When Dame Professor Marie Bashir opened the 20th anniversary exhibition of Australian Society of Marine Artists in Sydney in late 2016, she was surrounded by images of wild oceans, working harbours and intricately detailed ships from all over Australia. Amidst those closely-hung works a perceptive viewer might also recognise a scene depicting the time-hallowed Norfolk custom of the unloading of the ship at Cascade Pier. This skilful process entrances visitors to the island and also local artist Tracey Yager, who has had a long-held passion for the sea and ships. “I was very pleased to be invited to be a Society Member” says Tracey, regarding the deserved honour for an artist whose career has been so inextricably intertwined with the sea. That particular work also holds a poignancy for the artist, for, as she says “I didn’t realise it at the time I was painting it, but I was documenting something that has already passed away, as parts of the pier were dismantled soon afterwards.”
Tracey can count amongst her ancestors the Bounty Mutineer Mathew Quintal, and more recently her great-grandfather, who first encountered Norfolk working as a carpenter on a whaling ship. He was so entranced by a local girl he jumped ship and married her.
Growing up on Norfolk and later working overseas as a graphic artist, Tracey landed in Noosa in 1991, where wooden boats moored on the Noosa River soon drew her attention. “Actually, it was painting those boats that I began to feel like I was getting a handle on painting water, and I remember one day when it just clicked over, and I knew how to paint it from then on” she says. Her first commission to paint one of these boats started a chain of events which continues to this day.
A decision to move back to Norfolk Island with her partner in 1997 saw her opening Gallery Guava and in 2002, Fletcher’s Mutiny Cyclorama, a 50 metre circular painting depicting the events leading to the settling of Norfolk Island via the BountyMutiny.
Co-creating this intricate work with fellow artist Sue Draper involved 2 years of research & painting, including visits to the Maritime Museum in Sydney & documentation of the replica Bounty which was then moored in Sydney Harbour “As well as the ships, we needed to be able to paint the ocean in all sorts of atmospheric conditions, so for instance, in the scene where the Bounty is rounding Cape Horn, I sat down at Lone Pine in the middle of a winter storm documenting the ocean – oh it was wild out there!’”
The Cyclorama has since become a local icon & TripAdvisor’s 5th-ranked Landmark Attraction in Australia in 2014.
Remember that first commission of the wooden boat on the Noosa River? That incident comes back into play years later, as that initial commission began a long friendship with the owners of the boat, and the friendship sparked a plan to travel together to Hobart in 2011 for the Australian Wooden Boat Festival. The joy of attending that festival “I loved it! It was fantastic – there was everything from models to tall ships, to everything between including scrimshaw & chandlery but do you know, not many paintings…” led to a return to the festival in 2015 with an exhibition of original watercolours and limited edition prints of wooden boats.
A subsequent showing of the artworks on Norfolk also inspired the manager of Norfolk Philatelic to commission a stamp issue called ‘Calm Waters’ which depicted four typically Norfolk-built wooden boats: a launch, a lighter, the rowboat used in the Bounty Day re-enactment, and a whaleboat under sail.
Today in Gallery Guava, ocean-themed works by Tracey might include a series painted on the flotsam of a wrecked yacht grounded on Nepean some years ago, originals and prints of wooden boats, and a new series currently in the works. It seems that the sea and all who sail on her will never cease to be a rich source of inspiration for an artist who clearly has salt in her blood.
For more information on Gallery Guava and Fletcher’s Mutiny Cyclorama please visit:
To view Tracey Yager’s website please visit:
Image Credit: Tracey Yager in Fletcher’s Mutiny Cyclorama – Robin Nisbet
Article content disclaimer: Article first published in Discover Norfolk, Volume 01 Issue 01, 2017. Please note that details of specific travel, accommodation and touring options may be outdated. References to people, places and businesses, including operating days and times may be have changed. References to Government structure and Government businesses/entities may no longer be applicable. Please check directly with businesses and/or Government websites directly rather than relying on any information contained in this article before you make travel arrangements.