Residency report: Patricia Petersen

Up until this year I had been living in Armidale and 2020 had been a trying year for many in regional NSW with drought, bushfires and smoke. The vegetation was recovering and rejuvenating, when Covid struck both attacking bodies and people’s sense of well being. 2021 has also been disorientating and exhausting year for me as we sold our home of many years in Armidale, moving twice before settling into our new home on the NSW north coast. I was still unpacking boxes in my home studio when I took off to do the Gunyah Artists Residency. It was an absolute delight to set up in the well-lit Gunyah studio which had an inspiring outlook. Gunyah provided a welcome elixir and antidote to all the recent upheavals I’d experienced. I felt safe, cocooned, and nurtured in this peaceful, idyllic space. 

Patricia Petersen, Gunyah views, July 2021

Gunyah was a totally different environment to any I had stayed in before, with its tranquil ambiance and mesmerising views, it started to work its magic immediately. Living so close to the water with the gentle sound of it lapping on the shore, the strong smell of bush plants, the many bird calls, the look and feel of the different textures and dappled light, heightened my senses and gave me an increased awareness of my surroundings. I was inspired to respond to this environment and ‘bottle it’ for my memory, as well as for reference for future artworks. As a result, I have come away with a swath of drawings and paintings made using charcoal, pencil, pens, watercolours, and Asian ink on drawing papers, Arches watercolour paper, raw canvas and rice paper.

Patricia Petersen, Gunyah wattle, July 2021

The subject matter and inspiration came from the immediate Gunyah environment. The newly blossoming wattle, the tall gums and their leaves, the hill across from the jetty, the water and the oyster shell laced coloured rocks outside and in the water glistening with light caught my imagination. I even used the water that I scooped up from the near the jetty to mix my paints and inks. I not only wanted Gunyah to be a muse, but to be part of the artworks themselves.

Patricia Petersen, Gunyah water, July 2021

I had friendly visits from the local wildlife, like the young Kookaburra and Pied Butcher bird that sat on the verandahs as various times, and I was excited when I heard dolphins breathing and saw them swim by whilst painting near the jetty. Friends from Taree that I hadn’t seen for many years spent a day with me and we had a delicious French lunch at Tillermans at Tea Gardens.

In the evenings in front of the cosy log fire burner, instead of watching TV serials in the evening I recorded my day and read 'The Last Painting of Sara De Vos' by Australian writer Dominic Smith.

I have come away refreshed and revitalised with a wealth of reference drawings and paintings. I recorded my response and impressions of Gunyah and value the new ideas for future paintings the experience has given me. As importantly, it has also given me a clearer picture of where my art practice is heading.

Patricia Petersen, Gunyah residency report, July 2021

Patricia Petersen, Self-portait at Gunyah, July 2021

Rescheduled artist-in-residence: James Vicars

After a horrible cycling accident at the beginning of the year, James Vicars' Gunyah residency was rescheduled to early August. James is now fully recovered and able to travel to Gunyah for a winter residency. 

James Vicars portait
James Vicars

James Vicars is a writer based in Armidale NSW. His writing and photography has appeared in anthologies, and his short stories, essays and reviews have been published in magazines. In 1992 James co-founded and edited the literary magazine, ‘New England Review’. He has received fellowships from the NSW Ministry for the Arts and the Eleanor Dark Foundation, and holds degrees in English, communications and writing. James teaches part-time in universities and has been an Adjunct Lecturer in the School of Humanities, Arts and Social Sciences at the University of New England. 

Book cover, Beyond the Sky
James Vicars, 'Beyond the Sky', book covers

Over the past ten years James has been researching and writing a biographical work about the 'lost' life of Australia's first woman aviator, Millicent Bryant. This recently come to fruition with the publication of 'Beyond the Sky: the Passions of Millicent Bryant, aviator' by Melbourne books in November 2020. While this work is based on extensive research and historical sources, James has taken the less usual path of telling Millicent Bryant’s life in the form of a story so that readers could meet her more fully and 'hear' her voice as it comes through in her letters and other writings.

James Vicars about to take a research flight in a Tiger Moth 
while writing 'Beyond the Sky'.

During my residency at Gunyah, I'm planning to continue working on my creative memoir, provisionally entitled 'The Year of Writing Dangerously'. I began writing this in 2018 while living with my partner in her handmade house in the bush in northern NSW. Sadly, we lost the house in the Kangawalla bushfire of November 8, 2019, and our community was devastated. During my time at Gunyah I plan to further develop and edit this creative work and to find ways to incorporate my experience of this immense bush fire catastrophe, its wider impact, what can be learned from it, and what new beginnings might look like.

James Vicars, The last photo of our house before the bush fires, 2019

You can find out more about James' work on his website or Facebook page

Upcoming artist-in-residence: Patricia Petersen

Patricia Petersen is a painter who lives on Gumbaynggirr Country, near Coffs Harbour NSW. She has been painting since the 1980s and over the last ten years her style has evolved from representational to more non-figurative and abstracted. Patricia has studied at Deakin University and University of New England Armidale. She has exhibited at Weswal Gallery Tamworth, Gallery 126 Armidale, Gunnedah Bicentennial Create Art Gallery and Armidale Art Gallery. Patricia is motivated by the subtleties of nature, finding imagery that speaks to her in the landscape in which she lives and visits. Having started her professional practice using watercolour and oil, Patricia now paints predominantly in ink combined with other water-based media on different surfaces. 

Patricia Petersen, Abstract Seascape, 2019, 

Sumi-e ink & watercolour on wood

Concern for the environment is something that I hope my landscape paintings promote. There is an increasing awareness of the changes in our ecosystem through the changing weather conditions causing droughts, fires, and the erosion of the land. Much damage has been done to the environment in a relatively short space of time and we have an even smaller shorter time to fix it. 
During my residency I plan to go on walks, and to draw and paint my response to the natural environment surrounding Gunyah. After the drought and bushfires, I am heartened by nature's resilience and this also informs my paintings.

Patricia Petersen, Landscape, 2020, 

Sumie ink on rice paper

You can see more of Partricia's work on her Instragam @fineartricia

Patricia Petersen, Tributaries of Air, 2020, 

Sumie ink & watercolour on rice paper

Residency report: Rox De Luca

During my residency at Gunyah, I made the most of the tranquil setting, which was a stark contrast to my usual home life, my day-job and my domestic world of expectations, constraints and interruptions, my usual life in a dense urban and busy Eastern Suburbs coastal place on Gadigal Land.

I set up my routine for each day, which consisted of coffee, walking along the jetty, reading, drawing the beautiful dense tree-filled view outside the window and the plump lemons I plucked from a nearby tree, writing and walking. The days ended when I made a fire and prepared a (very) early dinner!

Some days I also scheduled phone calls to interstate artist friends with whom I hadn’t spoken to for ages. In addition, I engaged, albeit virtually, with artists/creatives and environmentalists across multiple locations including regional NSW, Chicago, Ireland and Sydney and Melbourne.

I also enjoyed reading the wonderful Mirror and the Palette, by Jennifer Higgie which, not surprisingly, triggered some quick, gestural self-portrait drawings! Time was also spent writing and planning ideas for future projects and I also had time to make some garlands with materials I had brought with me from home.

I took long walks locally, always looking for plastics. I found the odd plastic bits but pleasingly, and remarkably, fewer than I normally encounter on the beaches of the Eastern suburbs in Sydney. 

Rox De Luca, North Arm Cove Pile Pink Bucket, 2021
However, in the North Arm Cove village it was Council-clean up time. Here in this ideal bush setting I was reminded of the serious global issue of waste, how we humans have an enormous capacity to accumulate materials, domestic and electrical, that so easily are made redundant for so many reasons. I am thinking of domestic products considered out of fashion, of poor-quality that have “broken”, products out-grown, such as bicycles, and stuff that simply hasn’t been used.

Rox De Luca, North Arm Cove Pile One, 2021

I felt compelled to these problematic piles, so I took a series of 37 photographs of the rubbish in front of the properties on Gunyah’s street. The piles were there upon my arrival and stayed throughout my residency. Miraculously, on the day of my departure, the piles had disappeared! (I must have slept through the collection truck’s rumblings). I was intrigued by the sameness of these rubbish piles, which included whitegoods, wooden furniture, bookshelves, huge plasma-tv screens, chairs, miscellaneous materials, bikes, toys and so on. 

Rox De Luca, North Arm Cove Pile Three, 2021

I imagined a research project (or smart App!) that could easily determine if the goods, destined for landfill, could instead be repaired, re-used, or up-cycled, or in a worst-case scenario, be disposed of much more thoughtfully than the inevitable filling up of a rubbish tip. Some items were made out of plastic, so of course I took the 2 bright orange triangle wedges and a crimson broken mop-bucket top-bit for re-use. But there were so many other items that appeared perfectly functional and useable. 

Rox De Luca, North Arm Cove Pile Two, 2021

Further afield from Gunyah I found Jimmy’s beach, near Hawks Nest, which has a beautiful long deserted stretch of coastline. Here organic matter was abundant and this is where I found some of the usual plastics and rubbish, much like the usual stuff I find in the Eastern Suburbs of Sydney, the typical confectionery sticks (think Chupa Chups), plastic wrappers, bits from drink bottles and sadly, chunks of the ubiquitous polystyrene. 

Rox De Luca, Jimmys Beach, 2021

Thank you Gunyah for your calming winter sensibility, for your gentle spirit, your birds and your towering healthy trees.
You gave me the quietude, the space and time to consider how much better we can live in the world.

Rox De Luca, From Jimmys Beach, 2021

Rox De Luca, Gunyah residecy report, June 2021

Upcoming artist-in-residence: Rox De Luca

Rox De Luca with her work.
photo: Ian Hobbs Media

Rox De Luca is an artist based in Sydney. She has a Bachelor of Arts (Visual) from Canberra School of Art/ANU (1985) and a Graduate Diploma in Arts Administration, University of NSW (1988). Rox exhibits regularly in solo and group exhibitions. In 2020 she held a solo exhibition Still gleaning for plastics, on the beach, at Articulate project space, Sydney, and was selected for Contour 556 in Canberra. Her grants and awards include a Fremantle Arts Centre Artist Residency in 2019, Sculpture by the Sea in 2013 and 2016, NSW Gallery Society Award.

Rox De Luca, Various garlands, found plastics and wire

My current work focuses on concepts of consumption, abundance and waste, and arises from the plastic detritus I collect from my local beaches, Bondi Beach and Rose Bay. The process of collecting and sorting the plastics by colour and size is fastidious. I follow this initial gathering and sorting process by threading the components onto strings of wire. The resulting sculptural garlands and tangled mound constructions are reflections of my coastal home and the greater human landscape of waste. When completed, these bundles stand in stark contrast to the ease of disposability associated with the materials that arrive on the shoreline or accumulate as landfill, as evidence of our collective human neglect and destruction of the environment around us. My gleaning of plastics has usually been a solo practice, but during this difficult global pandemic, I have been buoyed by social interactions with others who are concerned with the plastics problems we humans are facing. Participating in clean-up groups like Splash for Trash (Rose Bay), or Bondi Beach Clean Up, or meeting The Sisters of Perpetual Plastix and Rebecca Prince-Ruiz from Plastic-free July, are ways to reflect upon, albeit sombrely, our relationship with plastic and how we plan to continue to live in this world.

Rox De Luca, Tristeza negra, (detail), found plastics and wire

During my 
residency at Gunyah, I plan to make the most of the tranquil setting - to read, write and reflect on my practice, without the usual domestic constraints and interruptions. I welcome the opportunity to be away from my home and home-based studio, which has changed since the Pandemic as family members are connected to home more often. In addition, the Gunyah residency would allow me to respond to a different coastal location. I would also like to connect with local environment groups or individuals, to walk locally and look for plastics along the area’s waterways.

To see more of Rox's work go to her website

Rox De Luca, Tristeza roja, (detail), found plastics and wire

Residency report: Melinda Young


Melinda Young, Work in progress, Gunyah studio, March 2021

Ten days of immersive fieldwork at Gunyah was a gift. I am so grateful for the opportunity afforded by this time and space to make, write, reflect and spend time with my family. 


My time at Gunyah was used as an opportunity to further investigate the agency of water as a collaborator and muse for making as well as an opportunity to explore and develop my enquiries into the line. I arrived with some vague ideas and a well-stocked kit of paper, watercolour paints, some basic tools, metal shim, a bag containing my favourite balls of string, curiosity and openness. 


The residency commenced with some awkward attempts to harness the tea-brown colour of the Cove water and pushed the notion of making-in-place to making-in-water:

Melinda Young, Making-in-water experiments, Gunyah March 2021

These strange experiments involving knotting and tying watercolour paper to the wharf were kindly documented by Emily McCulloch-Childs, (who joined me for the first two days of the residency). These experiments were swiftly aborted after one too many mouthfuls of post-storm Cove water. 


The ensuing ten days saw the development of a suite of materials-based research and the ultimate creation of two series of speculative vessels that speak to the textural qualities of wood of the house and its surrounds and the expanse of water. 

Melinda Young, Process images sketched line experiments: watercolour pencil, 

300gsm watercolour paper. Gunyah, March 2021

Melinda Young, Process images - rust lines: watercolour pencil, 638gsm watercolour paper, 

ferrous powder, ink, water, linen thread. Gunyah, March 2021

The bookshelf at Gunyah provided much in the way of stimulating reading, I particularly enjoyed the 1942 edition of A Manual of Drawing Trees and Foliage by L.A. Doust. Which contained not only useful instruction, but also sage advice to be ‘reckless of failure’.

This making, influenced by the wood and the trees was accompanied and informed by line and mark-making exercises on watercolour paper and metal. These followed my own idiosyncratic mark-making tendencies, and firmly under the spell of the log cladding of the Gunyah house and Doust’s instruction, I completed a stack of small experimental drawings and paintings along with some experimental wearables and vessels.

Melinda Young, Process images - tree lines: copper, watercolour paint, 300gsm watercolour paper, driftwood, linen thread, wire, ferrous powder. Gunyah, March 2021

My compulsive beachcombing led to the incorporation of some interesting driftwood washed up shoreline being included in the final groups of objects and wearables. These works speak back to Tim Ingold’s writing on the line (Lines, 2007 & Making – Anthropology, Archaeology, Art & Architecture, 2013) which I have been re-reading as a way of contextualising and moving forward with my PhD work.

The water and the wharf also captivated me. From the sheer joy of watching my son catch his first fish to listening to the ever-present lapping of the water, I found myself entranced. The ripples on the water, the shifting light across the duration of the days from sunshine to lightning flashes from imminent storms, and the weathered posts of the wharf standing firm against it all. A second series of works, again small paintings drawings and vessels attempted to capture the transient magic of the Cove.

Melinda Young, Process images - water lines: aluminium, watercolour paint, gesso, 

300gsm watercolour paper, driftwood, linen thread. Gunyah, March 2021

Thank you Gunyah, this experience was a magical time for my family and I. My partner and son spent a beautiful week fishing, kayaking and bushwalking together whilst I worked and the evenings saw us spend treasured time together as a family.

Melinda Young


Gunyah resideny report March 2021

Melinda Young, Work in progress, Studio, Gunyah March 2021

Residency report: Anne McCallum

Anne McCallum, Snapper, 2021,
Cyanotype on Fabriano Watercolour (cold press)

On our way to Gunyah we stayed a couple of nights with my husband’s brother and sister-in-law. My brother-in-law is a keen fisherman and for dinner one night we had freshly caught snapper! Of course I saved my fish skeleton - I have a fascination with bones and love the shape of a fish skeleton, so we froze it and took it with us to Gunyah.

I waited for the rain to make way for a period of sunshine so that I could make more cyanotype prints. Finally, it complied. So, I retrieved my frozen skeleton and got to work. The skeleton of course started to defrost on the paper which led to a slightly blurry image - which I was quite happy with as it gives a less clinical aesthetic. However, I thought that it might be a good idea to dry out the skeleton, so I left it in the sun with some ants that were doing a good job of cleaning it up. I love being able to work with nature.

The next morning I was up early and went to retrieve my skeleton - it was gone! Not a trace left behind! Gone! Probably taken by a bird for a late night supper, or maybe a local cat thought that it looked like a good present to take home to the family - a step up from another mouse?? I love being able to work with nature! My fish skeleton is now serving a better purpose than simply being a prop for an artist.

Nature is not all about pretty views - nature is about living and dying - and in dying what is left behind becomes a trace of what was there before. I am intrigued by what is left behind - to me, bones are in themselves a memento mori - not just a memorial to a death, but a memory of vitality, and even in death - become something vital to another living creature.

I find bones beautiful (I also like fallen flowers and fossils), I like beauty and making aesthetically pleasing images and objects. According to Agnes Martin in her essay “Beauty is the Mystery of Life” “ Beauty is an awareness in the mind. It is a mental and emotional response that we make. We respond to life as though it were perfect. When we go into a forest we do not see the fallen rotting trees, we are inspired by a multitude of uprising trees” However, I see beauty in the fallen trees too, I am drawn to the colour, shape and form, the symbiotic organisms that thrive on the death of another. How one death can create more lives.

Anne McCallum, Neptune's Necklace, 2021, 
Cyanotype on Berger Cotton paper

Now a week has passed since I said Goodbye to Gunyah. A week of returning to “normality” and the everyday demands on my time. I miss just being able to take the time to watch the spiders in their webs and listen to the water lapping at the jetty. I miss the friendly Kookaburra who visited every afternoon to sit on the balcony rails to watch the world go by and I miss the freedom of being totally self centred and self-focussed on creating. I think my time at Gunyah was akin to being “at the still point of the turning world” (T.S. Eliot). It was very beneficial to step away from my reality and lose myself in an alternate space, even for such a short space of time. The time spent in reflection and contemplation of the year ahead became moments of calming and a space for growth and making. I feel that the fact there is no ‘expected” final outcome from this residency, actually spurred me into wanting to create something, have something concrete to show for my stay. A new set of Cyanotypes, which depict the natural environment around Gunyah and a series of small thread sculptures, also inspired by the water life around the place, will go on to be a part of my final projects for my MFA and the breathing space that this opportunity afforded me will hopefully sustain me through this final semester.

Thank you Gunyah for allowing me to experience this space.

Anne McCallum

Anne McCallum, Gunyah spider, 2021