The Flow of Time

Judith White, View of Maitland: River and Sky, 2006

Judith White’s (1951-) view of the Hunter River at Maitland is painted in a most appropriate medium – watercolour. White has used the transparent washes of paint to suggest the smoothly gliding waters of the river and its reflection of the stormy sky above. The massing, dense clouds threaten to burst at any minute with rain, drenching the streets in water that will eventually return to the river.

White layers textures and pigments in her watercolours to create paintings that convey her interest in natural and built environments. She has painted in the desert regions of Lake Eyre, the south coast of NSW and the river environs of the Hunter, capturing the relationship of water to land and the human connection to nature.

White painted this view 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. In it, she suggests the twin forces of nature and urbanisation at work in any human settlement, where people depend on land and water to supply their needs. Using transparent washes of tone in her dramatic cloudscape, White suggests the interplay of water in the built environment – a particularly poignant interplay in the case of Maitland, which has been subjected to devastating flooding several times in its history.

Six years later, in 2012, White returned to the subject of the river in the MRAG exhibition Riverstories. She spoke then of the river as a body of moving water that acts as a metaphor for the passage of time. The river, like the sky above and the land on either side, is the source of elemental forces that shape landscapes and the people who inhabit them. For White, the Hunter River, like all rivers that support urban landscapes, has ‘it’s own story, a history as a flow of time, imbued with myth, poetry and personal memories.’