Growing up, a framed Hans Heysen print somehow seemed embedded within visual range. While I was making to walk on a sea of salt 2004 I became intently focused on his work – and in particular Summer 1909. Hans came to Australia as a child, migrating with his family from Germany. He went on to make images considered to be iconic in their 'intensely Australian' representation, but suffered highly public disparaging attention due to his heritage during the First World War.
In 2004 I travelled again with Stephen Grant for weeks around South Australia looking for Heysen’s gum trees, which I needed to somehow find a way to capture and include within the considerations of to walk on a sea of salt.
My family line goes back to the Darling Downs, sometime around the 1850s, and I came to know that what I was also looking for, through Hans’s work, were the river gums that used to grow vigorously on the banks of the Condamine River, that I explored as a child. The sheep property there, Felton Inn, was still then in the family line and had once been a Cobb & Co stop.
When I was making weather in 2006 I went back there. What I saw made me as distressed as the gums. It was 10 years into a drought and the crystal river water I used to drink had become poisoned sludge. Even today, I can barely speak of it.
I know now that the Heysen picture represented to me a fantasy of recollection that I had cherished. Regardless, on my trip with Stephen, there were early mornings, where my fingers were painfully frozen, where what was before me was of that painting.