Our family first arrived on Norfolk Island in 2005. My husband, Adam Jauczius (Yow-chus), works for the Australian Bureau of Meteorology, so we were used to living in remote areas. Coming to live on a tiny speck in the Pacific, however, was really exciting. Convict tales, Marcus Clarke’s For the Term of his Natural Life, the Norfolk Pines that lined mainland beaches and the Bounty saga fuelled our interest; we wanted to discover more.
Adam is also a self-taught artist. Working at isolated Weather Stations in Meekatharra, Forrest, Carnarvon, Eucla and Longreach Adam felt compelled to depict the stark scenes of outback Australia:
“I’ve always painted but it was the colours of the desert that I knew best – the reds and the ochres. On Norfolk Island I saw for the first time – as Johnny Cash said in one of his songs – those ‘forty shades of green’ and it totally blew me away. But it wasn’t just pretty or stunning, it was as though the landscape spoke to me, so I couldn’t wait to start painting.”
Our whole family found a place of wonder – ancient pines stood guard beside mountain paths and sunlight streamed through towering tree ferns. It was a magical place – lemons grew wild in the forest, toadstools sprouted on roadsides and purple flowers ran riot. Like so many before him, Adam was mesmerised by the Island’s beauty and spirit:
“I wanted to capture the stormy seas of Cemetery Beach, or, when the cloud falls so low, that it shrouds the top of Mt Pitt in a ghostly mist. I also wanted to show the small things – the forest floor, mushrooms beneath a gigantic pine – worlds within worlds.”
Look at the lone pine and shimmering, turquoise waters under a bright summer sky and you could be ‘gwen narwi’ (going for a swim) at Emily Bay. A skeletal tree, silhouetted against the risen moon, conjures Ghost Birds and haunted nights. Gaze at the green and reddish-brown needles, bathed in golden sunlight, and you are there, walking through the pines. Merely painted images on paper or canvas, but still able to stir our senses and transport us to Norfolk Island.
For those born and bred here the charm of their home – fringed by rugged cliffs and small, sandy beaches – is obvious. Visitors and newcomers, too, are impressed by its stunning vistas. We try to capture these scenes and special moments – taking snapshots and sending ‘posts’ to facebook friends – but the photos often fall short of ‘what we remember’; the images we’ve imprinted on our minds.
Musicians, writers and painters constantly strive to convey the beauty and fragility of our world. When they succeed we feel a shock of recognition as their creations spark memories and feelings. They create a bond and we share the experience. West Magazine journalist Mark Thornton believes Adam’s vibrant paintings connect on a deeper level, and are more than “…an exercise in photo-realism. Each goes beyond that, suggesting something larger than life, something perhaps even mystical.”
As Adam’s wife I have a particularly personal insight on his artistic process. I see the rituals involved in setting up brushes, palettes and pastels– the long hours hunched over drawing boards and easels – and the paint stains on every t-shirt he owns. I bring him coffee and listen to the music of Cash, Kristofferson and Springsteen emanating from his ‘studio’ (usually the shed or spare room). Our children, now in their twenties, also love the jewel-like images, and detailed sketches, he creates with pigments, paper and canvas.
I cherish family pictures and am proud of his achievements. There have been two books, twelve solo exhibitions, numerous group shows, competitions, awards, commissions and a stamp series of his portraits. In 2017, after an amazing response to Adam’s painting of Matty Zarb, a talented musician, we opened Norfolk Art; a gallery/shop dedicated to selling prints and Adam’s original works. His next major project will be another portrait – of country performer, Warren H Williams – for the 2018 Archibald Prize, but Adam continues to be passionate about living on the Island:
“Finally though, it was more than just the landscape that made this place so special for me, it was the people. Nowhere have I seen such a strong bond between family and community. When the Norfolk Islanders sing, ‘In the sweet by and by, We shall meet on that beautiful shore’, I can’t help but think, we don’t have to wait for the sweet by and by; it doesn’t get any better than this.”
Image Credit: Robin Nisbet
Article content disclaimer: Article first published in Discover Norfolk, Volume 02 Issue 01, 2018. Please note that details of specific travel, accommodation and touring options may be outdated. References to people, places and businesses, including operating days and times may be have changed. References to Government structure and Government businesses/entities may no longer be applicable. Please check directly with businesses and/or Government websites directly rather than relying on any information contained in this article before you make travel arrangements.