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  • Ray Monde

After The Fires opens at Purple Noon Gallery on 5 December 2020

This new exhibition at Purple Noon Gallery is a series of landscapes that examine the aftermath of the bushfires around Braidwood in December last year. The exhibition heralds the one-year anniversary of the fires and explores the terrible beauty of the scorched landscape.

In these works you can see how the fire strips away all colour, leaving behind the stark contours of the land and a palette of blacks and greys and the brilliant white of ash.

It was a real catharsis to create these works.

Turning the trauma of the fires into this visercal response. It also forced me to create a new collage technique. When I couldn’t find the right blacks and greys in magazines, I overpainted magazines with acrylic glazes which created this fantastic range of charcoal blacks, which I tore of up and stuck down to create these fire ravaged landscapes.

I’d like to thank Purple Noon Gallery for hosting this exhibition, the Veolia Mulwaree Trust that supported the creation of these works through their creative arts scholarship and a special shoutout to my local Bombay Fire Crew who turned up out of nowhere to save my home.

A year ago, fire surrounded our home.

I’d go to bed at night and the mountain right outside my bedroom window was on fire. I’d get up in the morning and these perfectly formed, but totally black eucalyptus leaves were tumbling out of the sky.

I was hosing the house down with water and I heard this really loud crack and pop. I turned around and the only road out was cut off. I grabbed some bags, ran down to the river, got in the canoe and waited for the fire front.

The wind was just at the right angle that it skirted the edge of our property.

Out of nowhere, truly, the local Bombay fire crew turned up. I don’t know how they knew I needed them right at that moment. They back burned, put out spot fires and dozed this massive 2 metre wide fire break along the boundary and across the river. I can’t even thank them enough for that. A debt that can’t ever be repaid.

My phone pinged again and it said evacuate now.

The fire was coming towards our place. So I left and I got to the town of Braidwood and then more messages said, it was too late to leave, to shelter in place. The fire was coming to the town that everyone had just evacuated to. There was nothing else to do so I went to the bar, ironically called Smokey Horse and sunk a few beers.

Driving back to the house the next day, just miles and miles of bush and paddocks were black.

It had jumped the river like it was nothing. I thought, there’s no chance the house is going to be there. My last image of the house was these massive plumes of smoke, towering hundreds of metres in the air right behind my home and studio.

When I got closer to home, the front gate was burnt.

I turned into the house gate – and there she was, our little house, she had been standing there for over a hundred years and she’d made it through another day.

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