I first became interested in painting bushfires in 2019 before the summer fires which devastated such large areas of the east coast. This interest was inspired by Dorothea MacKellar’s poem, ‘My Country’, which highlights the extreme weather experienced in Australia over thousands of years. The line, ‘her beauty and her terror’ was the incentive for this painting. In addition to bushfires which I have painted over many years, I began to paint floods, fires and storms to illustrate climatic change. This work shows the terrifying sight of a bushfire at night while the moon shines down from above. It is a contrast of tranquility and chaos. I found the moon and its regular cycles an enormous source of comfort during the pandemic and subsequent lockdowns; it sustained me with its beauty and gave me hope as a marker of time passing. The bushfire is part of our history, but in recent years has intensified in its ferocity. The moon is ever-present, even when we cannot see it. This painting is representative of the times in which we live; with uncertainty, fear and hardship, but also with faith, hope and optimism which is largely generated through communicating with and supporting others. I derive great joy through painting and I am continually inspired by my fellow artists and their capacity for producing work which inspires others.
Judge Comment: A number of works in the exhibition reference the landscape, but this one reminds us of the ever-present possibility of fire in the Australian landscape. The artist uses an image of beauty of moonlight reflecting on the flames to draw the viewer to the canvas that then tells a story of the power and destruction of fire.