04. 07. 2016
Narrow-leaf mallee stands, kangaroos and a profusion of bird life are the background to Scott Hartshorne’s daily life in the centre of Dudley Peninsula – the ‘head’ of Kangaroo Island.
They are a source of endless fascination and inspiration for this realist painter who is known for his ‘herbarium specimen’ renditions of eucalypts and other native trees.
In the Island to Inland project, Scott is bringing the realism of the human presence, and its impacts on the natural world on Kangaroo Island, into his work.
And it took a load of wood to give him an opening into his theme.
After the load was delivered and stacked, Scott stood back and thought, ‘That’s our environment turned into a commodity. It’s been chopped up, and parcelled up, and sold by the ute load. And I’ve just bought some.’
A particular log had ‘a big chunk of a splintery thing sticking out’ that married it to a small bird nest he had found abandoned in a nearby narrow-leaf mallee forest to illustrate our piecemeal destruction of habitat.
Scott’s frequent walks on the Dudley Peninsula – in the bush and along the beach – yield many subjects for his paintings.
‘It appears to be remote on Kangaroo Island, but we are really not that remote.’
A second ‘almost surreal’ piece juxtaposes a Striped Cow Fish and a Double Happiness tin found quite near each other on Mouth Flat beach. It demonstrates the ‘sometimes absurdity of living on Kangaroo Island, where you are so far flung and yet you find evidence of the growing world we live in, especially on the southern beaches’.
A occasional fish dead on the beach is a natural enough occurrence but Scott found it ‘near a tin, like a pretzel tin, but some sailor has been using it as an ashtray and when I opened it up it was full of ghastly cigarette buts’.
The tin had originally held a 100 Double Happiness cigarettes – a favourite mainland China brand.
Another change for Scott is that Island to Inland work is encouraging him to experiment more with the backgrounds to his paintings – to try different colours and to lay down an oil base rather than the acrylic gesso he now uses.
‘I think that if my paintings are to have gravitas, I should be painting all in oil.’
He’s also forcing himself to ‘let go’ of the attention to detail of his previous work and stylise, but he is keeping the shadows, which are a signature of his paintings. And he will patiently take the time to realise his vision.
Whatever else, the paintings will be driven by a devotion to the practice of his art that began when Scott saw an Andrew Wyeth exhibition at the Royal Academy in London in 1980s. ‘It blew me away. I still think Wyeth is the consumate artist.’
Until he saw that exhibition Scott had been tinkered on the edges of art. That day he decided that he was going to be an artist, and he’s still learning.
‘I’m looking forward to doing these paintings. This is a change for me and I am fired up. It will be interesting to see what happens.’