Magical Mysery is a response to 2 of my favourite Australian movies, Jedda (1955) and Picnic at Hanging Rock (1975). The series of paintings, created over 1 and a half years, reflects the influence that both of these trailblazing movies have had on my understanding of Australia.
I was 21 when I saw Picnic at Hanging Rock on German television and I was deeply affected by it, not knowing then that I would end up living in Australia. The lasting memory of this film was not of the missing schoolgirls, but of the power, spirituality and mystery of country and its ancestors. Peter Weir’s film, and Joan Lindsay’s 1967 novel (on which the film was based), both provided inspiration for the series, while research added important insights, such as the Aboriginal significance of the site as a male initiation ground for the local tribes of the Wurundjeri Nation, and the Aboriginal name for the location, Ngannelong.
I first saw Jedda a few years ago on NITV, and I was mesmerised by the beauty of the Indigenous lead characters, their sizzling on-screen chemistry and their dramatic and haunting story. Written and directed by Elsa and Charles Chauvel, Jedda was the first ever Australian feature film in colour, showcasing for the first time Indigenous lead characters played by (untrained) Indigenous actors Ngarla Kunoth (now known as Rosalie Kunoth-Monks) and Robert Tudawali, who shine bright as world class movie stars with their beauty, natural grace and powerful performances. While the movie is correctly criticised for racist overtones in its marketing and sloppy dubbing of Indigenous language, the lasting impression is the powerful stand against assimilation, which was government policy in 1955.