Poets and Painters at The Big Punchbowl

The 2016-17 Poets and Painters event brings together talent from Tasmania and beyond in stimulating and expressive partnerships.

With the deluge of rain over winter, The Big Punchbowl Reserve has been transformed. What was a bed of tall, dry reeds is now a large expanse of water reaching all the way to the encircling tree-line. Two adult swans keep watch over their cygnets and the sound of frogs is almost deafening, with the growl of the green and gold bell frog distinctly audible. This ephemeral wetland is now living up to its name – the land is very wet.

For three days in October, The Big Punchbowl was visited by another unique species: the artist. The Tasmanian Land Conservancy was thrilled to host eighteen poets and painters who immersed themselves in the reserve to draw inspiration for their work from the natural environment as part of that Tasmanian artistic institution, Poets and Painters. The 2016-17 Poets and Painters event brings together talent from Tasmania and beyond in stimulating and expressive partnerships. This year’s company include the 2016 Glover Prize winner David Keeling, Tasmanian Australian of the Year Local Hero Raymond Arnold, Archibald Prize finalist and Wynne Prize winner Imants Tillers, esteemed Tasmanian poets Lyn Reeves and Adrienne Eberhard, and Aboriginal academic and writer Greg Lehman.

Following a welcome to country by Greg, the artists absorbed science and reserve interpretation by Dr Sally Bryant and operations manager Leigh Walters. Some artists took guided walks, while others made their own nest at the water’s edge and immersed themselves for hours in the peace of the reserve; observing the natural processes, scribbling notes and making sketches which will be developed into full works back in the studio or the study. Around the fire at the end of the day, conversation was lively and robust, as can only be expected when such a group of big and creative thinkers are assembled.

The Poets and Painters project began in the 1990s when far-sighted gallery owners, Dick and Carol Bett, brought together writers and painters to collaborate in pairs. The aim was to unite artists of different genres, expose them to the same subject and then wait for the response. Previous partnerships have included such luminaries as Richard Flanagan and Richard Wastell, Jane Williams and Pat Brassington, Gina Mercer and Barbie Kjar. Poets and Painters into its third decade, Carol is joined by the beloved Pete Hay as poetry curator.

The results of these few days at The Big Punchbowl will be developed over the next six months in readiness for display in mid-2017. By then the water in The Big Punchbowl may have seeped away into Moulting Lagoon and the cygnets will no longer be under their parent’s watchful eye. Yet, this season in the lifecycle of the reserve will be captured in the works of our visiting artists who will undoubtedly reflect it with erudition, expression and individuality.

Poets and Painters would not have been possible without the support of the Purves Environment Fund, the Purrybury Trust, Freycinet Experience, Devil’s Corner, Sophie Underwood and Matt Dell.

The Poets and Painters exhibition will run from Friday 28 July -19 August 2017 at the Moonah Arts Centre. Stay tuned for more information in 2017.