When the fires came

Fred Williams

Fred Williams Burnt landscape, Upwey no 1 1968.  Art Gallery of New South Wales, bequest of Professor Douglas Joseph 1990. © Estate of Fred Williams

The fires came with such ferocity to our regional community. They changed us.

We lost a human life. We lost homes. We lost animals and habitat in too large a number and too large an area to comprehend.

Many artists have used fire to question our practices and our place in the world. I have chosen these artworks as a way to reflect on destruction, resilience and regeneration.

Clifford Possum Tjapaltjarri

Clifford Possum Tjapaltjarri, Tim Leura Tjapaltjarri Warlugulong 1976. Art Gallery of New South Wales, purchased 1981. © Estate of the artists. Licensed by Aboriginal Artists Agency Ltd

It was like the ancestors were asking us what we were doing and why we were here.

Shaun Gladwell

Shaun Gladwell Maximus swept out to sea (Wattamolla) 2012–13. Art Gallery of New South Wales, gift of the artist 2014. Donated through the Australian Government’s Cultural Gifts Program. © Shaun Gladwell

Disconnection, displacement and fear were common feelings.

Hossein Valamanesh

Hossein Valamanesh Longing belonging 1997. Art Gallery of New South Wales, Contemporary Collection Benefactors 2002. © Hossein Valamanesh and Rick Martin

We felt lost in an unfamiliar land.

Janet Laurence

Janet Laurence The memory of nature 2010. Art Gallery of New South Wales, purchased with funds provided by the Art Gallery Society of New South Wales Contempo Group and the Contemporary Collection Benefactors with the generous assistance of Geoff Ainsworth AM, Peter Braithwaite, Sally Breen, Andrew & Cathy Cameron, Ginny & Leslie Green, Michael Hobbs, Ray Wilson OAM 2012. © Janet Laurence

It was so unimaginably quiet after the fires, not for days but for months. We all felt a need to belong. A saddening sense of loss still hangs in the air.

Rosemary Laing

Rosemary Laing groundspeed (Red Piazza) #4 2001. Art Gallery of New South Wales, purchased with funds provided by the Photography Collection Benefactors’ Program 2001. © Rosemary Laing

Resilience came. New green growth and butterflies were the first signs of life.

Rusty Peters

Rusty Peters Waterbrain 2002. Art Gallery of New South Wales, purchased 2002. © Rusty Peters, Warmun Art Centre. Licensed by Copyright Agency 

We revisit a world where all things are connected. We try to make sense of what happened.