Five snapshots of Illawarra artists and their surrounds
The world concerns me only in so far as I feel a certain indebtedness and duty toward it because I have walked this earth for thirty years, and, out of gratitude, want to leave some souvenir in the shape of drawings or pictures – not made to please a certain taste in art, but to express a sincere human feeling.
Vincent Van Gogh 1
Shelf packer, Woolworth’s Wollongong
It’s nearly midnight. Andrew’s almost finished with the confectionary aisle. When he gets home it will take a couple of hours before he can sleep.
‘It takes more time than you’re actually there,’ he says recalling nights sitting up reading, too late to start shooting, to early to sleep.
‘It’s purely a money making exercise,’ he states emphatically. The dream is to get paid for what you like doing.
‘There’s the myth of the struggling artist,’ he says ‘which I don’t think really exists anymore. There’s very few people you hear of that are really kind of living that out and surviving off it, because plainly they just have to have another job to survive in the market economy that we live in.’
If he didn’t have to pack shelves and could photograph full time?
‘Maybe it would become a job,’ he says ‘it might loose something. I don’t know exactly what. I wouldn’t know until I went there.’
You invent what I discover.
Diane Arbus: on the distinction between a painter and a photographer. 2
Dee knew as soon as he saw it - he had to get there. Dawn broke the foothills of the Macarthur Pass as he was plunging down the Illawarra Highway. When he hit the Tongarra bends, he was torn.
The road was covered in fine red dust and the few cars that had passed left symmetrical tyre tracks – the lines, the pine trees, the red fog, the headlights of the passing cars.
‘A long exposure so you could get the lights,’ the technicalities ran through his mind. He made a choice, and drove on.
He got to the Shellharbour pier, camera pointing like a gun. One, two, three. Then the lights flicked off.
Dee knows this place – the Shoalhaven coast, the Illawarra escarpment, the rainforests of the highlands. They’re old friends. He knows the exact time the nightlights at Shellharbour switch off, usher in the day, and end the possibility of that one amazing shot.
The result is three diminishing orbs of light, settling, like tiny suns, on the moored boats in the misty morning. All captured in the red of the September 2009 dust storm.
One of the best-known photographers in the Illawarra, Dee hesitates to call himself an artist.
‘I see that God’s created that and I’ve just captured it.’
He pauses, looks round the gallery. On this wall, the mountain trek through the snow for hours, near collapse to find a tree, the right tree, all silver bark and twisting reds, turquoise, ultra-marine, bronze. Or on the other wall, the dry creek beds he roamed to find this overhanging eucalypt at Silverton. Or the shot of the Adaminaby windmills with two tiny yet distinct trees casting horizontal shadows across the plain.
‘I waited ages for those trees to get lit up, to get that nice light perfectly on the hills.’
He almost persuades himself. Form, composition, colour, light: the trappings of an artist.
‘I guess so,’ he murmurs, ‘I guess you have to have that to capture it.’
An artist is someone who produces things that people don't need to have but that he - for some reason - thinks it would be a good idea to give them.
Andy Warhol 3
Graphic designer and attendant at Wollongong City Gallery
In the gallery you could hear a pin drop. Three staff members linger behind the front counter. What do they do? This, says Duncan Maclean, arms spread wide. They laugh.
‘If you look at art,’ he says, ‘the only defining characteristic it has compared to craft or design is its uselessness.’
He was an animator first. Good money, he…