2019 was a tough summer for the people in my community. I live in Darug country in The Blue Mountains. We suffered through months of catastrophic bushfire which harmed a lot of animals, houses and properties. My painting is a self portrait of me and 2 of my best friends standing on burnt ground, looking towards the Blue Mountains landmark ‘The Three Sisters’, a dreamtime story of magic, protection and survival of three young girls, living in an unsafe, dysfunctional landscape. My painting is the aftermath of a bushfire, with 3 young girls standing and watching over the bushland as it tries to regrow and survive. Although I am non Indigenous, I feel a connection to land through the strong representation of Indigenous culture and storytelling, like the story of The Three Sisters. I have chosen to paint the sky red, because I have come to understand that in Indigenous culture, a red sky signifies a change to cooler weather temperatures, the red sky in my painting symbolises hope that the fire has passed and a cool change will soon come to help put the fires out. This symbolism is layered with the theme of reconciliation. The friends I am linking arms with are Indigenous, in real life and in my painting. My use of water colours signifies the use of water to put out a bushfire but also to show nurturing and regrowth.
To me it’s about recognising the catastrophe of our past, like recognising the catastrophe of the bushfire, but also being able to see growth, moving into Australia’s future, watching it regrow as a country that is proud to link the past to the present and enjoy our First Nation’s cultures together.
Artist: Isabella Johnston