Death and the Past came up the Well-known Road

I’m driving the highway home from Hobart to Queenstown and after four hours I reach the Blowhard Gap.

It’s a ’threshold’ to a vast landscape space which opens up to the west. Those final minutes down those twists in the road, through a landscape radically changed by a century of copper mining, is always a kaleidoscopic experience. It’s partly to do with the ‘trance state’ after hours at the wheel, and a lot to do with a reciprocation of view through micro and macro spaces. That guard rail before the drop, the water rushing down the chasm, the light on the distant sea etc. And then there is more! In the imaginary time and space unfolding there are seventeenth-century Dutch navigators, indigenous migrations across millennia and explorers searching for mineralised ground.

The experience is a type of ‘giving up’ of individual consciousness and channelling the universal experience of others – Into the setting sun! Across the poisoned landscape! To history! To something like death! ‘Death and the Past, came up the well-known road And bathed my heart with tears, but stirr’d my mind’ (From Time and Twilight by 19th C. poet Charles Tennyson Turner)

Raymond Arnold

2024, Highly Commended

Oil on canvas