I asked Andy Singh, President of the NSW River Canoe Club, the oldest kayak club in NSW to say a few words at the opening of my new exhibition, "Nature in Surrealism" at the Intercontinental Hotel Gallery, Sydney. The audience response to his short speech was so powerful and positive I asked Andy if I might share it in full. Here it is ...
Imagine an icy drop of spring melt falling into the headwater creeks of the Kosciusko. Trickles join together to become Friday’s Flat Creek, then the Thredbo river cascading down the river valley before forming the dams of the Snowy scheme. A long rest behind the dam wall before tumbling over the slipway as the Snowy river runs its long, winding journey to the sea. Gravity gives way to currents and tides, drawing out and down to the deeper offshore water where the eastern Australian current turns southward, down the Victorian coast and eventually finding refuge in Bass Strait. Here whirlpools of currents cycle round and round until a slingshot swings around the west Tasmanian coast and flings our well-travelled droplets towards the frigid southern oceans.
We learn from an early age to be bound politically and emotionally to the land, to the brown mass on the globe. Somehow we ignore those beautiful blue ribbons running through, over and around our continents, somehow we ignore this dynamic mass of energy connecting us all.
Across this continuous connected current of water, our club’s kayakers skim the surface of creeks, rivers, harbors and oceans. We paddle in canoes, river boats, and sea kayaks.
But the continuity of this water does not mean consistency – each riffle, ripple, rapid, wave, current and tide challenges us to be alert, to read its switchblade intent, to move with its power and ultimately respect its authority.
We remember, always beneath our passage, an unforgiving anger resides, ready to strike at the first complacency with its deathly hand and pull us to our demise.
Our safe passage across water's ever-changing surface is a ride of uncertainty. It requires the acceptance, both physically and mentally, of being part of something bigger than ourselves. We learn to be humble, to be respectful and to be tolerant of others.
We learn, while we are never in command of the sea, we can still befriend its currents, its tides and its waves, we can listen to its hints of dangers and storms ahead. We can, through connection, application and resilience, make progress. We can survive.
We are a club, a community.
I know Ralph spends many mornings by himself on the harbor with his camera, but he is never alone. He paddles in a community, eighty three years old. He paddles in spirit with our club patron, the ninety five year old Basil, still spring enough to drive out and see Ralph on a beginners white water weekend. He paddles in spirit with five year old Amelia, sitting in the middle of her parents' canoe as they reach Gundagai on the Murrumbidgee river, a journey Ralph has also made with me.
Ralph paddles in the same community as Nicole, Kevin and Rick when they cross Bass Strait and find club members waiting for them in Tasmania to take them home.
Ultimately we paddle these water alone, but we find ourselves stronger, smarter and braver because we paddle in a community.
Í congratulate Ralph on his work here. In his sensitive flow of texture and colour, I am on the ocean again, wind in my face, wave on my side, seeing the world in slow motion, seeing time create understanding, opportunity and hope, for a better world.
Personally, I have suffered from the elements of PTSD. Within my family there is depression and anorexia. Within my workplace, there is stoic suppression, and suicide. I can’t rewind time back thirty years when depressions’ cold hand reached out and took my friend Peter, in all his youth from us.
I can't turn back the clock, to give Peter the opportunity to grow a little older through the lessons we know today.
I thank Ralph for his long and varied efforts in raising money and awareness for mental health, for kayaking and for our club.
I thank Ralph for capturing in the brief moment of his camera lens, the vision of a better world.