A literary retelling of my visit to the art installation Empire by Rone exhibited at Burnham Beeches Mansion in the Sherbrooke Forest.Nicole Cullinan
Seville oranges, marmalade and ocean liners. This was how she woke up, with thoughts of a promising day, a day to go on a journey. It was to be the day she would visit Burnham Beeches, a three story streamline modern mansion in the Sherbrooke Forest; designed by architect Harry Nottle and completed in 1933. He told the owner Alfred Nicholas that it should be reminiscent of being on a cruise. She imagined it would be just like that and pondered the words of Rone on her way to the forest. “Empire Rone is about offering audiences the chance to create their own story; to temporarily transport their minds to another place, another time.”
She entered the mansion through the thick red velvet curtain that was reminiscent of a magician’s cloak. She had come for Rone. A street artist who had painted a series of twelve hauntingly beautiful portraits, inspired by the muse Lily Sullivan; a local actress. His work exquisite, exploring the materiality of life through the lens of feminine vulnerability.
And so, she found herself there amid the decadence and dusty decay, wondering just who she was, the girl in the portrait. She never looks at us. She clasped her hands for assurance, tilted her chin up, stared at the stippled mouldy ceiling; and then all the way down to her feet, toes nestled amongst the autumn leaves.
The enigmatic beauty enveloping her. She gazed upon the botanical arrangement with detached melancholy, then dragged her hand over the earth leaving a smudge of grey on her fingers. It did not linger like earth of the wet rich forest just outside the door.
She hears the forest calling her, the melodic sounds of nature entering her consciousness, each note carefully selected, pulling her like a tide, taking her past this moment in time, to enter a new space. It has been tiring to inhabit this place. She doesn’t know if she wants to stay or leave. The loneliness of these large rooms invades her sense of self. What is she thinking as she stares beyond these walls. She hears voices of a time gone by. “You need a spell”…
She roams the Empire Rone spaces to find a place for a spell; an old fashioned word for a rest. There is a moment waiting for her. A cup of tea by the window, the soft light caressing her face then dipping just below her eyes. The smell of citrus in the air, thoughts of marmalade and toast.
As her visit unfolds her mind drifts to a happy place. She is transported to the 1930s house in Menzies Creek, the home of her Great Grandmother. Everything seemed so big as she was so little. She remembers her fat bosom, the softness, the love. Climbing onto her lap to rest her head on the pillow. Learning the story of Marmalade. It all began with the Spaniards, their ship wreck, the abandoned Seville orange cargo and the woman who made a divine citrus jam from what appeared to be great misfortune. She felt buoyed by the idea that good could come from apparent disaster. It dawned on her in that moment that this was the lesson her Great Grandmother had intended. That she had taken decades to learn this was not a fact she wished to contemplate. It was time to return to the present.Menzies Creek 1981
With full lips slightly parted and the glimpse of two perfect teeth she invites her in for a dinner party. She contemplates whether to be satiated or sad. She regards the table with cautious optimism. She has always loved a well set table, the silverware, the champagne saucers, the oysters. Where will her memories take her?
The nostalgia of revisiting Carlton. Memories of a time when fish swam on tables and peasants collected truffles on the hillside in France. The theatre of that little room in Drummond Street with the world view. A meal she will never forget. A time when anything seemed possible. Where it all began. Her joy in finding the unique and special.Vue De Monde 2002
Alas, her time was coming to a close at Empire Rone. Her hand drawn to her cheek in quiet contemplation, something one does when trying to conceal or think. She appears calm despite the rising water and the possibility of being engulphed. The bow is tilting, the air smells of sea sickness; yet something seems to comfort her in this maudlin situation. She is not panicked; yet unable to save herself, her fate resting in the hands of others. Each of us unable to live in isolation. Her journey comes to an end.
It is time to leave Empire Rone. It has not been an ordinary day, but rather an extraordinary memorialisation of a time gone by. The stoic irony of her impending removal hangs in the air. The ephemeral beauty revealed in the decay, imperfection so pleasing to the aesthetic senses. She looks back one last time, she can see the mansion grounded in the middle of the forest, like a ship that gets waylaid on its journey. Listing at equilibrium, confident she is going to be rescued.
r-o-n-e Tyrone Wright (www.r-o-n-e.com) Artist
Shannon Bennett @chefbennett23 (www.vuedemonde.com.au) Owner
Carly Spooner (www.theestablishmentstudios.com.au) Interior Stylist
Wona Bae and Charlie Lawler (www.looseleaf.studio) Botanical Artist
Nick Batterham (www.nickbatterham.com) Music
Kat Snowden (www.cleanslateskincare.com) Scent