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Culturescape: An Ecology of Bundanon

Nigel Helyer

What is it to know a place, and how is it that we know?

Do we slowly accumulate intimate details gathered during repeated visits to a familiar terrain, or are we perhaps transfixed and transformed by an encounter with a solitary natural phenomenon?

As with most complex questions, the answer is almost certainly the interplay between approaches resulting in the formation of a third way that hybridises the familiar with the exceptional.

Do we analyse the landscape, or experience it, perhaps through walking?

Does our knowledge of the place’s history colour our experience of that place in the present?

Do we study the environment, including its history, or do we live inside that environment?

Does imagination shape our perception of place?

Can we appreciate a place through artworks created there, including paintings of the landscape?

The place in question is Bundanon, in the Shoalhaven River Valley, NSW: a vast property of 1100 hectares overseen by the Bundanon Trust since 1993. We have contributed to the Trust’s annual Siteworks festival as a means of manifesting our reflections upon and relationships to the landscape. We hope to act not as distant and impartial observers but situated within the terrain, moving through it and working with it. There are many paths to Bundanon, and we take them all in the process of making this book. We consider the history of Bundanon— its natural and cultural history—describing the many factors that have shaped the environment of this place. We conduct a scientific analysis of the soil in the Shoalhaven River Valley, analysing this environmental data to reveal the impact of decades of human habitation. We use the same technique of environmental science to examine the paint used in an unfinished Arthur Boyd painting, on display in the Artist’s Studio at Bundanon. We survey the terrain of Bundanon with drone footage, tracing the Shoalhaven River and paths across the property. We walk across some of those paths, describing the landscape and some of its history. We glean differing perspectives on Bundanon through its depiction in the landscape paintings of Arthur Boyd, and through and through a series of artworks by Nigel Helyer, all initially exhibited at Bundanon.


Publisher: Bundanon

Pages: 84

Format: hardcover





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Bundanon acknowledges the people of the Dharawal and Dhurga language groups as the traditional owners of the land within our boundaries, and recognises their continuous connection to culture, community and Country.

In Dharawal the word Bundanon means deep valley.

This website contains names, images and voices of deceased Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples.