The Art of Don Hil
l ISBN 978-1-64713-946-9
First Release with this title is now available with written content by Yuliana Kusumastuti
Master of Arts, Artist and Writer, Dr John Dahlsen, Senior Lecturer Course Convenor of Creative Arts, Michael Fox, Gallery Director and Valuer, Felicity Mason, Australian Actress and Visual Artist and Nittaya Inphirut, Master of Arts.
Images by Don Hill and Brent Harvey who contributed archival images for the book.About Don Hill
Don Hill is an accidental activist, artist and author who grew up in Ipswich and now resides in South East Queensland and Thailand.
Early influence in his art came from Arthur Evan Read, Mervyn Moriarty and Frank De Silva with whom he undertook casual studies and field trips.
In this book Don Hill examines the use of local raw and freely available materials for making compositions and artworks and how the art works came about.
Don takes time to explain how this process happens when he feels inclined to start a new piece and the stories that the works tell.
He uses materials and a palette derived from first hand environmental experiences and previous living conditions.
All of the pieces were made in the early 2000's and depict the memories of a transient and wanderer/s.
This is an important theme in his Art.
The works described are organic manifestations and an extension of himself taken from nature with an undercurrent of visual beauty using gold leaf and colour to remind the viewer that there is still beauty in the world regardless of the times we live in.
He states that the practice of using bamboo was an accident in waiting and he cannot explain why it came about but it did.
"It was in front of me as I awoke from my dreaming'.
This happened one early morning after a night of no result with non objective nonsense.
The "Process' stands apart and may seem random, careless and reckless but is also enjoyable as he stumbles and wanders on,
still on the verge of creating something new.
So to him the bamboo works still feel relevant and are.
In fact they have not dated or faded.
This justifies their right to exist.
The only drawback being collection, collation and the making of the compositions which take time and thought to put
In the past Don would collect boards and wood from Nudgee Beach in Brisbane’s East but now this material is difficult to find as many people are collecting it and there may be legal logistics to collecting material from the beach as opposed to 30 plus years ago.
His interest in using bamboo to make art still excites him still and he is still in pursuit of this ideal.
Don Hill has been involved in the Arts Industry for more than fifty years and undaunted by the prospect of old age he continues to produce works of art, photography and books about his art practice with this document becoming a Survey of his earlier and possible future work.
Don Hill runs a Multi Disciplinary Practice and has been involved in the Arts Industry for more than 50 years."A Survival Story’
(Yuliana Kusumastuti 2022)
"The road that led me to Nudgee Beach was totally accidental and unexpected as well as never planned. This was an unwelcome journey that became the ending of one and the beginning of new one that eventually led to fresher things but at that time doubt and uneasiness had set in" - Don Hill 2022
I parked my car early one morning by Nudgee beach, walking barefoot I could feel the grass and then the grey sand while chirping birds followed me all the way.
This was my first time in the area, but it didn't take long for me to notice the peaceful and serene qualities of the place.
Nudgee beach is a place that has great meaning for him, as from this place more than two decades ago, he found himself loving art, creating art and to this day continues to explore ideas and his craft.
Nudgee beach therefore becomes the starting point for my own explorations to understand the ideas of Don’s artworks.
As I continued walking on the beach, I began to think about how my experience of a peaceful beach can mean something so different to his and thought perhaps his series exploring bamboo could provide some insight to his past, the beginning of fresh starts, ideas and his journey.
I had the opportunity to meet him in person a year ago in 2021 at the exhibition "Tide Line "in Tenerife, Brisbane.
He and environmentalist artist John Dahlsen collaborated in an elegant exhibition which included a book.
John Dahlsen exhibited his recent art and research of waste material from the beach alongside Don displaying a set of photographic limited edition prints observing the local environment at Nudgee Beach and Bruce Bay in New Zealand.
A point. A beginning.
For Don the beach and its environmental qualities provided him both the starting point of his conceptual explorations and oftentimes the medium to bring his ideas to life as he collected and incorporated discarded items found on the shore like timber, wooden pallets and vinyl to his art.
Hills interest in the relationship between nature and human interaction in his artworks exploring how humans often determine the life and growth of nature and how the life of organic materials have the opportunity to be recycled and renewed. This is how his interest in Bamboo started and continues today.
He would drive to locations where he knew there were clumps of growing bamboo and wait for the council harvest to eventuate, with council or rather human intervention determining the life cycle of nature under the guise of maintenance to control the inherent rapid growth of this substance. The bamboo he would collect during these harvests mainly consisted of bamboo of the decorative yellow and green streaked variety. Rather than allowing council to dispose of the bamboo Don Hill through his art would recycle and provide it with new life.
I particularly enjoy his works on bamboo, "Night at the Beach', "Sucking Neptune" and "Night Crawl". Those pieces expressing joyful and bold colours. "Night at the Beach", dominated by bright red, and "Sucking Neptune" and "Night
Crawl", are expressing bold fluorescent and bright yellow colours. Using gold leaf and acrylic paint, the works he has created between 2005-2006 are powerful. The composition of his works during this time are 'contented', yet at the same time one can feel the irregular dimensions of bamboo, the roughness of their cut and their arrangement hiding the real story which is
namely the process Don Hill explored in creating the finished composition.
The Bamboo plant is a unique plant, known for its qualities of structural strength while being flexible, a durable plant surviving the wind and bad weather yet easy to grow. For Hill, it's a challenge to work on a hard substrate on which to apply acrylic paint and gold leaf, becoming the main medium. All of the works of this time rely on a spontaneity and lack of thought about composition. This is the way he responds to the strength and durability in Bamboo to 'heal' his negative energy. His intuition keeps his mind free when making art. His intuitions drive where or how to place pieces or paint to achieve regulated design and acceptance. This randomness is apparent in most if not all the works. If there is such a formula to his intuitive process it would be a composition formula that follows a guiding light of the subconscious will.
I asked Don the question of what his decisions or thought process is when incorporating colour into his work.
He states that colour is an individual thing and he used it to hide some of the desperate times that happened on the journey that the bamboo pieces depict.
Leaving some areas of unpainted bare bamboo to show through as a background.
Furthermore, he explained that he was exposed to and inspired by the impressionists works when he lived in Europe.
When I look at Hill's bamboo art, I often perceive themes of memory, the journey and loneliness, when I asked him if these themes are present in the pieces his response followed.
"They depict times that were more enjoyable and freer with less fear in the air from the night and dark.
A life change was coming in this story and once again a freedom that had been sort for some time.".
This sense of nostalgia and even melancholy of a time that once was becomes clear in Hill's bamboo assemblages which are painted over freely with acrylic paint, uninhibited in its layering, with moments of bare bamboo providing relief and other moments of gold leaf expressing the rare moments of the past. These bamboo assemblages are held together by the palette frames and pieces of timber that he would recover from the shores of a selected beach, bringing together his past experience and memory of a place and time which holds great importance to him and how they are able to be recycled and perhaps live on through his art.
Importantly, through times of darkness and adversity, joy and loneliness Hill endures much like the adaptability and versatility of bamboo, his art stands as a symbol of his journey. A journey he states, "It was never a journey to a perceived end for gain or any expectation to forfill a quest so to speak except to produce these works as memories of previous times".
Don Hill's bamboo sculpture has been selected as one of finalist for Churchie Art Prize, and it becomes clear why with such a simple yet well executed themes of nature and the human experience in his art.
For over twenty years his dedication to the visual art field enriches his life journey and the life of many others.Yuliana Kusumastuti
Master of Arts, Artist, Journalist and Writer