Coastal degradation – a painting project

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Coastal degradation – I don’t often paint about issues. Every now and then I make an exception.

Yesterday was the perfect morning for painting – clear and calm. The forecast was for 30 degrees. The coastline looked fine.

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School holidays and fine weather brought a few families down to the beach. One of the children was a young neighbour who had been creating stobie pole art in my studio with my guidance. But that’s a story for another post.

Earlier in April I attended a seminar for artists on coastal degradation, beach erosion and sand management systems. It was conducted by Dr Ian Dyson a Marine Geologist with strong ideas about current coastline management practices. We visited two beaches and a bakery. The beaches? A healthy one at Port Elliot, and an unhealthy one at Victor Harbor. The aim was to better inform our work for the June exhibition “Dire” organised by the Centre for Culture, Land and Sea.

Lots of information was imparted that day, but the simplest and probably most important message for me was how to read the signs of a healthy beach. And how? It is all in the berm. That low rise of sand, held by ephemeral vegetation, which lies at the foot of the dune as a buffer between the dune and the water.

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So today I ventured out to a local beach, looking in vain for the berm. The dune profile is too steep too and we are familiar with the cliff-like collapses of the dunes’ front face in winter storms.

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My plan is to venture back to Port Elliot on our south coast to capture the berm and the healthy beach profile. As a pair of paintings they will contribute to the story of our problems with the metropolitan coastline.

I have another reason to return to Port Elliot. Remember the two beaches and the BAKERY? They make the best pasties on the south coast, perhaps on the whole Fleurieu Peninsula, but I can’t say that for sure!

Kingston Park paintings

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Kingston Park is a small and quiet suburb of Adelaide. It could possibly qualify as “one of our best kept secrets”! It is a suburb settled mostly on a cliff-top and was the site of a former Governor’s retreat. My father once stayed overnight at the homestead with his aunt when she helped by babysitting some of the resident children. He remembers seeing a ghost that night. But that’s another story. The beautiful stone house is hired for functions and regular Devonshire teas in summer. I have exhibited there twice with a large group of local artists in the past and played tennis on the courts. At the bottom of the cliff below the house are two pine trees “Paddy” and “Charlie” named after the Kingston boys. Seacliff is named for those cliffs as some of that suburb is perched up high too.

Back to the paintings. Two of my outdoor landscapes are linked in a way which didn’t become clear to me until I formatted my latest book, South Australian Seascapes.

They both have Kingston Park in their title but are very different in their look and feel.

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Towards Kingston Park.
You can see Paddy and Charlie on the shoreline at the far right of the painting. This was bought by some people from Melbourne who know Adelaide a bit. They were struck by the contrast of the warm red cliffs and the cool sea blues. For me that’s where the serenity is. There seems to be something dry and crackly about pines, which is so different from the little glimpse of flat blue sea curving towards them. The difference is like an underline. The water is like a magnet. It feels as though a quick dash down the red stony hillside (there are a couple of sets of steps), across the warm sand and then in for a cooling swim is really possible when you look at the painting.

On the other hand, here are some of the same pines.

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Hilltop Pines, Kingston Park
Perhaps you can feel the scratchy dryness of the pines here. I can, but what a contrast that feeling is with the calmness of the cool blue sea. It was a fragrant place to paint and quite a heady experience to sit on top of the cliff (behind the barrier) and look through those lacy branches. Painting is complex and often a struggle, but how lucky I was that day to be in such a lovely spot.

Definitely one of the advantages of this job – the working environment!