Having spent much of the 1970s living away from Australia, the 1980s were, for
me, all about coming home and settling down. I was passionate about painting
during that decade and studied watercolour painting with the well-known South
Australian artist and teacher, Ruth Tuck. Occasionally our class would be
favoured with a visit from her husband, the eccentric and irrascible architect
turned artist, Mervyn Smith.
Influenced by the German Expressionists, yet working in their own unique ways,
Ruth Tuck and Mervyn Smith exhibited the most exciting and vibrant watercolours
I had ever seen. On entering a a gallery full of their paintings I would feel
my heart begin to beat faster. Obviously I was not alone in this, for in 1991
twenty-eight of Smith’s paintings were
stolen from their home and have only recently been recovered.
While I have never felt that I adequately mastered watercolour’s demanding
habit of looking long and hard in order to describe has remained with me.
Always daunted by the task of transferring an entire landscape to a sheet of
watercolour paper, I was happiest when painting domestic interiors, the
details of everyday life which add colour and particularity. Pierre Bonnard
once said he wished to paint 'everything one sees upon entering a room', and
that was how I wanted to paint, too. As a writer, I often have to rein in my
love of detail for the sake of fluency.
Although the decade was all about coming home, I ended it by leaving Australia
once more to live on an island in the middle of the Irish Sea.