|Anne Numont in her Gunyah studio|
The reminder that life is fleeting and precious instigated a change in creative direction at Gunyah. As a timely concern, there were bushfires burning north and south during my residency. A ‘catastrophic’ rated fire danger warning was issued for North Arm Cove and despite the blue skies and clear sea, I saw the smog in the north, sunrise and sunsets looked ablaze and the smell of smoke was prominent especially at night. These observations made me want to stay at the house for the entire duration of my residency with no desire to day-trip away. Considering the fires, the NSW drought and the precious rainwater supply, I was hyper-conscious of my consumption. I concluded that the paper making originally planned may be insensitive as it can be a water-intensive process. Simultaneously, I returned to mindful habits I held dear (but momentarily forsook in city life) such as yoga, sunshine, smoothies and a spiritual practice. I mention these things to provide context as to what influenced the direction of my work at Gunyah. I contemplated how special the experience was/is because it can only happen once as an official artist-in-residence. The bushfires also heightened an appreciative attitude towards life.
My inner voice distinctly said on the first Thursday night: “Draw.” It felt like the most appropriate creative response as it was mindful, minimal and mobile (in case I had to evacuate). The anxious-calm paradox at Gunyah was that I felt safe despite the property’s obvious susceptibility to the elements and I thought this complexity was an interesting filter for any new work. I did not want to replicate or draw figuratively. I wanted to draw the sensations of being at Gunyah from what I heard, felt, saw, smelt and touched; responding to phenomena such as the sound of the rhythmic waves against the rocks, the sparkling reflections of the sun in the water, the canopy of trees swaying in the cold wind after dusk, the saltiness of the sea, smoke that laced my sinuses but kept me grateful and alert in the serenity, the fridge humming, birds chirping, crickets singing, Carly Simon on cassette, smooth floorboards, the cradling comfiness of the lounge cushions as I sprawled across them and drank tea …
The next day, I jumped off the jetty then started to draw ... differently. Risky. Perhaps it was from leaping into the void and surrendering to the ambience. Glancing up occasionally, I admired the beautiful scenery but concentrated more on sound and touch to guide my mark-making; a form of abstract, automatic drawing using a humble 4H graphite pencil on a small sheet of Arches watercolour paper. On-location. En plein air. No eraser.
After my first drawn response to Gunyah, I felt a surge of belonging. As mentioned in my proposal, I wanted to explore concepts of home, rest and shelter - ideas that I literally lived out at this residency. Thus, I applied this mindful drawing method to other locations I gravitated to or frequented. These spaces included the bedroom I slept in, the front driveway (where I met a neighbour who kindly offered his yacht as a bushfire emergency plan), the backyard, balcony, jetty, art studio, kitchen, living room and the downstairs bathroom. I treated each drawing session as a meditation and documentation of place, taking photos of what I saw, where I sat, noting the direction I was facing, the temperature, the time and duration of each drawing session and took audio recordings on my phone (although some randomly switched off). At times I noted what I dressed in as this made a difference to my physiological experience.
|Anne Numont, drawing locations around Gunyah|
A visual language of Gunyah emerged. Unforeseen but a lovely surprise! I feel crushingly vulnerable sharing this work because I haven’t drawn this way before. I'm happy because I believe I responded in the most mindful and honest way I could with the supplies I brought and having considered what was happening in the greater region.
|Anne Numont, Gunyah 02 (Balcony), 2019. Graphite on Arches paper|
|Anne Numont, Gunyah 04 (In Bed), 2019. Graphite on Arches paper|
|Anne Numont, Gunyah 07 (Living Room with Carly Simon on Cassette), 2019. |
Graphite on Arches paper
|Anne Numont, Gunyah 10 (Kitchen), 2019. Graphite on Arches paper|
Minutes before I left on my final day, I took this photo of all 14 drawings. It was uncanny how I only had 14 sheets of paper of this kind and size left to draw on and they fit perfectly together on the coffee table. Fate.
|Anne Numont, Gunyah 01 - 14, 2019. Graphite on Arches paper|
As for paper making, I collected fallen vegetation from the backyard, beside the jetty and the front driveway with the intention of embossing into wet pulp, back in Sydney. Having responded to the atmosphere of Gunyah by abstract drawing, paper making with artefacts directly from the site provide a complementary form of documentation that is more literal but also intimate.
My time at Gunyah was amazing, productive and a privilege. In a serendipitous way, I did what I set out to do by organically creating a mindful methodology. I drew in a spontaneous way that expanded my art practice while getting to know a new place. Personally, I began to heal or recalibrate with loads of self-care and joyful activities that undoubtedly contributed to how this experimental drawing project came about. I left with beautiful memories of my stay: leaping off the jetty, greeting the sunrise, howling at the full moon and dolphin-spotting. At high tide, I swam under the jetty, free-dove and shook hands with the gorgeous yellow seaweed underwater, waved to fishermen on speedboats and neighbours on dinghies. A whole house to myself - I’ve never had that much domestic space in my life. So lucky!
Thank you to Kath Fries and the organisers of Gunyah for this marvellous opportunity.
|Anne Numont, view from Gunyah jetty|