Take Me to the River
Local readers won’t need reminding that Perth had a lot of rain in September. It was wonderful. Wind howled, rain threw itself down. Being a Kiwi (ie a New Zealander) by birth, I like wild weather. I get a bit tired of the constant sunshine and blue skies of Western Australia. I took advantage of the mercurial spring weather by taking several trips to the Swan River with my camera.
On the morning of September 19th there was misty rain. Some people think that grey skies are boring. I feel that grey skies and rain have a softening effect. Inclement weather mystifies and conceals landforms which, under strong sunlight, contain no secrets. On this day the misty rain diffused the landscape. One of the photos I took that morning became the source material for my drawing “Take Me to the River”.
I have been developing a new technique of adding to the length of a pencil with a pencil extender. Pencil extenders are made so that short pencil stubs may be inserted into them. The benefit is that one may comfortably use stubs without having to scrunch up one’s hand, giving pencils a longer work life. While doing this drawing, I began using my pencil extender with a full length pencil. This combination produced a tool which was long-paintbrush in length. Hence I could use the pencil rather like a paintbrush in a painterly way. Gently holding the extender right at the lowest end, I loosely ‘feathered’ the pencil across the paper ever so lightly to give a diffuse effect. The more one is fast and furious from wrist, forearm, shoulder, upper body – the freer the marks become. As an ex-painter it feels natural to stand at the easel and use the pencil in this way. The opposite of tight control, it is letting go, using the element of chance in mark making.
I named the drawing after the Talking Heads song “Take Me to the River” which is on their album “More Songs About Buildings and Food”. It is fitting that I pay tribute to David Byrne (of Talking Heads) by naming my drawing after his song. Just the other day I was watching his 1986 film “True Stories” (described as a ‘completely cool, multi-purpose movie’). After David Byrne has taken us on a tour of Texas, at the end of the film he says something profound which I quote verbatim.
“Well, I really enjoyed forgetting. When I first come to a place, I notice all the little details. I notice the way the sky looks, the colour of white paper, the way people walk, doorknobs, everything. Then I get used to the place and I don’t notice those things any more. So only by forgetting, can I see the place again as it really is.”
That’s how it is for me coming back to Fremantle after being overseas. I did so much traveling that I forgot Fremantle…which enabled me to notice it once again. When I quoted David Byrne’s words to Matthew just now, he said “Well, that’s art.”