Off-road art

Perth artist Jo Darvall in her studio.

PERTH artist Jo Darvall left her family behind and jumped in the car to go painting in the depths of Wandoo National Park.

She had been selected to create an artwork for the York Botanical Art Prize, and soon became seduced by the majestic and slightly magical wandoo trees.

“As I set up my easel and began to absorb the atmosphere, I could not believe how interesting and beautiful the wandoo trees were,” she says.

“These ancient trees were used in the goldfields and to build railways, in heavy construction and to make timber flooring. 

“They provide shelter for many winged species including the Carnaby’s Black Cockatoo, the Barn Owl, the Regency Parrot and species of bat. 

“The fallen logs provide habitat for the many bush animals including the Echidna and reptiles. Wandoo is also known for the honey from its nectar.”

Situated about 80km east of Perth at Mount Observatory, Wandoo National Park contains 44,000 hectares of forest and granite outcrops.

Darvall’s wispy and delicate watercolours capture the ethereal beauty of the forest as well the fragility of nature.

“Wandoo is the Noongar name for a species of the eucalypt (wandoo) the genus eucalyptus,” she says.

“With their stunning smooth, silky white to creamy grey bark, leaking red sap and gnarly forms, they stand proud in the landscape.”

Darvall specialises in oil and watercolour painting and printmaking, and over the past two decades has held 18 solo exhibitions and 42 group exhibitions across Australia, China and Singapore.

She’s also taught art at UWA and the Fremantle Arts Centre, and in 2018 founded the Swan River Print Studio at the Goolagatup Heathcote Gallery.

For the past ten years she has been working out of the PSAS art studios in Fremantle, but her recent road trip took on a spiritual nature and will live long in the memory.

“‘It started in the afternoon on the first day,” she says. 

“There was a lovely soft light – and as the sunset, the bush became less red, the colours softened and the trees began to glow.

“I drove down the main highway into York and was moved to see Wandoo trees on both sides of the road representing Western Australians killed in world wars. 

“Wandoo is native to WA and are considered the toughest and most durable of any of the eucalyptus.”

You can see Darvall’s stunning tree paintings in her exhibition Wandoo at Linton & Kay Galleries in West Perth until June 26.

By STEPHEN POLLOCK

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