— Mildura Arts Centre —
The dual sensibilities of the Susan Wald: Lake Mungo paintings, and monotypes at the Mildura Art Centre 2020, are of restraint, and fecundity.
Restraint regarding the monochrome prints, the subdued coloured painting, and the singular framing of the ‘mud pinnacles’, or lunettes, that surround the desolate, dry creek beds. Inversely Wald paints the lunettes as organically fecund structures, pregnant with romantic Australian myth, continuing an artistic tradition of the ‘Dead Heart’ of the country.
These uncommon, distinctive, and true to ‘plein air’ lunettes, are part of the Willandra lake system, which drain into the Darling River. The dominant forms serve as punctuation, within the passage of this exhibition, on the desolate World Heritage area.
The rich history of the area includes the architectural remnants of recent agriculture, particularly after subdivision, and soldier settlement in 1922; and the discovery of human, and animal remains; ‘Mungo Man’, and ‘Mungo Lady’, extinct Kangaroos, and Wombats, early footprints, and pre-historical foodstuffs.
This body of work compares favourably to other rocky hills in Australian art history: Lloyd Rees’ Tasmanian landscapes in soft ground etching, and lithograph of Mount Wellington share with Wald’s work a sense of place, subtle colour, and true detail from drawings, and watercolour. The title of Russell Drysdale oil painting ‘The Walls of China Gol Gol’, 1945 AGNSW references the Chinese laborers, who were brought to the Gol Gol station in the 1860’s to build shearing sheds, in the shadow of the pinnacles. Shared physical location, coupled with the shared reference to Lake Mungo history make the contrasting images divided by seventy-five years similar.
The landscape has the look of many late 1950’s Science Fiction book covers; a desert formed from the lost, and long gone society. A place where meaning was, -where meaning still lies under the surface- a place of loss, and death. An appropriately picturesque, desolate, existentialist, environment to consider the immense age, and history, of our country; the important continuing culture of the First Nations peoples; environmental degradation; and the continuing destruction of our landscape, and future.
Dr. Thomas A. Middlemost