Christmas has come and gone and the New Year is upon us. It is the time when many Australians take a holiday to enjoy the warmth of Summer. We are drawn out of doors and away from our usual occupations to play in the sand, swim in the salty water and walk through the bushy foreshore areas of our vast coastline.
The stretch of coast between Cape Shanck and Point Nepean on Victoria’s Mornington Peninsula is a particularly stunning and rugged area popular with holiday-makers and locals who come to traverse the ‘The Coastal Walk’ track. This holiday season, I have walked several sections of the 30km track with my loved-ones, and have been uplifted and amazed by the beauty of the views and beaches. There are many access points along the way with areas to park your car, which makes it easy to walk the parts of the track that suit you best. Cape Shanck to Bushranger Bay; Fingal Picnic Area to Fingal- and Gunnamatta Beaches; No. 16 Carpark to Bridgewater Bay and Koonya Beach were amongst my favourites.
Imagine my delight in discovering that Mornington Peninsula Regional Gallery are currently showing an exhibition called ‘Coast: the artist’s retreat’, featuring visual art documenting the area along The Coastal Walk. The exhibition is an inspiring mix of media ranging from painted landscapes to sculptural installations and digital video. Several landscape paintings on display are from the 1860s and -70s when the British colonies were yet to be federated and Australia was being overrun by bushrangers and those lured by the promise of finding gold. Stirring curiosity about Australia’s colonial beginnings, paintings such as Eugene von Guerard’s “Tea trees near Cape Shanck, Victoria” 1865, provide clues about the history of the area and perceptions of the landscape at the time. Guerard’s use of soft lighting, curvature of the vegetation, and the inclusion of a fox and a pigeon-shaped bird in the foreground indicates that the artist is trying to bridge the gulf between the familiar home landscapes in Europe with those of rugged Australia.
Guerard’s soft, rounded image of Cape Shanck is dramatically contrasted by Kerrie Poliness digital video artwork “Time to go, open air seascape painting exhibitions” 2017 and photographic still image of the same area, “Seascape painting exhibition: black, blue, orange, green, Cape Shanck”.
There is no hiding the hard, rocky edges of the landscape in Poliness’s works, and the way that the coloured diamonds interact with the natural environment seems to increase the impression of desolation in the landscape.
Instead of adding shapes to the landscape as Poliness does, artist GW Bot looks into the forms of landscapes and sees abstract shapes that she uses to create ‘glyphs’. These lively shapes, reminiscent of human and animal forms, are part of the artist’s own visual language representing Sphinx Rock at Sorrento.
Sorrento’s popularity as a holiday location attracted artist John Perceval to stay at the beach house of his friends Anne and Tom Purves in 1957. Paintings from this visit, “Ocean beach Sorrento” and “Quarantine boundary, Portsea”, are striking in their vivacity. Thick application of paint in scratchy, circular motions convey turbulence of the water. Dabs of white, blues, reds and greens over earthy background colours give the paintings a unique sense of liveliness.
An image of Perceval’s painting “Quarantine boundary, Portsea” is displayed near London Bridge as part of the Sorrento-Portsea Artists Trail. Fourteen images of works by a range of different artists, each inspired by the landscapes of this area, are displayed along this trail for the public to enjoy.
There are so many wonderful natural and artistic delights on the Mornington Peninsula that I have yet to explore them all. Sorrento-Portsea Artists Trail and the untrod parts of The Coastal Walk are definitely on my bucket list for the next holiday period. May you be inspired to seek out this breathtaking part of the Mornington Peninsula!