Abstract Yellow Box Gum Tree (Eucalyptus melliodora) Rubbings - Mullion Park, Canberra

Four kilometres from the Gungahlin Town Centre, Mullion Park marks the former north-eastern edge of Wells Station in Canberra, Australia. A network of embedded ceramic tiles inlaid with barbed wire impressions signals the path of the now-demolished fence line of the station's perimeter. Yellow Box eucalyptus trees (Eucalyptus melliodora) that grew along the paddock boundary remain as prodigious sentinels to the suburban park today.

Abstract black charcoal markings mark a white canvas, the manifestations of taking rubbings from a Yellow Box gum tree. Photograph and work by Megan Kennedy.

Frottage (French for "rubbing") involves obtaining impressions from a textural material by marking paper spread over a surface with a drawing medium. Depending on technique and subject, the method is often used to make a compelling translation of the façade below. However, it wasn't the exact reproduction of a surface that drew me to this approach. The uneven exterior of the Yellow Box body is a manifestation of history, a body far more difficult to arrest in exact rubbings By documenting the abstract corrugations of trees like these, an anomalous visual transaction can be made, reflecting the fundamental signature of trees that respond so profoundly to the surrounding environment, and my own expressive and imperfect interactions with them.

A black and white photograph of a Yellow Box gum (Eucalyptus Melliodora)  tree in Canberra, Australia. Photograph taken by Megan Kennedy.

A black and white photograph of a Yellow Box gum tree in Canberra, Australia. Photograph taken by Megan Kennedy.

Tearing blank A3, 110 gsm sheets from an old spiral-bound visual diary and rolling them carefully into a reusable grocery bag of art supplies, I set off for the park, arriving mid-morning. The promise of rain made me hurry. I leaned my canvas against the trunk of the largest Yellow Box - the rough ridges of bark puckering the paper. Working quickly, I alternated between using my left and right hand. I spent perhaps 45 seconds on each individual print, the raised topography of the rhytidome met the charcoal nub, creating abstracted renderings that fluctuate with the protective outer layers of the tree and my own hurried gestures. It occurred to me that my subject, medium and canvas were all arboreal.

Abstract black charcoal markings mark a white canvas, the manifestations of taking rubbings from a gum tree. Photograph and work by Megan Kennedy.
Abstract black charcoal markings mark a white canvas, the manifestations of taking rubbings from a gum tree. Photograph and work by Megan Kennedy.
Abstract black charcoal markings mark a white canvas, the manifestations of taking rubbings from a gum tree in Canberra. Photograph and work by Megan Kennedy.