McDonald’s exhibition owes its title to the 2015 Sampson Flat bushfires which ravaged the Adelaide Hills early last year. Starting in Sampson Flat, the fire then spread through Kersbrook and over the Mt Lofty Ranges, leaving a blackened trail in its wake. There was a dark cloud over the Hills for seven long days while…
McDonald’s exhibition owes its title to the 2015 Sampson Flat bushfires which ravaged the Adelaide Hills early last year. Starting in Sampson Flat, the fire then spread through Kersbrook and over the Mt Lofty Ranges, leaving a blackened trail in its wake.
There was a dark cloud over the Hills for seven long days while firefighters worked ceaselessly to extinguish the flames, and when the community emerged to survey the damage, they saw a completely altered landscape; a total 49,000 acres and 27 homes were lost to the bushfires, with recovery still an ongoing process for many inhabitants of the area.
Motivated by a long-time love of landscapes and the Australian bush, Sarah tells The Adelaide Review she felt “compelled to go and see what had happened- to see how the landscape had changed.”
Reflecting on her first visit to the area after the fire, she describes the experience as “eerie and incredibly emotional… the devastation was almost unimaginable: scorched earth, blackened trees, burnt out cars and buildings in ruins”.
However, amongst all that devastation, there was the emergence of new life: of green shoots sprouting from the boughs of burnt tree trunks. It would be this “resilience and regeneration of nature” and the striking contrast between destruction and regeneration that would capture McDonald’s eye.
With a style characterised by thick, textural layers of oil paint and a penchant for a “vivid, vibrant palate” she applies with a palette knife, McDonald reveals that “people who know my work might be surprised by this collection because the palate is very different… it’s much more neutral”.
However, Mc Donald insists it isn’t merely the subdued palate that distinguishes After the Fires from the rest of McDonald’s work; it is the message carried with it. “Generally my work doesn’t convey a deep message behind it; it’s usually for aesthetic appeal and value- representing things that I see as beautiful.”
However, while traversing the newly devastated landscape, she couldn’t help but notice the cardboard signs littering the roadside, on which locals thanked the CFS for saving their houses, livestock and properties.
“There would be utter blackness on one side… then greenness where the CFS had stopped the fire,” she recalls. “It hit me emotionally when I heard about how much land had been burned out and how they’d saved lives. Most of [the firefighters] are volunteers and they [were] putting their lives at risk. I want this exhibition to highlight the incredible work they do, and help their cause in some way.”
After the Fires will open its doors to the public Sunday, November 6 with a keynote speech to be delivered by Belinda Cay, director of science and agricultural education consultancy AgCommunications and survivor of the catastrophic Pinery bushfire which tore through 210,000 acres of the state’s Lower Mid North region late last year.
Admission is free, with Murdoch Hill wine tastings available. After the Fires Murdoch Hill Wines Saturday, November 5 11am – 4-pm and Sunday, November 6 2pm – 5pm