The Yellow Brick Road

Suzanne Archer, Levee Hunter 2006

Suzanne Archer (1945-) has been painting the Australian landscape since she arrived here from England in 1965. She won the Wynne Prize in 1994 for her work Waratahs – Wedderburn. Her large, abstract works interpret country through collaged and layered elements that retain some aspects of figuration, such as the trees and horizon lines in Levee, Hunter (2006). Archer painted this work 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.

Using a palette of predominantly primary colours, Archer has focussed her attention on the cloudy sky, rendered as a cross-hatched, luminous surface in tones of blue and yellow. The horizontal lines of the river and its levee banks are disrupted by the strong diagonal of the path that leads from the Catholic church to the river, creating a focal point for the composition of the image as well as suggesting the relationship between the natural and built forms of the city.

Maitland was built on the Hunter River, which has periodically subjected the city to devastating floods. The raised levee banks were built to protect the city, but also severed its connection to the river. Perhaps Archer’s painting suggests the value of that connection? The riverside walking path now becomes a kind of yellow brick road, rejoining the soul of the town to its source.