AN EEL, LIKE an artist or writer, carries its immediate past around with it: if an eel wants to know where it has been, it just spins its head 180 degrees and stares down the length of its tell-tale body. At the same time, its slender, arrow-like form implies a course onwards. My painter-friend in Sydney, Noel McKenna, would probably align the unfurling cadence of the eel-body with Paul Klee’s concept of the act of drawing as ‘taking a line for a walk’ or maybe, in this case, a swim.
With such an association in mind, Noel McKenna’s map-like painting hung in the 2013 Wynne Prize, Centennial Park, offers a detailed account of the life-cycle of the long-finned eels of inner city Sydney. An inscription, lower right, notes how, before European settlement, Centennial Park had been part of a chain of wetlands which linked the reserve’s pond-life directly with Botany Bay: ‘The eels (female) still today, usually during a rainy autumn, set off across the park, cross into Randwick Racecourse, through the suburb of Kensington, across the Australian Golf Course, into swampy Eastlakes area and across the Lakes Golf Course. After this, through swamps alongside South Coast Drive then into Botany Bay…’
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