A turn to the dark side: from ashes to artwork.

Flicking through the photos on my phone, I came across a shot of the bushfires around Braidwood in December last year.

It jolted me back to the bushfires that ravaged the land around our home for weeks and weeks and weeks.

What was so surprising for me that it rekindled this underlying trauma which I thought I had left behind.

Cottage garden and weatherboard cottage with fire in distance

After spending a few months in Seattle, cool, wet Seattle, the feelings of the bushfires had dropped away. I hadn’t forgotten them, but I thought they were filed away neatly in my mind.

What I hadn’t expected was the gut, visceral reaction I had from seeing the images of the fires again. It rebirthed the anxiety and the sensations of those months of burning mountains and bush.

Speaking with Neha Attre from the Goulburn Post about the Veolia Creative Arts Scholarship, I realised I wasn’t around to see the recovery of the bush and the landscape.

Artwork by Ray Monde showing a burnt landscape around the Shoalhaven River

I didn’t see the drought-breaking rains. I didn’t see the grasses bounce back. I didn’t see the eucalypts burst into leaf again. Renewed, reinvigorated.

Without seeing those things, my experience of the bushfires had stayed in a state of suspended animation. It was ready to come roaring back to life at any moment.

When I started working on the bushfire artworks, they just burned out of me onto paper.

Dirt road lined with tall burnt eucalyptus trees by Ray Monde artist

I think I needed the time for things to percolate inside. Then day after day, I created more and more artworks. In a few weeks, I produced ten works. And there’s still many more inside me.

I’m not sure what I’ll do with them all. I’ll show some as part of Art On Fire in December, an exhibition with Braidwood Regional Arts Group.

In many ways, they have already served their purpose, a catharsis, a release, a way of dealing with something that I hadn’t been able to put away.

Bushfire artworks on Ray Monde's studio wall

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