Monthly Archives: December, 2013

Quandong Time Again

 

I suppose most paintings have some story or other behind them but mostly the painting is happy to stand alone without any narrative.

But sometimes the raison d’etre and history is an important part of the creative process; and it seems to me that the beholder or owner of the painting may be enriched know how it came to be.

Quandong Time Again smaller

Thus it is with Quandong Time Again.

Every November the quandong trees in Big Bush (where I live) bedeck themselves with bright red fruits. The redness is the edible flesh. Inside is a woody nut. Inside the nut is a kernel (the actual seed) It too is edible.

The outer flesh is meagre, neither sweet nor savoury, and only mildly attractive. Most people can manage to eat at least one; rarely two, though I believe they are very attractive to bush tucker enthusiasts. Like cranberries; they can be made more palatable with sugar.

The kernel is a bit of a surprise. Strongly tastes of oil of wintergreen, and I imagine it is far more nutritious than the outer layer.

We have found several small rocks in Big Bush with a pit on one side the right size to hold a quandong nut while it is cracked with another stone. So it seems our aboriginal previous-tenants did not waste the best bit.

Regarding the quandong tree. It is a root parasite. It grows in the bush harmoniously and innocently but underground it presents us with a moral problem as do all creatures which can be defined as “parasitic”.

But it gets more complex. Its leaves are eaten by caterpillars, and these caterpillars then pupate and emerge a few weeks later as adults: A beautiful butterfly!

This same butterfly may also lay its eggs upon another parasite; mistletoe, and its caterpillars happily gorge themselves on their leaves.

Angels of vengeance in the moral crusade against “parasites”.

(In a further twist in this story of perverted parasites; there is a species of mistletoe that parasitizes the Quandong tree.)

(And incidentally: can all creatures that take their nutrition at the expense of other living things without actually killing them, be called parasites? If not, why not?)

The painting began with an adult butterfly, which is still there on the left. Delias aganippe, Wood White or Spotted Jezebel.

When I was in my early teens I became a butterfly enthusiast and I raised some Wood White butterflies from eggs/ caterpillars.

I remember being a bit concerned/fascinated to see that the red spots on black of the underside of the hindwing looked as if they had gone out of register in the printing process. There is a little crescent of white showing along the top edge of the red. I felt that the red should have covered all the white.

I remembered this, and mused further that the red spots are very much like the quandongs of their larval foodplant.

Indeed if you pick a quandong and hold it up towards but slightly under the sun, you get a gleam along the top edge a bit like the white halo around the red spot on the butterfly’s wing.

So I was playing with this caprice in the painting; waltzing the red spots from the butterflies’ wings with the dangling quandongs amongst the pendulous yellow green leaves of the quandong tree…

Also I was remembering wandering through the bush as a young boy getting fresh quandong leaves to feed my dozen or so Wood White caterpillars; remembering the incredibly dry crackling heat haze of midsummer in the bush, re-living the vivid and intense rapture of discovering and beholding butterflies (and frogs, and geckos too, for that matter) that some children (before television) had, which adults can only try to preserve or revive.

Incidentally; I began the painting before I went to Spain (including Barcelona) for a few weeks; When I returned and finished the painting my head was swimming with Gaudi; who was inspired by forms found in nature. I wonder if it shows in the painting.

 

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