Beetles in the salt – Lake Tyrrell
watercolour and etching on paper
H 147 x L 235 cm
Image courtesy of the artist
Currently on display in Essays on Earth, a collaborative exhibition between multidisciplinary artist Brodie Ellis, painter and printmaker John Wolseley and poet Paul Kane, uniting the work of three leading artists of the Bendigo region.
"I was walking round Lake Tyrrell looking for birds with the late satirist and writer John Clarke. He was riffing on the names given to the Crimson Chat (also known as the Saltbush Canary) when we stumbled across these insects lying on the salt. Later I used some of the photos he took of them to make an etching, and then this large watercolour.
Returning a few months later I laid out three big sheets of Fabriano paper on the edge of the lake, and as I often do, I sploshed big pools of watercolour on them and left them to dry. Late afternoon a warm wind came up and I noticed on the horizon a rust-coloured cloud erupting into the air and darkening the sky over the lake. The pulse of the wind grew stronger as if emanating from the core of the fire; and it carried embers and burning branches like dismembered limbs. I looked down on the papers and saw that the pools of colour were drying in delicious curdly blotches and scabs and seemed to be mimicking the surface of the salt lake. John Clarke remarked how the way the mineral and rather bilious emanations appearing on the surface of the lake made him think of intestines; and that there before us was the stomach of some great ruminant animal. In the last rays of a weak sun I could see the smoke and ash and flying embers floating down on the intestinal waters of the lake; and then to my delight there landed several beetles and a singed moth which like a miniature Icarus dived into my stygian watercolour." – John Wolseley
Click the button below to find out more about this work and other works from The Life of Inland Waters series when they were first shown at Australian Galleries, Melbourne in 2018.