I first met David Carter in 1968, when he was a student staying at my grandmother Nora’s house in Melbourne. He spent 15 months at Wilkes station, Antarctica, researching ice dynamics. Six months of that time was spent out in the field, in a ‘caravan’.
“That’s when the magic of the place comes alive”, he tells me today, “at the different times of the day and different times of the year, as it does in the desert.”
I ask him if living with Nora, surrounded by Tom Roberts paintings, influenced how he saw the Antarctic landscape.
“Oh yes. When I went down, I had prints of Australian landscapes by artists like Drysdale, Streeton and Roberts on my walls. Now, when I go into western NSW, I can see the connection between that desert and the Antarctic.”
I know how Tom loved the Australian light at dusk, and imagined David gazing at the long Antarctic twilights.
I remember my father scoffing at Tom’s flowery title for one of his pictures, ‘Evening, when the quiet east flushes faintly at the sun’s last look,’ and my secret pleasure hearing those words.
David knows about the studies made of the air trapped in ice cores, and how they tell us about the cycles of climate warming and cooling over thousands of years.
He suggests where I might find images to animate these changes.
I have a book that was given to my father by its authors years ago:
Donaldson, I & Donaldson T, Seeing the first Australians, George Allen & Unwin, Sydney, London, Boston, 1985.
There are essays by various people on the first visual representations of Aboriginal Australians.
Chapter 8 (p. 110) is “Tom Roberts’ Aboriginal portraits”, by Helen Topliss, which I have written about this here.