West of Central
⬤ Bathurst Regional Art Gallery 1 Jul - 27 Aug 2023
Whenever I travel west of Sydney, there’s a particular moment I’m waiting for. It’s harder to register this moment on the train, but I know exactly where it is when I’m driving. It’s when the dense bush of the Blue Mountains recedes, and the horizon opens. Weaving through the mountains, I see the residual damage from the bushfires, flitting in and out of focus. Some ridges are dark and rich, while others are thin and frayed. The train curves around the concrete cooling tower of the now defunct Wallerawang coal-fired power station. A little further along, there is a scattering of silent houses and businesses. After passing Yetholme, the land flattens into rolling hills. There are paddocks with sheep and cattle grazing on yellowish brown grass. I see the vague outline of smaller hills in the distance. Once, a long time ago, my mum’s uncle was driving two foreign priests to a parish in the Central West. At this moment, when the land grew bigger and wider, the priests exclaimed “oh, it’s empty.” This calls to mind the legal fiction of terra nullius, but it also smacks of a more general assumption that nothing happens west of the mountains.