Stanley with Monsters

Stanley is already unearthly if not haunted. The first night I was there, I walked around in the Georgian moonlight thinking I should’ve brought my horse riding cape and a 3 pointed hat. With this distorted sense of “what timeline am I in?”, things get even stranger when you realise there are two watchers in the landscape looking down at you:

  • First, The Nut. A sheer volcanic plug rising 143 m above the town. It emanates the presence of an ancient creature.
  • Secondly there is Highfield, the old HQ of the Van Diemans Land Company, with its not-so-great reputation of dealing with the “indigenous problem”, from 1825.

These elements definitely layer and influence one’s experience of the place: The powerful landscape and the disturbing history of colonisation. This creates a dissonance because these elements do not fit neatly into a linear pre-fab box (and never will I suspect). This inability for me to reconcile and process these contradictions, is what creates a sense of disturbance and therefore ‘haunting’.

This is the very first drawing where the “skyworm of climate change”, with its spiky maw, descends upon a very loose interpretation of St James Presbyterian church, Fletcher St.

These are the monsters we are making, invading Stanley and most assuredly , coming to a town near you…

‘These are the monsters we are making, Fletcher St, Stanley, Australia’ /sepia ink on paper /20 x 20cm/ 2022

Just Right for Monsters

These alien things that appear from behind hills, breaching the skyline, sometimes attacking towns or cars, are manifestations of our collective actions. These monsters are metaphors for the climate we’ve been persistently changing, as predicted by scientists for such a long time. ‘The weather’ used to be ‘just the weather’. It was just nature doing its thing, in the background or over there, like a machine outside of the body, seperate and impersonal, not really alive.

Now the everyday evidence is before us. The weather is no longer the weather. It has become personal. And it’s dangerous and its demanding attention and it is imbued with character and being-ness just like a living thing!

I think we can all agree that when monsters show up, things are clearly out of balance

This is such a big change in human perception but it is actually going to be good for us, at least in the long run. It insists Western thinking give Nature a ‘sentient upgrade’. It’s where our thinking used to be, rooted in the animism of our ancestors. Nature is no longer below us, no longer a ‘thing’.Indeed it could be a someone:

I can no longer see the weather, indeed the world, as ‘outside’ of me. That means my actions must affect things, that I have a hand in it. Indeed we are all collectively the creators here, with our hands in it, stirring things up, making the conditions just right for monsters. 

The meaning of monster most likely comes from the latin word monstrare, ‘ to demonstrate’ and monere, ‘to warn’. I think we can all agree that when monsters show up, its a warning, that things are clearly out of balance. 

Devastating an Australian town near you…

Stephen Fearnley

Cloud Farm Studios, 2022

‘Not Such A Good Day For A Drive , Stanley, Australia’ / Ink on paper /A3/ 2022