Rochelle Summerfield Doomed Innocent  – 30 August – 26 September @slotwindowgallery

Rochelle Summerfield’s work, Doomed Innocent evokes images of fish suffocating in billabongs along the lower Darling River at the height of the last drought, about 18 months ago when appalling scenes of fish carnage were broadcast on TV and YouTube. Since then we have lived through bushfires, floods, and a pandemic in a sequence of events worthy of Dorothea Mackellar’s love poem to our land – My Country.

“I love a sunburnt country …

Of droughts and flooding rains…

Her beauty and her terror

The wide brown land for me!”

Mackellar might be speaking to those fish of the Darling and the Menindee Lakes in her next stanza –

“A stark white ring-barked forest

All tragic to the moon”

That blistering monument of dead trees was left by the great-grand-fathers of the cotton farmers upstream on the Darling who have rendered ‘the wide brown land” – green, with irrigation, with water, monetised by government, stored in private lakes of plundered Australian treasure and fenced off from the fish swimming under –

“Her pitiless blue sky

When sick at heart, around us

We see the cattle die –“

The sheer quantity of fish squandered along the Darling River underlines the fallacy of corporate agriculture, the cotton farmers of Cubbie Station for example who seek to harness the landscape into a mechanised mono-culture that ignores the bio-dynamic necessity of a diverse ecology. Or as Mackellar put it –

“An opal-hearted country,

A wilful, lavish land

All you who have not loved her

You will not understand –“

And conversely, all you who have loved her will understand Summerfield’s painting, all to clearly.

Written by Tony Twigg of SLOT Window Gallery