Projects: The Summing Up

Now that I am seventy nine, with a Grade IV cancer diagnosis at the end of 2019, I don’t have the energy or the impulse I once had. Most things of any note are done in middle years, when I wrote most of my books (and a number of my later works have been posted for free downloading on this Website).

My on-going projects in retirement had been my writing, my painting, and my Hanging Garden of Crows Nest (front and back). When my Anthology (2002) was conspicuously ignored by the Literati, I switched my attention more from poetry to painting. Freed from economic pressures I was able to paint essentially what I wanted, and had loved this experience.

Writing:  With the advent of ‘desktop publishing’, eBooks and iPads, the future of the printed book came under much more serious review. As a general rule I had not liked to talk too much about projects I was currently working on, so as not to jinx the process (for things most talked about are often lost).

Yet despite diverting the bulk of my attention over to painting I still managed to bring out a substantial number of books in my retirement, between 2003 and 2022 inclusive, being: Poetry of Place, The Melancholy Dane, My Brother Jim, New Selected Poems, (second edition of) The Mullumbimby Kid, New Collected Poems, Oliver Bainbridge – Lord Nelson’s Great Grandson?, Mullumbimby Dreaming, Stardust Painter-Poet (I), Lord Nelson, Uncle Oliver and I, Synthesis, Long-Distance Poet, Stardust Painter-Poet II, Family History: Old Friends, Rich Relations, and Long-Distance Poet II.

In 2018, conscious of declining heath after contracting pneumonia in France (2017), my ‘Creative Journals’ (and more of my manuscripts) were accepted by the State Library of New South Wales.

With my poetry still being essentially ignored by the Literati, in 2019 I published a very limited edition of my third book of Poetic Memoirs, Long-Distance Poet: a Portrait of the Poet as an Old Fart, for future scholars who may like to study the Australian Poetry Wars and Gender Wars of the late twentieth century, with an exceeding limited edition (of ten) copies of an upgraded version (in 2022), and an electronic format (with index, to be posted for free downloading on my Website).

In 2020, on receiving my cancer diagnosis, I upgraded my 2015 ‘Stardust Art Catalogue’, Stardust Painter-Poet II  (with significant new paintings since 2015), and published my family history, Family Tree: Old Friends, Rich Relations (of 52 years of gestation). Both these books have been posted for free downloading on this Website.

At the end of 2021 my Poet’s Tree at East Wardell was officially recognised as Ballina Shire’s Poet’s Tree.

Painting:  In the first week of my retirement (2003) I had enrolled in art classes at the Royal Art Society of New South Wales, becoming an Exhibition Member c. 2008.

My first breakthrough was winning the 2010 Medal of Distinction at the RAS  Spring Exhibition, followed by a joint painting exhibition (with Bruce Herps) at Artarmon Galleries (July/August 2011).

My Mullumbimby-themed painting exhibition at the Tweed River Gallery (Murwillumbah), entitled ‘Edwin Wilson: The Mullumbimby Kid’, ran from August to October 2014, with big visitation (who mostly came to see the Margaret Olley Installation at the same Gallery). This exhibition helped consolidate my reputation (as both a painter and a poet) in my Heartland.

Following on from the publication of Stardust Painter-Poet (I) I was elected as an Associate of the Royal Art Society, with an April 2016 exhibition at their Lavender Bay Gallery, North Sydney, opened by John McDonald, Art Critic, with a favourable joint review (with Bill Yaxley) in the Sydney Morning Herald.

In 2018 my landscape ‘Boogarem Falls’, was hung in the Salon Des Refuses, and at the end of that same year (2018) I was elected a Fellow of the Royal Art Society.

On Australia Day, 2020, I was listed for an Order of Australia medal (OAM), for ‘services to the visual arts and the community’ (having built up the Division of Community Relations at the Royal Botanic Gardens Sydney from scratch, from the time of my appointment there in 1980, with a number of professional (Gardens) publications, and a then total of 30 books published (since 1982)), with a later Investiture at New South Wales Government House. To help raise my poetic profile I had also gone on Hard Quiz (as a Poet and Painter, with the special topic of  ‘Australian Native Epiphytic Orchids’), that went to air on Wednesday 18 November 2020 (and came home with the Big Brass Mug).

In February/March of 2021 I had a Swansong Solo Exhibition, ‘Mullumbimby Revisited’ at Artarmon Galleries (prior to their retirement), so managed to squeeze in at the tail end of their impressive list of Australian artists. This exhibition, opened and reviewed by John McDonald (Sydney Morning Herald, 6 March 2021), was a highlight of my life, and both a critical and a financial success (with 20 paintings sold). A hard act to follow.

To try to manage a soft landing from this considerable ‘high’, I have embarked on the dotting of some abandoned paintings, to give me something to to ‘lose myself in’, maintained until May 2022.

Gardening:  My ‘Hanging Garden of Crows Nest’ was small enough so as not to be a chore, a place of reflection and of beauty, in which to observe nature ‘red of tooth and claw’. In recent years I had planted a number of different-coloured farangipanis, to serve as hosts for epiphytes, while cultivating a smaller orchid collection (including some of our Latouria hybrids) in the back yard. Phil Spence named one of our dendrobium hybrids after me (registered Royal Horticultural Society at the end of 2014), Grex name Dendrobium Edwin Wilson.

During the 2020 lock-down Cheryl ‘discovered’ gardening, as the heavy-lifting was getting too much for me, and we won runner-up (Front Garden Category) in the 2020 North Sydney Gardening Competition.

With the garden getting too much for me I progressively gave away all my best orchids, and replanted (summer 2021) my remaining dendrobium hybrids into rockeries in the front garden, for ease of maintenance.

Following my referral to Palliative Care (home treatment, June 2022), I am having to adjust to seriously decreased mobility, but know I have had a gifted life (given my farm-boy origins) , and have managed to tie up a number of unfinished projects.