Artist Edwina Cooper took residence deep in the Flinders Ranges, hundreds of miles from the ocean, to escape her obsession with water, but it found a way to follow her.
Cooper was out of her comfort zone, but she still wanted to make sure that her practice of entering into the very intimate relationship between humans and water continued to inspire her work.
As part of the 2020 Grindell’s Hut artist residency, a Country Arts SA program, Cooper spent three weeks in a remote cabin in the northern Flinders Ranges before returning to her studio, completely inspired by the terrain and its relationship with water.
“I spent three weeks creating and it was very different for me as I am mostly a sculptural and installation artist,” she said.
“The residency really forced me to go back to the roots of drawing and working on the wall.”
A sailor and sea enthusiast at heart, Cooper thought it was time for a challenge.
Cooper sought to explore the difference in perspective between looking at the horizon line on land as opposed to the one usually seen on water, the difference in the perspective of a human looking out at an empty desert compared to a vast ocean.
“Thinking about land as polar to the ocean and how we relate to the land and that horizon line that predates us,” Cooper said.
“When we look at the horizon line of the ocean or water bodies, we look forward to the future or the phenomena that are coming our way.
Cooper explored the idea of looking out for the ocean, the new versus the land below us, what has come before us, an idea born of the ancient fossils, half-billion-year-old rocks of the greater Flinders.
She collected her pieces for an exhibition aptly named “From This Side of the Horizon” at the Yarta Purtli Gallery in Port Augusta, where the sea meets the outback.
Pushing herself away from her usual inspiration, Cooper found irony in the rain that fell while she worked from the isolated cabin, in an area that has suffered years of drought.
“I felt that water had followed me,” she said.
“I learned about the intricacies of drought, having those conversations and hearing about others’ intimate relationships with water,” she said.
Data and exploration
One of Cooper’s works shows water levels on the rock faces and scattered rocks that are synonymous with the Flinders Ranges, a site on the edge of the World Heritage List.
Cooper researched various weather phenomena in the area and toyed with the concept of moisture in a historically dry place.
An almost topographical sketch included water levels after the beaches received much-needed rain during her stay.
“I picked up a moisture meter and after it rained I went to nine different rock sites and took the retained moisture, went back about a week later and took it again,” she said.
“Everyone said the ground was thirsty and would drink the rain, but it wouldn’t hold the moisture.