Cape York series

In 2009 Phil traveled to Cape York. Phil's nephew Alex, his friend Ben, and Ben's father rode dirt bikes from Cairns to the Cape and return. Phil's brother, Malcolm, drove the 4WD back-up vehicle with camper trailer. Phil was invited to accompany them, and become both resident artist and camp cook.

This was a unique opportunity to see parts of Australia with diverse vegetation and landforms. After painting various types of NSW rainforest, it was a chance to visit some of the largest areas of Australian tropical rainforest. But what surprised Phil during the trip were the rivers. The long drive north of Mareeba through tropical savannah was punctuated by a number of large rivers; the Archer, the Wenlock, and most impressive of all the Jardine which had to be crossed by ferry.

Jardine River National Park

The Jardine River National Park is located about 900km north of Cairns on the Cape York Peninsula.

Tributaries of the Jardine River, the Eliot and Canal creeks have several notable waterfalls. The near horizontal strata of massive sandstone bedrock has been lateritised, that is strongly weathered to concentrate iron and aluminium oxides. These waterfalls are step-like drops from one layer of flat weathered rock to a fresher lower surface.

The essential dramatic transition of any waterfall and the unique features of the site are captured in the three linked panels of the Fruit Bat Falls Trilogy:

Above the falls the Eliot Creek is broad and shallow flowing over flat weathered rock, as seen in Fruit Bat Falls Trilogy: 3, the creek's shallowness means the bright reds and ochres of the lateritised bedrock are visible. At the falls there is an abrupt discontinuity where the flat bedrock strata has been eroded, this is captured in Fruit Bat Falls Trilogy: 2. Fruit Bat Falls Trilogy: 1 depicts the area below the falls, where the creek is in a deeper, and narrower channel emphasises the clarity of the water.

Phil has layered multiple sheets of MDF in this trilogy to emphasis the discontinuity of the falls.

Down creek from Fruit Bat Falls is Twin Falls, these falls occur at the junction of the Canal and Eliot creeks. Only the Eliot Creek falls is depicted in Twin Falls - Eliot River:

Again the focus of this painting is the discontinuity of the falls and the transformation of the water.

The main attraction for many travellers on their way to Cape York is to traverse the old Overland Telegraph Line track with its many perilous water crossings:

OTL Creek Crossing depicts one of these fords that caused some trauma for the three dirk bike riders in the group. Ben Hickey took the image upon which this painting is based.

Kutini-Payamu (Iron Range) National Park

Kutini-Payamu (Iron Range) National Park near Lockhart River is one of major reserves of tropical rainforest in Australia. Phil spent a day there exploring, seeing some distinct differences between this tropical rainforest and the NSW sub tropical rainforests.

The tropical rainforests were far more dynamic and chaotic. In the tropics the growth is more prolific but there is also more disturbances via cyclones and storms, so what results is a true "jungle". Access is very difficult and once within the rainforest viewpoints and perspective are very limited. The light contrast is also severe due to the tropical sun angle. This meant that the main viewpoints were adjacent to watercourses. Two of these scenes are shown in Iron Range Rainforest 1 and Iron Range Rainforest 2:

Rinyirru (Lakefield) National Park

On the return trip from the Cape, the group stayed two nights at Kalpower Crossing in the Rinyirru (Lakefield) National Park. The site on yet another impressive tropical river; the Normanby, which flows north into Princess Charlotte Bay. Kalpower Crossing shows this river bed:

It was here that Phil realised how seasonal these North Queensland river were. During the wet, rivers like the Normanby swell massively and became powerful torrents. Huge old Melaleuca trees at Kalpower Crossing had been deformed to grow in a downstream direction often with their trunks parallel to the ground.

Cairns Botanic Gardens

Another surprising encounter with tropical rainforest was found at the end of the trip in the Cairns Botanic Gardens. A young tree bole was entangled by lianas producing a sinuous sculpture Jungle Tango:

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