Creating Western Port Exhibition

Westernport is a place laced with people who create in it, and create it with their artwork. Here is a version of Westernport woven together between several seaside and inland towns, mediums and makers.

Prue Clements is a painter, a knitter and a 'waterwatcher.' Her work takes her to the waterway monthly to create images of what she sees, and conduct chemical tests, to learn more about the Bunyip River at Ballarto Road, Koo Wee Rup north.  The river runs passed her home of over 20 years. Her work hopes to maintain and bring health to the Koo Wee Rup swamp.  

Koo Wee Rup swamp.  Prue Clements.

Westernport. Prue Clements.

"It's different to other bays, it's silver"

Prue Clements created a painting each month at the one site along Bunyip River near Ballarto Road from July 2010 to July 2011...

Prue's Waterwatching site, and site of the following pieces.

After sitting by the river and completing her sketch, Prue returns to her studio to make an entry in her Bunyip River journal. Prue records a quote or reflection that matches her observations for the month...

My Site, 2010. Waterwatch @ The Bunyip River. Prue Clements.

Winter 2010
"The Bunyip River"

July 2010. Bunyip River, Ballarto Road. Prue Clements.

"Over thousands of years the Bunarong tribes lived around here on the Koo Wee Rup swamp" July 2010.

"The water is up. Before it was channelled the bunyip would flood across the flat swamp and create it's vast wetlands." Aug 2010.

Bunyip River, Ballarto Rd. September 2010. Prue Clements.

"Down by the river, Spring has sprung. Swallows are back for the Summer. They are nesting on the bridge over the water." Sept. 2010.

 Bunyip River, Ballarto Rd. October 2010.  Prue Clements.

"Ducks build their nest in the trees, so when the floodwaters come their ducklings are not swept away." Oct 2010.

 Bunyip River, Ballarto Rd. November 2010. Prue Clements.

"Water Dreaming. Water dreaming is about where water comes from and where it goes to." Nov 2010.

Summer 2010 to 2011

  "We could've sold a sausage sizzle there were so many people on the Ballarto bridge who'd come to watch the february floods" - Prue

Bunyip Main Drain @ Ballarto Rd. December 2010. Prue Clements.

"Thunder storms with clouds like whales in the sky." Dec 2010.

Bunyip River, Ballarto Rd. January 2011. Prue Clements.

Bunyip River, Ballarto Rd. February 2011. Prue Clements.

"And then rain." Feb 2011.


Autumn 2011

Bunyip River, Ballarto Road. March 2011.  Prue Clements.

"There are accounts that the Aboriginal people traversed the Koo Wee Rup swamp by a series of beacon lights" Mar 2011.

Bunyip River, Ballarto Rd. April 2011. Prue Clements.

"I went to the thing at Lakeside, and there was the seagrass, I never realised about the seagrass!"

"The Bunyip River flows into Westernport Bay's seagrasses." April 2011.

Bunyip River, Ballarto Road. May 2011. Prue Clements.

"Bubbles coming to the surface like silver baubles. I wonder, who is down there breathing". May 2011.

Winter 2011 

Bunyip River, Ballarto Road. June 2011. Prue Clements.

"Water craft is practiced by the Bunerong women in the form of woven fish sculptures, made from plants collected across their wetlands." June 2011.

Bunyip River, Ballarto Rd. July 2011. Prue Clements.

Prue Clements continues to paint the Bunyip River here monthly.
She also collects water quality data
and consults Melbourne Water through the Healthy Waterways Waterwatch program 
if anything concerns here.
Prue has began a journal to pass around
the Waterwatching groups of Western Port.


Chaz Alan The pictures and words to the storybook, The Something I Saw  were inspired by research into documented sightings of bunyips observed in Tooradin, from both Aboriginal folklore and colonial reports. As descriptions of the ‘bunyip’ vary (some refer to prehistoric marsupials, others refer to reptiles or even birds) it was a fun exercise to create something indigenous and yet alien, that also appealed to younger readers.

Chaz Alan.

“It sounds quite bizarre
But it happened last week.
Something quite strange
Came out of the creek.

It shook itself dry,
Rubbed its eyes,
Looked  around,
It hadn’t been here
                Above ground
                                For so long,
It paused at the sound
Of the kookaburra’s song

Chaz Alan.
A story says that the bunyip, or Tooroodun, emerged originally from the headwaters of Sawtells Creek, Tooradin.  Children were warned to stay away from the muddy creek for fear that the bunyip, Tooroodun, would do as he did, and pull small children into the creek from the ankles.  So one story goes.

What do you like about the process? 
Its really inspiring to work with the freedom of imagination. And even more fulfilling to deal with issues relating to the local environment because this is where we breath in and out our natural expression. 
The trees were difficult to draw and took more time than  the buildings. 
Because the natural curves shades textures
and unpredictable growth spurts of eucalyptus follow a chaotic order. 
That’s what is exciting for me… 
Drawing and painting something that is …hmmm… that, that we sometimes take for granted. (Chaz Alan)

Did you learn something about the subjects you were drawing? 
Yeah,  of course.  
What I learned about the subjects I’m drawing… 
I learned about the different colours umm to colours of leaves and the impact of light on plant life, how the light falls on grass rocks and water.  
It tuned me in to scenery which I used to gloss over. 
It’s amazing, it totally does, like there were trees 
I used to see when I’d go swimming and as soon as I looked closely at some of the trees to find out exactly how they, 
or to work out how I would draw them, 
it became almost impossible for me to look in their direction without noticing them." (Chaz Alan.)

Mornington Peninsula

Karen Preston lived on the Mornington Peninsula through her childhood to 1994.  The colours of the bay made their way into works she created even after Karen moved to Gippsland.  This piece was an anniversary present to her husband at 25 years.  For Karen the space that making art creates is important and influential.

Karen Preston.

"This curve could be a bay, or a shell"

Karen Preston.

Karen Preston.

Karen wonders whether this piece is too busy? but for me i feel like I'm rock-pooling on the peninsula at Sorrento backbeach again when I look at it.  Karen's work doesn't hold themes of places or objects deliberately. Each piece is made through a process of instinctual attention to the colours, the shapes and the spaces. 

Karen Preston.
Karen's family, painted here, grew up around Western Port.  Her mother's father was a fisherman there, as is her father, still today (third from left). Her sister lives at Moorooduc and rides horses.

Karen Preston.

Karen's studio.

Prue Clements paints in places, and returns to her studio to work with oils on canvas. Prue's works are created across the landscapes of the Greater Melbourne area from Donmuchin, to Main Ridge. Prue's work notices the seasons and the patterns in the landscape and brings them to life with impressionist and indigenous influences. 

"This is Main Ridge"

Main Ridge. Prue Clements.


Cardinia Underpass. Anthony Stevens.

Anthony Stevens is the team leader for the South East River Health team at Melbourne Water.  

This photo of the Cardinia underpass. It's the energy dispersion area. It was spectacular, rushing over a big concrete ramp! dispersing the energy in the Cardinia Creek. Slowing the flow down, stops it scouring the edges of the creek down stream, and protects the floodplain. After the floods it represented the power of a flood on the catchment.

For Phil Burrell , who lives in the hills of the Cardinia Creek catchment, music is part of him.  In his everyday, he plays, once, maybe two or five times. Whenever he gets a moment.  It forms part of how he thinks through things, and let's them go. As an environmental guardian for all his life, he has had music beside him, from the piano to the trumpet.  Talking to Phil about his advocacy for endangered species such as the Brush-tailed Bettong, and the Bandicoot, is in the same breath as his use of the minor keys.

Helen and Phil Burrell.

The song of survival was composed by Phil Burrell who lives in the upper reaches of the Cardinia Creek.

Phil and his clavinova.

a pygmy possum on Phil's hand.

Phil shares the story of his song at the kitchen table over a scone.

"Survivial, um, this goes back to little animals and creatures that I've dealt with since i was a little kid on the farm in south Australia up to now up to now   actually, and uh, so its starts off, I don't know with a little orchestral setting I suppose, the mega fauna probably had gone nearly gone by then, the Australian continent was starting to settle down to diverse range of species and then the continent was drying out so that s the first little bit a minor key setting for that one, then there was a recovery after that to adjust to a new regime, um, and the species that we know today like the bandicoots that we know today were probably well established by then um then there's a recovery  period due to rainfall events and so on and a gap where there wasn't as much drought consequence then, European settlement, quite traumatic, and then, uh, the disappearance of quite a few species really, that's a longer bit, then, the emergence of groups like Landcare, water catchment authorities, and stuff like this to i don't know reestablish corridors, bio-links and stuff I think that was a time of quite an emergence (starts to laugh heartily) yeah, I find that encouraging, yeah, and now the poor old guy down there with the mangroves, and the sea grass. That symposium that we went to down there in Pakenham, i  was just staggered at the scientific stuff that has been going on since the 1970s stuff, but I think its quite positive, so i think its a matter of education, um, so, that's how the little music piece finishes." (7:16)

Phil's Clavinova.

Robyn Carter lived in Gembrook before moving closer to the bay. 

Robyn Carter. (c)

"this is a sketch so it's just on brown paper..." - Robyn Carter.

Robyn Carter. (c)

Robyn moved from the upper Western Port catchment, Gembrook, to the lower catchment in Warneet.

  She returned to the area after the fires in February 2009 and painted this sketch on brown paper.

Karen Preston lives in the Tarago Catchment after having lived on the Mornington Peninsula since birth.  Her work travels through both these places with water in its midst, whether in the heavy darkness of the pending rain clouds, or the curve of the Peninsulan bay.  Her work is not intentionally water-laden, it's inevitably water-laden.

This painting is of the entire area, of Gippsland.

Karen Preston.

Women go to these places was made laid out on the earth with her hands. As Karen told me the story, she dusted it's surface where it hangs in her hallway.

Karen Preston.

Karen Preston.

Karen Preston.

Karen Preston.

Robyn Carter.

Robyn Carter paints from a wide-windowed studio on the Warneet Foreshore.  Exploring Western Port through the estuary, she returns to find these adventures appear on the canvas.  She calls her relationship with painting a love affair.

Robyn Carter.
"Western Port is just a fascinating area, well, in lots of ways visually, but also sailing
its just
fascinating because you've got so 
variables, you've got channels,
you've got low tides,
you've got the places that dry out completely
particularly going round French Island
and sort of have to work out the tides because...
we've been stuck for hours and hours.

Yeah, just stuck, if you don't get out in time, or you're a bit too late, so you sit in there, watching all the wild-life down below.

The birds come in.

Crested tern feeding in Western Port. Sarah Crinall.

and the crabs

and all the little crawly things, so that is fascinating." - Robyn Carter.

"I don't usually take the sketch book out I just come back to the studio and then I've got a fairly good visual memory so I just use what I've got in my memory and play around with it in here."

Robyn Carter. (c)

"Can you tell me the part of the painting that you love?..."

"Oh, yes! I like these areas here, these are sort mangrove stumps, I suppose, or the roots, and the branches of the mangroves... and I like the water." - Robyn Carter.

Robyn Carter.

Robyn Carter. above in progress.
Robyn Carter.

"...The act of painting is a really important thing for me." - Robyn Carter.

Robyn Carter. (c)

"I'm in the environment all the time..."   

Robyn gathers with a group monthly ..."...and we all gather south of the Yacht club and go out and just paint the enviornment around here... " - Robyn Carter.

Robyn Carter. (c)

These paintings are more they're sort of an aerial perspective, then again ... I tend to move perspective... so if you actually analysed it you wouldn't see it that way from the air."

French Island. Sarah Crinall.

"I think the drought made things quite different in the surrounds.... the actual environment of the mangroves didn't change that much.  The ti-tree, that didn't change that much. I think... they are all in their element, those plants, the're sort of made to survive somehow, I think, because they are natives." - Robyn Carter.

Robyn Carter. (c)

"I think I've got a lifetime's work just around here..." - Robyn Carter.

Robyn Carter. (c)

Mangrove. Chinamans Island. Sarah Crinall.

Chinamans Island. Sarah Crinall.

Chinamans Island. Sarah Crinall.

As Robyn's hands stroke the air above her painting, she describes ...
"It's got the mudflats and you've got shallow water and then you've got deep water and you've got areas of land that are sort of vegetation, and then it changes to more grass..." - Robyn Carter.

The artists of Phillip Island represent a diverse community of art-makers, holiday-makers and home-makers, many who came forward to share their works and stories of living by Western Port through this exhibition.  These works are laced together here to tell part of our story.

Pip Cleeland and Mike Cleeland
Created a book of bush poetry with illustrations together. Their home is mingled with the sea and its stories. One of these stories matches with my nan's account of cows being hauled across from the Mornington Peninsula to and from the Western Port islands...

Pip and Mike Cleeland reading from their joint creation - Sheep Dip.
Sian Adnam
works from a studio set back in a paradisaical indigenous garden where she works to bring the stories of old found objects back to the present. 
Sian Adnam's garden through to her studio.

Michael Morgan
Looks beyond a stretch of bright green paddocks to a slither of Western Port's waters flooding and ebbing.  his work is playful for him and brings a joy and being unexplainable.

Michael Morgan in his studio. June 2011.

Michael Morgan's place through his art is coloured, thoughtful, exploratory and nonsensical. The colours, he makes himself with pigment dusting over his creating table.  He creates some works in the field and others in his bright studio.

Michael Morgan.

Michael Morgan's studio looks out over to the Western Port channel and the Mornington Peninsulan cliffs.  Michael's work is playful and considerate of the social culture that people bring to the natural elements of Phillip Island. He lives with his art like it is a life force. His hands flail to describe how it feels to make it... its just part of him.

Michael Morgan.

Michael Morgan.

Sian Adnam collected materials for a long time before they came together here. Where have these plugs come from? She worked with her partner to create it. He is a builder, as was her dad. Their stories are also built into her work.  many artists spoke of their families and it was clear, our families play a significant role in who we are becoming and how we relate to the world around us.

Sian Adnam.

Sian Adnam.

Sian Adnam.

Sian Adnam.

Sian Adnam.

Sian Adnam.

The closed eyes of the faces of Sian Adnam's sculptures represent introspection for Sian. Her art journey brought her to a place where she wanted to think about what state the natural world was in. What decisions are we making and how do they affect our future?

Sian Adnam.

Sian Adnam's garden grows alongside the studio. She doesn't like fences, instead Sian's planted indigenous shrubs and trees to create her paradise.  The weed's are easy to manage, she shared. "I burn them."  Look what came up the first time I fire-managed.... dichondra, or native violet.

This image, below, is called 'Twitcher' by Michael Morgan. It is a tribute to the bird-lovers of Phillip Island.

Michael Morgan.

Michael Morgan.

Michael Morgan.

Sian Adnam.

Sian collected these pieces from various places. Oneday her and two girlfriends were weaving with materials from Northern Australia. There was one piece left over. Sian offered to make use of it "I'll do something with it".. here it is. What other stories are in the cotton reel, the scissors, the redgum fencepost she wonders.

Pip Cleeland.

Pip Cleeland.

Pip Cleeland.

Pip Cleeland.

Sian Adnam.

Mike Cleeland is an active landcarer on Phillip Island. When I asked him about how his poetry connects to his activism he shared that it was not. He tries to write good, old-fashioned bush poetry. It's his escape, a different world, a respite? This was a theme with many artists too. What a pleasure it was to make their works.

Pip and Mike Cleeland.

Taking a Punt

In times before the second war
it wasn't like today
they didn't have a bridge back then
to get across the bay
and moving cattle back and forth
was difficult and slow
they liked to roam their Ilsnad home
and didn't want to go

But now and then the farming nem
had stock they had to send
they'd round them up and drove them in
toward the eastern end
then push them up on poard the punt
across the tail gate
judge the ride and hope the tide wouldn't end up in Bass Strait

One Friday they got underway
the punt was loaded full
with twenty cattle on the deck 
and two big Jersey bulls
There'd been a cattle sale in Cowes
and the buyer moved them fast
to catch a ride to the other side
before the daylight passed

The chap was told what the punt could hold
but he chanced it anyway
he wanted all his cows across
and home within a day
so when the punt got out to sea
it towed like a submarine
and whenever cows went from stern to bows
it would tip on a perilous lean.

The buyer was towed along with his load
with Winner and Noel and Jack
who'd helped him drove the cattle down
the Cowes - Newhaven track
they'd nearly gone half way across 
the quarter mile span
when a bull took firght and started a fight
with the other, and the trouble began

The cows all shied to the starboard side
away from the wrestling pair
and the weight of the mob pushed their side  deep down
while the bulls went up high in the air
The fence wasn't made to stop 5 tonnes of beef
they smashed through the old wooden rails
and as quick as a wink there were cows in the drink
with the crew clinging on by their nails

Without all the weight the punt sprang up straight
but still being dragged by the boat
while the upended cows splashed around in the brine
in their struggle to stay up afloat
Eventually some make it back to the start
the others were San Remo bound
while the waterlogged crew clambered out of the blue
and at last made it back to dry ground

They spent the next day round up the last stray
to get them back into a mob
and repairing the punt to bring the rest through
to try to complete the job
So the lesson to learn for the gamblers today
or drovers out there on the road
If you must take a put, stay well up the front
and be certain you don't overload!

- Mike Cleeland.

Michael Morgan.

Michael Morgan.

Pip Cleeland.

Pip Cleeland.

Pip Cleeland's creates these works quickly and whimsically. She has a simple watercolor pallet and paper. She drives to a place, gets out of her car, and washes the paint over the paper looking out at the landscape. This method helped her find a home in Australia after moving her from Scotland. Sometimes she would go as far as the Great Ocean Road and then return home to Cape Woolamai and wash the image with objects from the beach outside her house. They bring her energy, these little sketches.

Pip Cleeland.
Pip Cleeland.

Pip creates these animal's with attention to detail and hard work, as opposed to the energising sketches above. Pip says these artworks are for the animals - it's their turn to be noticed now. 

Pip Cleeland.

Sian Adnam.

Sian works with objects that have stories written into them. She gets excited by their time gone by. This sculpture, with a closer look, has blue hearts floating in a boat. The boat is us, humans. The blue is a sadness in the heart for water. Sian doesn't mind if people don't get her meaning by experiencing her art, but shes says, there are always some who do.

Sian Adnam.

Sian's studio fills with learning artists on a Wednesday night. They talk, work together, and share materials.

For Sian, these sculptures represent a higher self asking her

"what are we doing?"

The bird is her self, listening.

Sian Adnam.