In this recent body of work, Zak Tilley engages with the Central Australia Arrernte landscape in a new and challenging way. Due to the unusually high rainfall and wet summer of 20/21, the environment surrounding Mparntwe in Alice Springs transformed into fields and ranges of emerald, olive, jade and teal. Zak seized the opportunity to paint the dramatically changing landscape.
Dusty dry roadsides brimmed with tall green grass. New growth on the spearmint coloured Ghost Gum became fluorescent against the blue sky, which quickly turned black with the afternoon storms. Swimming holes that were usually cracked and dry were full and flowing, and shorelines were populated with swags and swimmers. Unfamiliar humidity made the days soupy and heavy. The typically pastel and dusty red landscapes were now bursting with vibrant colour and life. This years’ summer rain was celebrated by locals, offering some reprieve from the usual oppressive hot, dry season.
However, one must acknowledge the kind of façade of these stunning green scenes. Much of the lush landscape was also a result of the invasive and incredibly resilient introduced species of Buffel grass. The Buffel grass has filled the plains, climbs the ranges and chokes the Gums and Mulgas, it dominates the native spinifex, overshadowed by its bright green seeding competitor. The sights are often tragically beautiful and a harsh reminder of the damage of colonisation to the environment and cultural sites of Australia. For thousands of years the Traditional Owners and First Nation people have bestowed a deep respect and understanding of land management and since colonialism a devastating imbalance has occurred and local species are threatened.
Painting the landscape both in plein air and in the studio, required a new exploration of the broad spectrum of greens to find the beautiful greens, the wrong greens and the beautiful wrong greens.