Until October 12
Beach Art, Bulli
Melanie Duncan's passion for outback Australia is clear as soon as she begins talking about the wide open landscapes.
She spent a year working at an arts centre in Warakurna in Western Australia, but a weekend trip to Dockers River (Kaltukatjara), four hours away in the south-western corner of the Northern Territory, to work with children cemented her desire to immerse herself in the landscape.
"Even when I landed there, I felt I'd been there before, it felt so good," she remembers.
"I never felt I was in a different place, I always felt quite at home."
Though she now lives at Bulli, she has returned to Dockers River every year since to break free from everyday life and be inspired by her natural surroundings.
Her latest exhibition, Quiet Land, tells of her last trip there. Torrential rain closed the Great Central Road for a week, meaning she was stuck alone in a house until the weather cleared up.
Duncan used these nights to lay the foundation for her latest body of work by creating dyes from bark, leaves and plants. Using things she found on walks through the bush, she boiled them up to create different colours and textures, which changed depending on the age and size of the natural materials.
She dyed paper with her concoctions and used these in several pieces in the exhibition.
"I was in this house on my own, so every night I got my dye and paper out all over the house and I'd pack it up every morning expecting the person to come home, then do it all again the next day. It was like groundhog day," she says.
Duncan says the pieces in Quiet Land are more down-to-earth than previous works inspired by the outback and, in some ways, more authentic.
"My first exhibition when I came back had a lot more colour and vibrancy and was more full-on and intense. The work in this show is a bit more subtle, which is interesting.
"I don't know if it's because I've been back here longer and didn't spend as much time there, or maybe because the week I spent out there it was raining and I was on my own."
She says it conveys the stillness of the land better than her some of her past work, hence the title of the show.
It includes paintings and mixed media pieces, abstract landscapes conveying the sense and energy of a place, rather than precise images of what she saw out west.