Business As Usual

Claire Martin, Riverbank Path - Maitland, 2006

Claire Martin (1952-) has captured the curve of the levee bank as it rises above the Hunter River in Riverbank Path – Maitland (2006). The painting was commissioned for the exhibition View of Maitland from the riverbank (with apologies to Jan Vermeer and View of Delft) at Maitland Regional Art Gallery (MRAG) in 2006. Martin is based in Newcastle and grew up in regional towns around Australia. She paints a quiet moment from the riverbank, looking across to the church and buildings of the township.

The foreground of the painting is dominated by the denuded levee bank, which has been periodically scoured by floodwaters. The levee was built to protect the city of Maitland from the flooding events that periodically occur in the Hunter River floodplain. In 1955, the levee banks were breached, causing a catastrophic flood that destroyed homes and businesses and claimed an estimated fourteen lives. The system of levee banks was later blamed for making the flooding worse, as they increased the height and velocity of the water as it hurtled downriver.

In Martin’s view, the trees that line the riverbank, making it a pleasant place to walk, are absent – suggested only by the shadows they cast on the pathway. The mighty turbulence of the river, and its capacity for destruction, is also absent, suggested only by the height of the levee as it rises from the water’s edge to the path. The pale, yellow sky tops a still, sunny day in which a regional city goes about its business.