The Art of Developed Landscapes

While many artists find their inspiration in portraits and natural unadulterated landscapes, developed landscapes are also of great interest, especially with respect to my pursuit of developing a better understanding of development for all to share. If development is better understood will that make for better development?

 GUY GREY-SMITH

1964 Murchison Ruins

MURCHISON RUINS 1964

 

Above is a picture of Guy Grey-Smith’s painting of the remains of part of one of Western Australia’s first major mines. The mine was the Geraldine Mine and it was situated in and adjacent to the Murchison River between what now is the North West Coastal Highway (Highway One) and the Kalbarri National Park. The mine produced Galena – a lead and silver composite – and was discovered by Augustus Gregory in 1848. It was developed sporadically and one such proponent was the Geraldine Mining Company which mined and processed the ore on-site and transported ingots to Port Gregory for export (later the export was from Champion Bay).  Guy Grey-Smith usually painted natural and unadulterated landscapes. These were often bold tributes to prominent headlands or hills that seem to have been painted as a demonstrative celebration of completeness and uniqueness. What did Guy Grey-Smith see in this painting? The beauty of a developed landscape or nature’s conquest of past development that 100 years later was clearly melting back into the landscape?

.

GUY GREY-SMITH

1968 Deserted Mine

DESERTED MINE 1968

.

Above is a picture of the least attractive Guy Grey-Smith painting I have ever seen. Perhaps the topic lends itself to an ugly waste?  With no sign of the economic benefit that may have been derived from this mine such as employment, royalties and investment profits to the shareholders and managers – there are only the remnants to see – the un-picturesque remnants. Is it night time at the mine? The surrounds so dark but the site brightly lit. An exceptional painting because it focuses entirely on the developed landscape – not one of Guy Grey-Smith’s usual subjects – and the use of black is most uncommon from what I understand of his other work.

.

 

GUY GREY-SMITH

1969 Ore Bearing Train

 ORE BEARING TRAIN 1969

.

Above is the picture Ore Bearing Train 1969.  A curious painting (I was told by Andrew Gaynor that Guy’s son Mark believes this is may not be a real Guy Grey-Smith painting partly because he strongly doubts his father would have painted such an industrial subject).  Aged from about the same time Guy Grey-Smith was known to be visiting areas around Port Hedland, it is likely that Ore Bearing Train is based on an iron ore bearing train heading to or from Port Hedland.  Intense industrialisation was never a feature of Guy Grey-Smith’s work, quite the opposite in fact. Perhaps, on this occasion, he was drawn to the movement of the iron horse across the landscape.  I think a worthy subject for painting and one that was prominent in that landscape. Is the Iron Horse a corollary of the Iron Knob?

.

.

GUY GREY-SMITH

1963 Iron Knob 1963 - _ coll

IRON KNOB 1963

.

Above is the beautiful painting Iron Knob. My guess it is from the Mid-West and not the Pilbara – but that is just a guess.  Many of his 1963/1964 paintings were from the Mid-West.  Beautiful colours.  Guy would probably have preferred to let the iron stay put. There are many paintings listed in Andrew Gaynor’s book Life Force titled “iron ore”. Prominent headlands that are also economic bounty.

.

GUY GREY-SMITH

1965c Forge

FORGE 1965

(Apologies for the low quality image).  “Forge” shows a blazing metal making forge at Wundowie. At this point in time Guy Grey-Smith was involved in teaching art as therapy to returned servicemen at Wundowie. A mixed blessing? One wants to help and can help – art as therapy- but ultimately involves the arguably ugly head of industrialisation – a real challenge for us all.

.

GUY GREY-SMITH

 

1960c Whyalla

WYHALLA c1960

Overall it is interesting to note Guy Grey-Smith’s metal making related paintings – “Murchison Ruins” – lead smelter, “Forge” – iron smelter, “Whyalla” steel making, “Ore Bearing Train” carting ore, “Iron Knob” the ore in situ , then the gold mining paintings “Deserted Mine” and “Agnew Mine”.  I am sure he preferred natural landscapes and enjoyed the bonus of the expeditions to get to far flung paces in the WA outback.  Perhaps having had a few near death experiences including being shot out of the air as a WWII fighter pilot and then prisoner in German POW camps lends some weight to the conclusion that he relished freedom landscapes.   However, sometimes a developmental landscape must have been the stand-out feature of the surrounding landscape – perhaps with some discomfort, quandary and apprehension he took them into his artist senses – they were there to be painted.

Being a pilot and a technical person, in so far as hands on living was concerned, I have formed the view that Guy was happy to use technology and rejoice in it but his ethics required it to be proportionate and balanced by elegance, skill and ethics. As a pilot flying high in the sky was ok because of the exhilaration factor, never mind the need for a landing field and the sourcing of aviation gas.  Other tools and technology were welcome because they delivered an outcome such as building a home, making a good honest living and enabling his love of creating through painting and pottery. Clearing forest, ore bearing trains, smelters and yacht clubs were therefore somewhat marginal or at least collateral to his main vision and he tended not to embrace these less than natural beauty.

Where does that leaves us? Development surrounds us. Sometimes it is architecture – often it is more brutal and commercial. Sometimes it is essential to ensure everyone has food clothes and shelter.  Is the foot print worth it. How can the commercial challenge better incorporate the impact.

Guy and Helen smoking

Guy and Helen having a smoke