Portrait of the Moonah Tree

Life is embodied network…… there is no “nature” or “environment,” separate and apart from humans.

David Haskell in Songs of Trees.

I depict the tree as an equal partner. As all life is connected, human and non human, I refer to the tree as a “she”, a “her”, as used in indigenous languages, and semitic languages such as Aramaic and Arabic, both spoken in my country of origin, Syria. I paint this portrait of a tree as I would paint faces of humankind; by my use of colour and facial lines.

152 x 101 cm, acrylic and kelp, sand and straw, 2023

I spent many hours admiring, sketching and painting this tree, who has witnessed a long history around her at Lake Connewarre, possibly for as long as 200 years. I painted this portrait during days of wind, rain and sun, to understand her by being close, sensing, smelling and feeling her surrounding nature. Fragments like straw, sand, stone and kelp are embedded in the painting to emphasise the strength of this tree in the face of often harsh prevailing weather at her location on a cliff where she is touched by wind and sun, both soft and strong.

Every tree has a story and I wonder what this tree has witnessed these many years. I have tried to capture her inner self by painting her veins, lines and aging wrinkles to read and understand her. I wish she could talk to tell us her story.  

This painting couldn’t have been completed without the support of the dear owners of the property at Campbells Point, on the shores of Lake Connewarre that host a wide range of indigenous plants, birds and trees. Alan and Annette Appelbe graciously allowed me to enter their property for over 10 visits between January to April this year to paint this impressively old tree overlooking the remarkable Lake Connewarre.

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