On the road from Swan Hill to Deniliquin, you’ll find the Noorong Hall.
Surrounded by large rice, sheep and cereal farms, it’s normally used a few times a year for community get-togethers and local fire brigade meetings. This week though, it’s been transformed into a studio for professional artist Wendy McDonald as part of a TWIG – an artist in residency program run throughout southern NSW and northern Victoria.
Wendy has worked from the Noorong Hall since Monday and spent time with neighbouring farmers Clare and Ross Martin and their family. She’s drawn inspiration from her surroundings, creating sketches and photographs, and has begun a series of paintings focussed on local sandhills, creeks and rivers.
She will complete the paintings over coming months, but tonight the Noorong community will come together for what Wendy describes as the “first and most important exhibition” of her newest work.
“I’m a practicing artist but also a farmer. My days revolve around school bus runs, working in the sheep yards and my art is often squashed in between these things. To have some dedicated art practice time here at Noorong has been really special,” she said.
“It’s a love of mine to learn about the ecology and geology of the creeks, rivers and wetlands, the farming country, sandhills. And being a practicing farmer it’s part of what you do, you have to be interested in how the landscape works. It’s something I also try to explore in my artwork.”
Artist network The ACRE Project has run TWIG residencies for the past nine years. The name references the twiggie – an informal gathering around a fire, to catch-up, eat, chat.
The ACRE Project’s Ian Tully said while the Noorong TWIG would be without a fire due to its summer timing, it would still offer people the chance to enjoy a meal together, listen to live music and catch up with friends and neighbours.
“Often when we get together in farming communities, the talk is about weather, harvest, crop pricing, water. A TWIG offers community a chance to add to the conversation, to reflect on the artist’s interpretation of their local area,” he said.
“It also affords the artist a unique experience where they can observe a working farm and a rural community. Wendy McDonald comes from a farm at Caldwell, so it will be interesting to see how she has interpreted this experience in a different farming location.”
The ACRE Project and this TWIG residency is supported by Swan Hill Regional Art Gallery, Regional Arts Victoria and Creative Victoria.
This TWIG is a taster ahead of ACRE21 – a series of 10 TWIGs and public concerts across the Swan Hill, Gannawarra, Buloke, Murray River and Balranald council areas in May and June 2021.
You can follow The ACRE Project on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter, and keep an eye out for the new The ACRE Project website later this month.