being loved to death. This multi-dimension landscape painting maps out a bird’s-eye view of Nudgee creek as it flows into Moreton Bay. The macro image of a Soldier Crab represents life on the mudflats, and the poetry represents ideas and emotions.
Human symbols for water include the Aboriginal water-hole circles, the ancient Egyptian wavy hieroglyph for river, the zodiac water signs of Scorpio, Pisces and Cancer, and the Brisbane tidal patterns. The chosen poetry extracts are some of the most evocative words written about water by poets from several continents and times. It’s the only door without a knob.
AIR – That eye the sky – to quote Tim Winton ©
Imagine lying on your back above the western wheat fields so that you can see from one horizon to another – watching the passage of clouds, weightless, silent and at peace. This is the only door that didn’t seem to need any text – and it also seems to be a favourite with the students.
EARTH – Land is Memory Memory is Land ©
Australia has a proud tradition of landscape artists. From the paintings of indigenous people whose unique art has been inspired by their feeling for and knowledge of the land, to the famous and not so famous artists of the last 200+ years who have tried to express the visual impact of the Australian landscape.
Because of the very nature of this ancient land – its colours, its contours and landforms, its history and its memory, the usual European landscape format of background, middle ground and foreground doesn’t seem to express enough.
Many artists in this country strive to understand and paint beyond what is visible in the landscape.
FIRE – A nation hostage to the gum ©
Laden with volatile eucalyptus oils and as recognizably Australian as the koala, the gum tree has evolved to fit this land like a glove. Its many varieties have adapted to the seasonal flare-ups of bushfires – surviving and sprouting with new growth when the rains arrive.
Bushfires are a natural part of the renewal of this land. We want to live close to the natural beauty of the Australian bush but even after many decades of bushfire disasters, the gum’s ability to increase the destructive path of fire seems to be forgotten. If we want to live in harmony with rather than hostage to the gum, we need to understand its place in our landscape. The Element Doors © Sheryl Gwyther 2018