The River Nile, Van Diemen’s Land, by starlight

Since childhood I’ve grown up looking at Glover’s painting of The River Nile at the NGV, with its daydreamy bunch of natives added into the landscape, surrounding a camp fire and climbing up a tree. They were put in as token touristic charming flair, but the reality of the time was in such contrast to the visage presented, as the native inhabitants had all been murdered many years before Glover even stood in his ‘paradise farm’ in the wilderness. I had always found that contrast between the reality of history and the dillusion of art to be so cutting. I wanted to render the scene in a more honest way, to show white people invading like termites, taking the form of a stage coach train pouring blindly through the landscape, a ship in the background parked in the River Nile somewhat DisneyLand-like, poached from an illustration of the first fleet ships.

I always think of Australia in starlight, because that’s what I remember about my childhood, living in the forest surrounded by bush and tall eucalyptus, stars shining blindly and clearly up above. I’ve been working towards creating this painting for several years and am satisfied that I have managed to shift the reality of the facade into that of a dream.

Samuel Condon


Oil on canvas