On Albatross Island
For a long time I did not know where to begin On Albatross Island. Never before had I experienced such a visually, emotionally and biologically dynamic environment—not to mention the compelling cultural aspects. I was overwhelmed by it all. To camp inside a giant sea cave, once inhabited by colonial era sealers and Aboriginal women, surrounded by raucous nesting penguins and fairy prions is one experience I’ll not soon forget. There are many others.
But how to make sense of and translate such multifaceted stimuli into charcoal on paper, into art —in a mere seven months? I could spend ten lifetimes coming to terms with Albatross Island, its startling and various topographies, its wildlife, human histories, and the crucial scientific work being done there.
I tried many different ways into the project: oil paintings on canvas of Sealers Cave and the natural amphitheatre called The Trap; acrylics of the yellow and orange lichens and the multi-coloured carpets of succulent groundcovers; charcoals of conglomerate rock formations and boulder-fields like something from the Icelandic Fjords; drawings of a wind-whipped sea and crashing surf; and Black Pyramid Rock looming low on the Western horizon. But, in the end, I kept coming back to the birds. It became clear that on Albatross Island, the birds, the Shy Albatross are the stars of the show and I wanted to bring them to the forefront of the artwork.
In a last ditch effort to bring some clarity to these studio experiments, I turned to a journal entry I made in the field on Albatross Island in March 2015 at one of the main nesting sites named North Colony;
Reading this note again after a few months working in the studio, gave the project its necessary focus. I hope the finished drawings and their installation in the galleries do justice to the potent sense this field note recalls in me, of what it is like to sit in quiet contemplation of life and death, with the Shy Albatross on Albatross Island.
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