Monday, June 29, 2009


Wet trees. Mist-heavy cloud. Showers spattering into the gorges. So much water - so many reflections.
It's more than a decade since the Flinders Ranges had an average year of rainfall. And it's been especially bad in the north.
Now, after a few good falls in recent months, the country is rebounding. A week of walking in the Vulkathunha-Gammons Ranges NP revealed lots of handy waterholes and new growth everywhere. A reminder that boom and bust- a natural form of climate change - is a fact of life in arid parts.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009


Perhaps it marks a new age of austerity. Or maybe just a sudden retro vibe. Anyway, for the first time ever Wild magazine features a black and white cover. In fact issue 113 features one of the better recent upfront pics - a shot that manages to capture that stirring, rueful 'what-am-I-doing-here' feeling you get in the back of beyond. Inside is equally provocative, with thoughtful pieces about the Victorian fires and other stories that go to the heart of being in distant - and often difficult - places. For my 'The Wild Life' column I've strayed into the delicate subject of the things we souvenir from nature.

Wednesday, June 10, 2009


pic courtesy Auscape International

Spikey but gentle monotremes seem to be turning up everywhere just lately. I've seen them in various places on each of my past three trips to Kangaroo Island. A week ago there was a phone message from a friend who'd met one wandering along a track in his olive grove. The other day I also spotted another sauntering among the stringybarks across the valley from our place. Then this morning in the New York Times, of all places, there's the rather different looking character you see above. It's worth checking out the story - and KI's very own echidna emissary Peggy Rismiller even gets in a good word or two on their behalf.

Monday, June 8, 2009


Having snapped up Balquhidder Station in 2007, it was always on the cards that billionaire businessman Kerry Stokes would top the bids for neighbouring Mt Scrub. As well as a few extra paddocks for his cattle to munch on, Kez is now the laird of an 11km stretch of beaches and headlands along the Fleurieu Peninsula's south coast. See the story here. Fingers crossed Kezza - one of Australia's most noted art buffs and philanthropists - will see fit to add these 'hidden' shores to the walking trail that honours the vision of painter extraordinaire, Sir Hans Heysen.

Thursday, June 4, 2009


"Azure Kingfishers" Oil on Canvas 77 x 84cm, 2007
Anyone with an eye for nature, painterly wonders, things creatural and the life of art has no choice but to visit the exhibition Rita Hall Museum Studies 1969 - 2009 that's just opened at the SA Museum.
Retrospectives are always among the most fascinating of shows and this one is no exception. The range of work on display, the mastery in so many different mediums, and the lineaments of style and subject are all there enjoy.
Rita's great gift is to reveal the 'innerness' and 'otherness' of things that are everywhere around us - be they birds, stones or even blow flies. She doesn't do birds cutely perched or jaunty on the wing. Instead they are lifted into the orbit of art by graphic and compositional verve. At one level, the birds simply are what they are, rendered with fidelity to their characteristics and circumstance. In her most recent paintings they are humble bird 'skins' exhumed from drawers in the museum collection and presented singly and in groups.
At the same time however, the birds serve as meditative objects, poised in their anonymous pictorial space. Thus the paintings present formal arrangements but with many teasing twists. 'It's still-life Jim - but not as we know it.'
Tenderly realised, bright and beautiful - but somehow also shadowy and quirkily disturbing, these birds are always goading us with questions about mortality and the way we see things and 'collect' the world around us as we go. In their purity and sense of purpose the paintings carry echoes of the great Italian modernist Giorgio Morandi.
To be able to view Rita's works arrayed together - and with so many of their antecedents - is a rare thrill. The other moving aspect to the exhibition is the opportunity to bear witness to a lifetime of devoted work. Morandi said "Nothing is more abstract than reality." For more than 40 years Rita has been helping us celebrate this exquisite truth.
"White Browed Wood Swallow"  2006 Oil on Canvas 55 x 60cm

Monday, June 1, 2009


Five days picking olives under big skies in the late Autumn sun might just be the ultimate cure-all - especially if you happen to be in the southern Flinders Ranges. The Beetaloo Valley is a lost world kind of place, tucked away in the ranges above Laura and Crystal Brook. One of my most favourite places of all. Here the olive groves, orchards and farm paddocks are interspersed with bushland and scrub-lined creeks. It's part of an appealing - and productive - stretch of country along the eastern flanks of the ranges to Melrose. The olives and olive oils from this neck of the woods are very special. It's also worth checking out the Wirrabara Farmer's Market (third Sunday of the month).