Ros Meeker: artist-in-residence August 2013

Ros Meeker, Work in progress, Gunyah 2013

My proposal for The Gunyah residency said I would reacquaint myself with the North coast as ‘place’, to prompt works that would look back nostalgically to the 1960s/70s holiday making culture. I was accompanied by my sister, retired teacher and ceramicist, Alison Mackey.

Ros Meeker, Alison on the Gunyah foreshore, 2013

Ros Meeker, Gunyah foreshore, 2013

In the weeks preceding residency I found myself involved in University papers and research exhibition deadlines. I convinced myself not to worry. I would be organised and ‘go with the flow.’ I left my artwork with the curators and bought a WIFI dongle to keep in touch with my supervisors. My research is into the Scottish diaspora and identity. The idea of homeland and pilgrimage is figured into my work. So I treated the residency as a dress rehearsal for a pilgrimage to Scotland next year, when the small Scottish town of Haddington will be the meeting place of my Australian family and the Canadian and Scottish family connected to me. The Gunyah residency became a pilgrimage into childhood.

Ros Meeker and Alison MacKey, Selfie - on our way to Gunyah, 2013

The day after I left a windy and wild Tasmania we set forth from my sister’s home and travelled north from Sydney on a highway unfamiliar to me. We remembered how Dad would stop at the Oaks at Hexham. It is no longer a rest stop but there was a memory of chips and milkshakes. We stopped at a modern McCafe and Alison shot a portrait of us on her phone in the ladies loos.

Ros Meeker, Gunyah view, 2013

In no time at all we were in Harrington. We stayed in the beautiful home of sister’s long term friend, in a new subdivision of like homes. In the morning we set off again to look for Uncle Geoff’s house. I found it easily. My first ‘holiday’ to Uncle Geoff’s had two families living in a small two room fibro shack. My father, a plumber and building inspector, laid the plumbing for their new house being built in the front yard. A second ‘holiday’ finished the internal plumbing. As Alison and I stood at the roadside and looked at the house, my eyes wandered down the road. I remembered listening to Paul Simon’s Kodachrome album. ’It was a sunny day, not a cloud was in the sky.. .’ I remembered I was off to paint my first unsuccessful en plein air oil painting, which cracked like an old master. Later, it was my father who explained to me why I should be using more linseed oil if I was painting in hot sun, near the sea.    

Ros Meeker, Old jetty, 2013

We travelled back down the coast. In Forster we were more at home. I navigated the area via memory and was seldom wrong. Old Mick’s place was gone and replaced by units, the place where we had gone horse riding had morphed into a ‘key development,’ and the houses I had stayed at on One Mile beach renovated beyond recognition.The weather had to turned to gale force and we found a motel room. I slipped out to the new local supermarket, not 200 metres away, for some provisions. I got lost on the way back.

Ros Meeker, Arrival - Gunyah, 2013

The next day we were at Gunyah. It was sunny and warm and we made ourselves at home. We settled into a relaxed routine of a daily excursion, art and talk, art research report and talk, meals and talk, and canasta and talk. Alison worked on green-ware with under glazes. Just gifts she said. But I recognised in her process how each work develops out the last, knowing this is how I too work. I played in a journal. I took some surface rubbings of Gunyah’s external cladding. I wrote in the journal with a marker pen and photographed the journal central field in the landscape. In the evenings after Alison retired I would work further on my writing and respond to urgent emails about the upcoming exhibitions in Hobart. I was being successful at ‘going with the flow.’

Ros Meeker, Work in progress, Gunyah 2013 

I brought with me a few small aluminium plates. It is not my usual selection for etching but it is light enough to pop into the luggage and not be burdened. We sat and scratched metal together. It was Alison’s first attempt at scratching a plate but I knew she would be successful as she is a dab hand at sgraffito.

Ros Meeker, Pelican boat, Tea Gardens 2013

One day we waited for the 12.30pm ferry from Tea Gardens to Nelson Bay. While we waited I got some nice shots of pelicans.  The lattes were excellent. The people sitting at the table next to us ran the caravan park for many years in my little hometown of Snug. The 12.30 ferry doesn’t happen anymore. It doesn’t matter- we are going with the flow.

Ros Meeker, Pelican jetty, Tea Gardens 2013

Another day we pottered around nearby Carrington, taking photos, enjoying the sun, the reflections on the water in the mangroves. We loved it. Carrington, I thought, is where an uncomplicated childhood summer holiday could still be had. It was so gloriously undeveloped. I felt grounded. I now feel connected to North Arm Cove.

Ros Meeker, Gunyah trees at night, 2013

Leaving Gunyah we made our way home. We stopped off the highway for coffee. We failed at reuniting with the new highway and found ourselves driving on the old expressway. ‘It doesn’t matter’ I said, ‘we are still heading home and we are doing well going with the flow.’  We travelled on the route of long past vacations, through large sandstone cuts, over the Hawkesbury Bridge, past the township of Brooklyn and back to suburban Sydney.

Ros Meeker, Carrington road sign, 2013

The very next afternoon I was back home, next to my fire, in my cottage surrounded by cold, wet Tasmanian forest. Back to writing about art.

Ros Meeker, On the Gunyah foreshore, 2013

Postscript: Today I finally got back into the studio and etched the little plates in Bordeaux. The first proofs look good. Next time I am in I shall do some drypoint touching up and reprint knowing now where to ‘pull a bit more light’ as I am wiping the plates.

Ros Meeker, Work in progress, 2013

I’m still to do some collages based on my nostalgic tour and residency to add to my photopolymer print series. I shall send on some more images in the coming months. Many thanks to Kath and the Gunyah committee for all. It was a great experience, a wonderful stopping place on a ‘journey with meaning.’

Ros Meeker