New Zealand painter Colin McCahon used words in his paintings – for all manner of reasons. A series of his paintings use the words I AM and Brett Whitely, whose gallery we visited in Sydney has one painting in which the words IT are written. Apart from a love and interpretation of the land they lived in and what it means to be an inhabitant of these lands, their work is dissimilar. Evidence of a connection however lies in a book we took with us to Sydney. Martin Edmond’s Dark Night Walking explores places and events that Edmond’s posits may have occurred during the three days that McCahon is missing in Sydney.
“I could project my own consciousness into a dimension of spacetime where he had lost his” Edmond says.
The dimension of spacetime, for us included a short stay in Sydney, a lack of in-depth knowledge of Sydney, the arrival of the Fleet to celebrate 100 years of Australian naval history, a reading of Edmond’s book and our own energy.
We embarked on a kind of overlay of Edmond’s journey through the stations of the Cross to follow what might have been McCahon’s journey with our own.
We were not able or willing to get close to Palm Grove and the bats and then the souvenir shop but with Edmond’s book in hand we gawped at the statuary on the outside of the Art Gallery of NSW and tried to identify the familiar names and understand the references. By this time I was definitely dehydrated so the inside of the gallery held less charm than the cafe, but we found an Ian Fairweather whose work I liked (previously unknown), and G found a beautiful Whitely and a Nolan depicting Burke on his camel.
This led to a convoluted retelling of the Burke and Willis story (later verified via wifi) and a musing on the nature of exploration in Australia as well as an appreciation of Nolan.
The walk to St Mary’s Church was easy and the trees provided shelter. Overhead a jet plane flew past the Fleet down in the harbour.
But I, as holder of the book, was keen to find Talbot Place, around which Edmond convincingly places McCahon.