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THE EIGHTIES


Having spent much of the 1970s living away from Australia, the 1980s were, for me, all about coming home and settling down. I was passionate about painting during that decade and studied watercolour painting with the well-known South Australian artist and teacher, Ruth Tuck. Occasionally our class would be favoured with a visit from her husband, the eccentric and irrascible architect turned artist, Mervyn Smith.

Influenced by the German Expressionists, yet working in their own unique ways, Ruth Tuck and Mervyn Smith exhibited the most exciting and vibrant watercolours I had ever seen. On entering a a gallery full of their paintings I would feel my heart begin to beat faster. Obviously I was not alone in this, for in 1991 twenty-eight of Smith’s paintings were stolen from their home and have only recently been recovered.

While I have never felt that I adequately mastered watercolour’s demanding techniques, the habit of looking long and hard in order to describe has remained with me. Always daunted by the task of transferring an entire landscape to a sheet of watercolour paper, I was happiest when painting domestic interiors, the details of everyday life which add colour and particularity. Pierre Bonnard once said he wished to paint 'everything one sees upon entering a room', and that was how I wanted to paint, too. As a writer, I often have to rein in my love of detail for the sake of fluency.

Although the decade was all about coming home, I ended it by leaving Australia once more to live on an island in the middle of the Irish Sea.