Being, the west coast, the world has gone pink and earthquakes

Iím off to Queenstown today to visit Raymond Arnold at LARQ. I hit the road just after 9, fill up the car with petrol in Smithton and head for the west coast, my first stop being Green Point just outside of Marrawah. Its overcast today with some sun poking through intermittently, a good day for driving.

As I drive, my melancholic thoughts from last night appear again. Iím not a great fan of doing interviews, and it has affected me more than I thought it would. I start to think about what am I doing, why am I doing it, why is it relevant, what more can I do. I feel a little like Iím having an existential re-think. Then, on RN radio, an interview begins with the author of 2012 award winning book with the title, ĎHow should a person be?í By Sheila Heti. I listen in with anticipation after my morning thoughts. Unfortunately the further west I drive the worse the reception gets, so I only really hear snippets, but what I do hear makes me want to go out and buy the book. The premise of the book is about a woman, Sheila, who has just come out of a failed marriage and is trying to find herself through the lives of her friends, and in doing so experiences all sorts of dramatic existential questioning. Part autobiography, part self-help and therapy, and part novel, it sounded fascinating. I think how life throws you these sorts of things out of nowhere and how sometimes they are really meant to be. Hear I am on a residency, thinking melancholic thoughts about self, looking at trying to comprehend time and rocks and stuff, and then how all of this might be used to create a story, or an artwork about it, and here on the radio is someone elseís poetic story. How beautiful.

Rock formations at Sarah Ann Rocks Wildness The west coast On the road to Corinna

Within no time Iím at Green Point and the landscape changes, thereís the same rolling green hills, but now thereís flat beaches, no high mountains surrounding the coast, and little in the way of big townships, more like a scattering of shacks.

I donít spend too long at Green Beach. I look out towards Cape Grim and the covering of wind turbines on the coastline. Itís a fairly calm day, quite different to the last time I was here a few years ago when there was thick smoke from bushfires and wild wild waves bashing into the coast.

My next stop is West Point, down a sandy grey gravel road, I recall driving past this turn off last time I was here and saying to myself, next time I am here I will visit West Point. Itís a wild coastline, thereís a couple of 4wdís on the beach and a few people fishing off the rocks. I take a few photos and soak it in before getting back on the road towards Arthur River and Gardiner Point where there is a lookout built up the bank from the rocks with great views up and down the coast.

But before long Iím on the road again and another short drive down a side road to beautiful and secluded Nelson Bay, the serene and very quaint Sarah Ann Rocks, and Couta Rocks. All three areas have a smattering of beat up old shacks and would make great residency locations. Wild rocky landscapes dot the shorelines and thereís the odd fishing boat dancing around in the still west coast sea. I am most taken by Sarah Ann Rocks, a small number of shacks, no one around, and a very cute beach with really wild gnarly rock formations on either side. Nelson Bay and Couta Rocks seem busier, more shacks, and where a small amount of people call home. Both also have an excellent array of rock formations lining the coast.

From Couta Rocks I head inland through the Arthur Pieman Conservation Area on a long windy gravel road to Corinna. Itís less than 100 kilometres and the drive is slow taking over an hour and a half. The landscape is low-lying scrub to start with rolling hills before some small mountains reveal themselves. Only occasionally am I driving through tall trees. Itís an enjoyable slightly hair-raising drive and I think I pass only one car the whole time. The final 10 minutes sees the landscape change dramatically, from scrub-covered hills to almost rainforest, but very cold. Thereís frost on the side of the road and once in sleepy Corinna the chill is very noticeable from the mist flowing out of my mouth and a light cover of frost over just about every surface.

At Corinna I board the Fatman ferry, a short 10-minute trip across the Pieman River before Iím on windy roads again, this time heading towards my next stop Granville Harbour. There seems to be a few more people around Granville than the previous 4 places Iíve visited on this west coast drive. Again I donít spend too much time here, but I wander down to the beach mostly consisting of rocky outcrops and explore the rock formations. Thereís these little landscapes but when looked at closely appear grand in scale and in all sortsí of cool colours.

My plan next is to follow the coast road to Trail Harbour, but the only road I find looks pretty dodgy and there are no signs, and I recall seeing a sign at the turn off to Granville Harbour saying ĎTrail Harbour 42 kilometresí so I decide to head this way but it means heading inland for quite a bit towards Zeehan. After driving a little more I reach the turn off to Trail Harbour, about 3 kilometres out from Zeehan, and it says 20 kilometres. The sun is getting lower in the sky and I need to decide what to do. The phone rings so I pull over and speak with my partner for about 10 minutes. Its now too late for me to drive to Trail Harbour and make it to Queenstown before the sunsets so I head into Zeehan then onto the icy road to Queenstown. Icy, yep, its late afternoon and there is still layers of ice on the road so the drive is slow and careful.

I come into Queenstown as the sunsets; the dramatic surrounding mountains of Queenstown turn pink and the few clouds in the sky red. Itís quite a surreal site but it feels good after being on and off isolated roads all day to be driving into my destination, and civilisation, for the night.

I drop some books and a dvd off at Queenstown Linc before finding LARQ just around the corner. Inside I meet Kylie, an artist working for a week at LARQ whilst on University break. She is a 3rd year painting and printmaking student and busy wiping down some small plates ready to be printed. Raymond, and his 3 whippets and 1 very old looking but beautiful looking Alsatian come in to greet me. We chat for a while and I introduce myself properly to the very excited dogs.

Raymond takes me up to the house that Kylie and I will be staying in, itís only around the corner. The last rays of the sun are setting and the world has gone pink with many dark greys and blacks in the shadows. Back to LARQ and nice hot cup of vanilla tea, before I wander off for 30 minutes to find a supermarket for tomorrowís breakfast and lunch supplies and a bottle of red for dinner. I unpack my bags from the car, flick through the beautiful books on his coffee table including a book titled, ĎThe Inspiration of Landscape, Artists in National Parksí. Its an English publication and has a number artists in it who I have never heard of before and will look up one day Ė I note that Julian Cooper is in it, perhaps this was a present to Raymond from Julian on his recent residency.

I head once again back to LARQ for dinner. The table is laid in the middle of the small gallery which is showing an exhibition titled Geo-prints, with a number of local, national and international artists including Bridget Hillebrand from Victoria, Sandra Starkey Simon from South Australia, Robynn Smith from California and Michael Schlitz and Nadia Murphy a new-ish work from Raymond himself. Itís a beautiful show and Raymond takes me around each work describing the artists and the ideas behind their works.

The building is a recently renovated schoolhouse consisting of 2 high-ceiled rooms Ė one being the gallery, the other his print studio - with additional bits added on either side including a wonderfully huge orange kitchen on one side and a room with a big bookshelf filled with books on the other. Upstairs is an office and Raymond and Helenaís living quarters. The place has a lovely feel about it with the most recent addition designed by Matt Williams, the architect we are using in Hobart.

We sit down for dinner and conversation. Helena cooks a delicious dinner that disappears quickly as we talk art, residencies, travels around Australia, and Queenstown Ė its history, culture and geology, amongst other things.

At one stage Raymond is looking for a catalogue of a European artist who he met in Queenstown, Yannick Demmerle, when the building shakes. Helena, Kylie and I continue our conversation but look at each oddly. I thought that a train had passed close by the house making it shake, but Raymond rushes in saying something like, did you feel the earthquake, and we marvel to each other. Raymond tells us this happens reasonably frequently Ė annually Ė as Queenstown sits on the Lyell Fault line. Iím chuffed at this occurrence, as Iím sitting in a room filled with prints about geo, midway through a project about geo, when the geo itself says hello. I imagine the earth underneath creaking, stretching, shifting somewhere deep below shifting the landscape somewhat outside.

We continue chatting until about 10pm. Raymond brings out a beautiful big volume on the geology of Tasmania as well as a little book from 1966 titled ĎBeyond the Scenery: the geological background to Tasmanian landformsí, published as an educative book for, I assume, first year tertiary students.

I walk back to the house with Kylie through a layer of dark misty streetlights with book in hand. When finally warm and cosy in bed I flick through it marvelling at the beautiful diagrams. I read through few a passages, it is written to someone like myself with a very limited knowledge of geology and therefore reasonably easy to understand. I must see if I can get a copy.

My mood from the beginning of the day has shifted, much like the fault line underneath me, as a subtle shift, but a vitally important one nonetheless. As I drove to Queenstown today I thought a lot about self, as well as what I might say about this over dinner tonight, and well as things usually occur, life is never as it seems.