Friday, September 08, 2006
I don't know exactly when it was that I became so anti-social and hermitic, but I suspect it was after spending time with a group of other artists, many of them well known, at Lake Eyre, in the desert heart of Australia. You wouldn't know it if you flicked through the expensive coffee table tome that resulted from it – in most of the photographs I look like a bored hanger-on at some boozy frat' party (which, in a way, I was) – but it was the catalyst for one of the darkest episodes of my life.I won't go into the grungy details of what I went through, but when I came out the other end of it, I resolved to have a lot less to do with everyone who had been in my life up to that point, including my immediate family. I packed my clothes, books and painting supplies into the back of a rented station wagon – whatever I didn't have space for I gave away – and headed north on the main highway out of Melbourne. I didn't stop until I reached the northernmost edge of Sydney, 550 miles further on. The road ran out at the edge of the sea. On a whim, I took a short-term lease I couldn't afford then on a beach house owned by the actors Bryan Brown and Rachel Ward. I didn't bother to connect the phone. I set up a makeshift studio in the garage, protecting the works-in-progress from possums and salt spray with a couple of large canvas drop-cloths. The day after I moved in, I started painting again for the first time in a year. I have come to love my solitude. Only my boyfriend and my framer visit me at my studio, which is now a spacious, two-bedroom apartment in a nondescript '60s block overlooking parkland not far from the beach. I hardly ever invite anyone else to the ramshackle beach house I rent as my home. Most days, I'm too busy and besides, as the cranky existentialist, Jean-Paul Sartre, once put it, "Hell is other people."