To many people the bushfires of last summer may seem to be from another time and place with the bizarre way this year has played out.
Not so for Nungurner artist, Dore Stockhausen, who has devoted her year to documenting the impact of the fires on some of the region’s forests, the result of which can be seen in her exhibition, The Edge of My Vision – Fire, at oneofftwo, in Nungurner this coming weekend.
Having only painted for five years, most people know Stockhausen from her 30-year past artistic life as a goldsmith, many of which she has spent living in Nungurner with her partner, gold and silversmith, Marcus Foley, together working from their studio, oneofftwo.
Despite having garnered success making jewellery with pieces collected by a number of Australian institutions, Dore’s sense of curiosity led her to walking the local Colquhoun Forest for hours on end, camera in hand, and then returning home with her SD card full of images.
Colourful, but blurry with a sense of being somehow time-shifted these images became the inspiration for her first paintings, done in acrylic.
Through experimenting with an array of techniques she developed a unique style, involving many layers of thin wash painted over a built-up textural ground giving the abstract paintings a deep inviting sense of space. Typically, a final overlay of finer geometric lines representing the built environment provides an alternate perspective and completes her paintings.
Dore’s first solo exhibition of paintings was held four years ago at oneofftwo on the day of her 50th birthday, an accomplishment demonstrating her resolve to begin a new era in her artistic life. Since then her paintings have been accepted into a number of national painting award exhibitions and prized by many local and even international collectors.
Then in late February this year, after the rains quelled the devastating fires, making it safe to venture out, Stockhausen was both enthusiastic but then greatly saddened to see the fire grounds for herself.
First, she went north of Bruthen to photograph the impact of the fires on the forest there, and later to Cape Conran, a place she has visited many times as part of her efforts as a European migrant to understand aspects of the Australian bush and her place here. She explained her connection to the East Gippsland landscape,
“Many years ago, I immigrated to Australia from Germany. On arrival here I felt alienated by the different culture and I struggled to find my spirituality,” she said.
“Most of my ancestors were protestant pastors, dating back to the early 17th century. Over time I found that learning about the environment here in East Gippsland, especially the flora, connected me to this place and the vast bush areas gave me a sense of awe.”
The brutal impact of the fire on the Cape Conran Coastal Park forest including the cabins, caretaker house and office was a rude to shock to Stockhausen.
Life and stability here sometimes appeared temporary at best.
Other visits later in the year and new excursions around Buchan and the Snowy River revealed to Stockhausen the resilience of many of the native species.
“At the end of 2019 and the beginning of 2020, the fires burned 70 per cent of East Gippsland to the ground and in many areas, there is little evidence of recovery. I mourned for the loss of biodiversity and for my sense of place in this environment,” Dore said.
“It is only now that I can let go of that grief a little bit, as some areas begin to recover and once again burst with green. Despite the loss of some indigenous species, there is now a feeling of renewal as some plants adapt to the current climate and evolution turns to the next page.
“A sense of peace and awe is returning to us who live in this landscape.”
When not painting, her intermittent xcursions around the fire grounds added more and more photographic images to her stock from which she could draw inspiration for the next abstract paintings.
To be clear, in her work you will not find the typical Australian gum tree leaning over a river, as Dore says herself, “my work is not a portrayal of the actual subject, but an engagement with its mystery”.
It is evident that Dore’s persistent nature and work ethic will see her engaged in the mystery of painting for many years to come.
In an effort to help observe any COVID-19 protocols the exhibition opening will be held over two days and everyone is welcome to attend to enjoy or purchase her paintings on Saturday, November 21, and Sunday, November 22, from 11am to 5pm both days, when refreshments will be served.
If you wish to attend at a later date the exhibition will continue until December 20, every day from 11am until 4pm at oneofftwo, 96 Kleinitz Road Nungurner.
Oneofftwo Contemporary Jewelllery and Paintings is launching into summer with an exhibition of paintings by Dore Stockhausen titled, Edge of My Vision – Fires, from November 21. PICTURED Sunset Peak I acrylic on canvas on aluminium composite panel. (PS)