I had been working really hard over the past couple of weeks and so, despite several impending deadlines, I decided to give myself a day off on Sunday and took the train to Swan Hill - on the Murray River, which is the border between Victoria and New South Wales.
Sunday is the only day you can get there and back by train from central Victoria, or indeed from Melbourne. (From Melbourne it would be a considerably longer day!) A mid afternoon train from Swan Hill to Melbourne is scheduled on Sundays only - presumably to take all the Swan Hill locals back to work or study after spending the weekend at home.
Because it’s quite a long country trip the train is one of the really comfortable ones with a buffet car if you need it. On a mid-Winder Sunday, it was also confortable empty, with plenty of room to spread out. I really enjoy travelling by train - sitting watching the the changing landscape, the small towns and farms, the flat land and silos dotted around northern Victoria. I had knitting and music and found it very fulfilling and relaxing 'slow' time.
If you were travelling with small children, they may be enjoy the simple pleasure of watching the farm animals along the way. Because you’re higher up than when travelling in a car and the train passes only a few times a day, there was a lovely view of cattle and sheep along the line, some grazing contently, others dashing in fright from the passing train. I saw quite a few calves and was highly amused by gamboling lambs. Now I really know what gamboling means - a joyous kicking up of both front and then back legs, a bit like a bucking horse.
I discovered that you can’t actually get to Swan Hill using a Myki travel card; you need a paper ticket. Fortunately the conductor was friendly and helpful, touching my Myki off after Eaglehawk (just past Bendigo) and selling me the required paper ticket. Also fortunately I had enough cash!
I arrived at Swan Hill at about 12.30 and enjoyed a twenty minute walk along the river to the Swan Hill Regional Art Gallery - my actual destination. Before going in I stopped at Spoons Riverside restaurant, just next door on the river, for lunch. It’s really quite nice, with a big bright indoor space with full length glass all around and plenty of outdoor seating, all overlooking the Murray. The menu is fresh, with a focus on local produce. They didn’t have the delicious terrine I had last time, so I opted for a chicken pie, one of the just-baked second batch for the day. It was on the small side, but tasty.
If you felt inclined and were more organised than I was there are lots of tables and seating along the riverside. I saw quite a few people, caravanners mostly, enjoying their sandwiches in the sunshine, watching the river go by. There's also a lot playground equipment and free exercise machines along the river
Later in the afternoon, I got adventurous and crossed the very rickety-looking bridge to the other side for a very quick visit to New South Wales. I thought I was pretty brave. Signs indicated that only one large vehicle was allowed on at any time. (What's a large vehicle?!) The centre part of the old bridge lifts up to allow large boats to pass...or, at least it did once. There was also a sign saying that no more than six people at any time should be on the footpath part of the lift section.
So, the real reason of my journey was to see the Swan Hill Print and Drawing Acquisitive Awards. I caught it on the final day, in fact. It was well worth the trip. There was a terrific range of works.
The winning drawing was Jan Davis’s quite minimalist Georgica #25, 2017, ink and stitching on Nepalese paper. (below)
Interestingly the two winning works are similar in many ways - the use of colour, stitching and light handmade paper. Elizabeth's work was one of two artists books, both inspired by bushfires. The other, by Dianne Fogwell, was also a wonderful book
Besides her prize-winning drawing, Jan Davis also had a print in the exhibition,which I liked very much.
Another work that I really enjoyed was one of the two video works in the show. Todd Fuller's Billy's Swan is a very beautiful and moving stop motion video created using hundreds of chalk and charcoal drawings based upon a dream sequence from the 2000 film Billy Elliott. The drawings are bookended by footage of Fuller himself dancing the sequence.
I caught the exhibition on its last day and unfortunately couldn't get a catalogue as they were sold out...which is a good thing (although not for me).
Fuller's work can still be seen at Bendigo Art Gallery, as it is a finalist in the Paul Guest Drawing Prize. I would recommend a trip to Bendigo to see this too, especially as you can also see Myuran Sukumaran: Another Day in Paradise, curated by Ben Quilty and Michael Dagostino.
After spending some more time wandering along the river I returned to the station, admiring the giant Murray Cod, before catching the train back home. It had been a really lovely day!