Ive been back to Broken hill recently for Rick Ball’s new exhibition at the regional gallery in Argent St. I’m a big fan of Rick’s work – he’s an artist’s artist in many ways but also an educator & animated storyteller. Rick catches the basic components & colour of the desert while creating the illusion of movement. I overheard him humbly referring to his evocative “marks” as “old man’s scratchings”. It’s a perceptive paring down to the very core only possible after years of seeing the land & people of that place though his eyes. I bought these 2 works below but the images are ordinary here due to reflections in the glass. If you google his name you can see proper reproductions & Rick’s extensive CV.
the waters of walking rain in the desert
The waters of walking title is the perfect metaphor for the Aboriginal songlines out here in the semi-arid NthWest. The people walked from water to water & when you look at rick’s painting you can almost see their silhouettes distorted by mirage as they move across the plains. In a land without landmarks the TinTs & ringtrees were the navigating signposts & the mnemonic chants of childhood were the ancient directions.
Songlines snaked through the bush from waterhole to well, crossing rivers & traversing swamps. Clans would make their way along these protected traveller’s paths to ceremony. The young ones eager & edgy with anticipation, while the more mature would be keeping a keen eye out for tonights dinner. Perhaps the Marshes or the Marra or Cuddie springs were full again? If not the Fish traps at Brewarrina were usually reliable or further still the Narran lakes. Surprisingly some of these songlines are still basically intact but have morphed over 2 centuries into roads & highways. The Billybingbone rd west of Carinda is lined with TinTs. There is even an old bimblebox ringtree on the side of the road between Mullins swamp & the Ginghet crossing. See below:
Life is a shit sandwich sometimes and Allan Tighe’s recent heart attack & subsequent strokes have left him without the power of speech. He is still receiving care at the RPA in Sydney but it seems like he wont be able to live independently anymore. For those of you who never got to go bush with Allo you have missed more than I can explain here. While only a relatively young ‘Elder’ he knew more about the old ways than anyone else Ive met except Ted Fields Snr. Allo shared his knowledge freely & some of the best times of my life were spent hanging out with him contemplating scartrees. I hope Baiame intervenes on his behalf but I expect he is still smarting over the arrogance of the English who imposed their God on a people that already had a perfectly good one of their own …