I propose this clutch of photographs as a celebration of pastoral beauty and as a provocation. They are produced, for authenticity, by entirely analogue means (film, chemicals, hand printing). I took the images in 2001 while on a mid-winter residency at Bundanon, the rural estate on the Shoalhaven River, New South Wales, which Arthur Boyd left to the nation. In 1968 Stanley Kubrick visualised an astronaut traversing a so-called stargate in his movie 2001. The latter year that also saw, a month or two after my residency, the most horrifically audacious terror attacks in history. Against such imaginative feats, virtual and real, Bundanon’s enclave of farm, bush and river seems a haven indeed.
When living there I found myself, willy-nilly, channelling the photographic likes of John B. Eaton, a farmer-pictorialist of the 1930s. Postcolonial anomalies were, not surprisingly, everywhere present in the flora and fauna, emblems of a world ever threatening the Bundanon bubble. There is no way back to the garden unscathed. I met on Bundanon’s staff a refugee from naval service during the first Gulf War. He had been shocked by the spectacle of American missile barrages directed against Iraq. My one excursion to the outer world during my residency took me to the University of Sydney to hear Slavoj Žižek, palpably agitated in his search for future free of capitalism’s depredations. Such things are circumstantial and coincidental—every age has its attendant dramas and disasters, every artefact its shifting, modifying context. I adventitiously experienced intensities of beauty at Bundanon that were (of course) tied to the particularities of the place as well as wider cultural traditions of sanctuary and transcendence. What price the resultant propositions? Among other things I see them as teasing the edge of convention, a fine line to walk. As Stephen Bann once observed (about the sculptural gardens of the Scottish poet Ian Hamilton Finlay), a retreat can also be an attack.
Ian North 2013