McTernan on Anderson

In her creative response to Madge Anderson’s still life, local writer Kate McTernan finds this exuberant painting of bush limes far from inanimate.

Madge Anderson, Bush Limes, 1972, oil on composition board, 76.5 x 56.0 cm. Collection: Castlemaine Art Museum. Image: Ian Hill.

Kate McTernan on Madge Anderson

Here sits this raucous bucket of bush limes perched upon a kitchen chair. A vivid and vivacious view, it acts as a window that no sooner invites us in with warm, familiar confidence, than it invites us to look again and allows our own interpretation. Thick, painterly application of bold colour exudes life and movement, a contradictory still life rendering expressive dance.

I imagine this, not in an artist’s studio, surrounded by smudged palettes and jars of murky water and bristle weary brushes, nor in a white walled gallery with soft soled visitors whispering observance, but rather in a family home, with small children running in and out about the house and garden. Chasing, playing, begging for a snack to be hurled – quickly! – so they can get back to the business of play. So important, it can’t wait. And any minute now their friends will be torn from them by harried mothers needing to get them home, or on to the next outing. Frantic and fragile is this game, this play under deadline. A rush of exuberant enthusiasm and chaotic joy.

“Slow down! Don’t knock over the bucket! And please don’t slam the door. When you’ve eaten put your hats on, we’re going to be late,” the mothers might call fruitlessly before resuming truncated conversation, leaning shoulders against walls. No time to sit, nor sip some tea while wrapping up conversation stretches across minutes and children make their hay.

Minty green, pink, blue and yellow contrasts take me then to a fair ground and mimic decorative awnings at a festival in summer. Sunlight pinging off them without the threat of rain. The snow cones with lime sugar syrup are light and soluble, offering a sweet, cool tang after standing in the hot sun for forty minutes, shifting weight and waiting. Sweat transpiring from all the usual places, clinging singlets to backs, and hair to heated necks.

Eaten then, like a grand reward for hard fought, hot slick patience finally under the cool shade of a tree broad boughed and generous, while music plays and children dance with painted faces. The sweetness and the clamour of this bush lime still life allows a myriad of daydreams and remembered scenes in its fulsome colours and certainly, it is not still to me.

Kate McTernan

Kate McTernan is a writer and producer living in Elphinstone, Victoria.

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