The Cider Gum Project
Imagine a gallery wall 12 meters long and 3 meters high filled with twenty canvases all painted on location over all seasons. Together they distill the total environment of this rare and endangered tree species. The Cider Gum project aims to make this happen.
I am also raising awareness of the importance of preserving this unique site. I have walked this site with one of Tasmania’s First Nations elders, Aunty (Dr.) Patsy Cameron, who was overwhelmed by the significance of these trees. A major event was held in March 2022 which saw many elders and future leaders join Aunty Patsy and myself to further understand the trees at this site. More here.
As I have continued to paint on the location it has become clear that it will take much longer than anticipated to complete this many paintings. Due mainly to weather and the location. So I have increased the photographic series I am doing so I can capture these trees in their magnificence before they die.
One of the paintings is now finished! – slow progress but a big victory.
Progress report October 2022
In May I took a group of First Nations Elders and their families up to the cider gums to share learning and to ensure that these significant people were able to see these trees. Much was discussed about actions that will be needed to preserve the tree.
Since that weekend I have not been able to return due to Long COVID issues. I am improving and hope to be back in the new year. I do have plenty of film to progress and the cider gums feature in my current exhibition. Cardinal Light.
Exciting Exhibition – The Cider Gum Project goes International
In February 2022 one of my Cider Gum series was chosen to go into an international virtual exhibition – hosted out of Great Britain – The Planet Recovery Project brings artists’ work from all over the world with the theme of saving the environment.
Click on the image to go to the exhibition. I suggest taking the guided tour – my work is about the sixth work in. It is a virtual gallery so you will need to experiment to see how things work if you have not been to a virtual gallery before.
Progress report April 2022
I was unable to get to the painting site for eight months last year due to a knee injury that precluded me from driving difficult roads. I have been back at it this year after successful surgery. Highlights in the last twelve months have been numerous overnight camping trips including an unscheduled night in the snow when I became bogged on my way home. Fortunately, I always carry emergency rations and camping equipment. I also do regular Live Facebook events from here- as I have reception. Follow me on Facebook and Instagram for access to these in the archives.
My use of the Hasselblad camera has been extended thanks to the kind generosity of the artist Jane Giblin. Many films have been exposed and processed – now to print them. My aim is to approach significant trees with an artistic eye- capturing their uniqueness in unique ways appropriate to the individual tree.
Progress report – May 2021
As of the end of April, I have started 5 Canvases and had my first overnight camp to work on my new super big canvas. This is destined for a prestigious landscape award here in Tasmania so I am unable to show you the work’s progress. See the video below for an introduction to it.
I am also documenting individual trees using my environmental photography process. A set of seven images made up of 90 plus individual images has already been entered in an international photography award. For my Art Photographic work go here.
My background in photography is in analogue black and white – In early May I took a number of rolls of film on a Hasselblad camera so expect to see some here and over on my Photography page soon.
Weather is certainly slowing the processes on the Central Plateau so I expect this project will take at least three years to complete. Good things are always distilled in struggle and time.
The Cider Gum Problem
The Cider Gum is facing extinction. Found only in the Central Plateau of Tasmania these trees need snow load to force out competition trees and to maintain root health. I also suspect that they have not been fire managed since 1826 when the Lairmairrennier, traditional custodians of the land were all but wiped out by the Colonial settlers in the land now called Tasmania. There are a few very old Cider Gums with evidence of burning in their trunks these are still relatively healthy. The old giants that have not been burnt are all rotting inside from wet rot. These are the ones dying and falling fastest. I suspect these are post 1826 trees.
Why are Cider Gums considered sacred?
For the Lairmairrennier Nation, the Cider Gum is their ancestral tree. Each tree is considered an individual of the clan. They were used as funerary trees as well as producing the famous cider drink. The cider gum was important as the different nations would gather on the central plateau for the cider festival; A time of trade, abundance, and celebration. The sap of the cider gum would flow freely when tapped similar to the Maple tree. This was collected in clay bowls built into the tree scars and fermented into a slightly alcoholic drink. This practice was continued by early colonizers – the drinking that is! They are white or snow gums. We classify them as eucalyptus gunnii and eucalyptus archeri. It is the gunnii that produces abundant cider.
The process of painting the Cider Gums
I estimate the project will take two to three years to complete. Weather and access are significant issues. Each painting is a combination of approximately ten layers of oil paint applied over ten painting sessions on location. The Gallery below shows the progress of the paintings, not their finished state. This page will also share access to various media clips of the painting in progress including commentary and insights of the artist.
Unusually the site enjoys good cell phone coverage. This is a live feed from the 17 January 2021. Visit and like my Facebook Business page: @artrussellmckane