A series of paintings by Jane Nicol.
DISCLAIMER – The persons depicted in my paintings are not intended to be images of individuals living or deceased. They are my best effort to represent the people I am privileged to see within the land.
I have come to have the greatest respect for the culture of the Traditional Owners of Australia, through the people that I see and meet within the land; the people that I paint.
I paint what I see and try to understand, because it seems important to those people that I do my best to express what they tell me and show me. I don’t find it easy to take in, hold, and express the appalling grief that I receive from so many of them. I am so sad for the dreadful things that have been done, to them, their ancestors, and their land.
Everything I paint I seek to do with the greatest respect. It is my intention that my paintings honour the traditional owners who nurtured this land for countless millennia. The paintings within this series each tell individual stories. During my life I have been inspired by many things, but I have never been more inspired than I am by these people, their stories, their land and culture.
The paintings within this series are of memories and wisdom that I see held in the land, of the land itself and of people connected with land and who persistently held responsibility for maintaining the healthy balance and wellbeing of the land. Too often Westernised Society has scorned and destroyed those less greedy, whose ways should have been respected.
I have come to understand on a personal level that our planet is a living organism. Like any living organism, it holds the memory of how to be whole and healthy. Too much of Western civilisation treats the land, the environment, the Planet as though it is there to use up, lay waste and destroy.
While the Land remembers, it is not yet too late; but I become afraid that every extinction, every careless act of greed and destruction brings another loss of memory.
To survive and restore what has been lost we need Reconciliation; restoring respect between Western society and the Traditional Owners and Caretakers of the land, and also restoring respect for the Land.
We are all in this together. All bound within the All. I believe that the Aboriginal people have a part to play that is of vital importance in Australia’s and the World’s future. Despite what has happened to them, and their country, they are heirs to an Older Wisdom, a deep and spiritual understanding of the reality of the Connection.
If all that was, still exists, simply awaiting a level of understanding worthy of its return, then I believe that those who can stand on the rock of the Old Wisdom yet walk with an open heart in this crazy contemporary world, become a bridge to a better wiser way of being for us all. We all need the Ancient Wisdom applied to modern dilemmas. I believe that the lineage of those ways of being holds a hope for a better wiser Now that is still to come.
The Land Remembers – The Stories
I don’t usually talk about the specifics of the stories that I paint. That would seem to restrict what the painting has to share to only that of my reality. Whatever these paintings mean to you is just as valid if not more, than my original inspiration.
The first painting is called “Belong…the Land Remembers” – I had intended to paint a series I would call “Shades of the Dispossessed”. So many of the people I see and meet are dispossessed, dislocated and torn from Country and identity. But when I painted this woman, it wasn’t the fact of her dispossession that she wanted me to paint, but that she Belongs, that this is her country, her earth, her sky, and that nothing can change that.
“River Dreaming…the Land Remembers” – was the first of the series of Australian people in the land. At the time I painted this I was new to Sydney and starved for country. I don’t tolerate cities well and find Sydney very difficult. George took me out to Ku-ring-gai Chase National Park. I was very disturbed by the colour of the rivers and a feeling of wrongness. When I got home I went online and read that the rivers of the Pitt water catchment that flow through the area are all so polluted with phosphates that there is a constant algae bloom. It felt to me that the old men that I had seen with the rivers knew and had always known how to “sing” the rivers right. They are simply waiting for time to be right.
”Connected…the land Remembers” – The painting came easily but I struggled for weeks with the title for this one because this young woman had so much to tell me; about the balanced way of life, of the sophistication of the Laws and Spirituality that bound her way of life, of being aware of her intrinsic connection with everything in her world. It seemed to me that her connection with her child was a reflection of her Country’s connection with her and that to take her from her land was to take her identity away.
“Hunted…the Land Remembers” – It seems I meet so many people being driven and hunted from their land. I don’t have much to say about this painting except that it was hard to paint and I cried while I painted.
“Small Shadows of Loss…the Land Remembers” – I think this one also tells its own story. I saw these children in the North West of Tasmania. It is also one of the earlier paintings in the series and lacks the confidence that meeting and talking to Aunty Joan Tranter gave me; talking about the cultural appropriateness of painting images of the people who share their stories with me, which are also your stories. It offers only a very small personal awareness of the unimaginable scale of loss that the Aboriginal people have suffered.
“Grief for A sacred Place…the Land Remembers”- For a long time I have avoided the place that this story comes from. It isn’t far from here, but it is a place that I find to be full of power and grief, horror, hopelessness and anger at what it has become and the history it holds. After talking to Aunty Joan I went back to this place. I think this may be just the first of a number of stories that I will paint from there.
“An Older Wisdom…the Land Remembers” – This is just one representation of the Older Wisdom. I see the Older Wisdom of the Ancestors in the bones of the land. It dances in the rivers and the air, in the plants and the animals. I see it everywhere. Sometimes I see it take the form of a man, sometimes a woman. It is irrepressible and it is always about Love.
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