The lie of the land

Featured in

  • Published 20140204
  • ISBN: 9781922182241
  • Extent: 300 pp
  • Paperback (234 x 153mm), eBook

THIS IS THE biography of a painting I’ve known my whole life. At least, there hasn’t been a time when I can’t remember the painting that used to hang in the long, darkened hallway of my grandparents’ house on the farm in northern Hawke’s Bay. This was the farm we used to visit as children for what felt like the endless weeks of school holidays. I knew the farm in all its seasons – from its calm, elegiac autumns through cold dark winters, and into the halcyon heat of summer. Because the farm is now only remembered as a fragment in a happy childhood, the richness I’ve remembered has surely deepened with the years. So the winters of recall are probably colder and more dramatic than they really were, the summers probably longer and hotter, and the magpies waking us in the still mornings more melodic and otherworldly.

How then, I wonder, has the painting which used to hang in the hallway deepened with the years since I last saw it? How have the years I’ve lived away from her watchful gaze influenced my recall? The shape of her thickset body emerges from the gloom of the spare landscape she stands against; her slab-like feet and hands and her solid, impassive stare; her dress and hat and bag, clearly the accessories of another, previous time. Even then, to the small boy I was, she was a woman who obviously belonged to a bygone age: a woman of some mythic, and in our case, settler past.

Already a subscriber? Sign in here

If you are an educator or student wishing to access content for study purposes please contact us at griffithreview@griffith.edu.au

Share article

About the author

Hamish Clayton

Hamish Clayton was born in Hawke's Bay in 1977.He holds degrees in Art History and English Literature from Victoria University of Wellington, where he...

More from this edition

Encounter above the Hurunui

PoetryA cloud river above the Hurunuiand on the plane there are two Māori bros –one sitting with me until he could shiftto the seat...

Sea of trees

EssayAn experience of remoteness, space, natural quiet and solitude isgained standing amongst the extensive dunes against the vastness of the Southern Ocean.NZ Department of...

Pure brightness

EssayEACH April at Pure Brightness Festival (Ching Ming) Chinese families sweep the graves and perform traditional rites to honour their ancestors. On 4–5 April...

Stay up to date with the latest, news, articles and special offers from Griffith Review.