Moonlighting in Moffatt
The introduction in the Catalogue, MOONLIGHTING IN MOFFATT, Works on paper by Karen Knight-Mudie, an Exhibition at The Toowoomba Regional Art Gallery, November 19, 1997 - January 4, 1998, outlines:
Creating The Context:
Throughout time myths and legends have conveyed profound truths about superhuman and human existence involving deities and ordinary human beings placed in an extraordinary setting. While myths in general deal with the immortal world, legends evolve from stories of everyday human exploits that grow taller in every telling, blending reality with figments of the imagination until the legend takes its place in the folklore of a community. Such has happened with the stories of Ned Kelly and his gang, Captain Thunderbolt and Yellow Long, and even the mighty horse, Phar lap.
As Australians we have inherited many of our stories and beliefs from older cultures. We have mingled myths with larrikins, punters, mates, duffers and bushrangers in a 'swag' of stories in which the size, the loneliness, and the tremendous distances of the Australian outback have made our creative remembrances hotter, colder, dustier and more devastating than reality could ever be. Inspiration for our visual, oral and written national identity has come from the music-halls, convict ballads and campfire yarns that have allowed us to experience a living tradition that moves from past to present as ways of telling change with new technology.
Karen Knight-Mudie paints 'stories' of the Australian landscape with the earth, rocks and water assuming the main characters, while the people and places are evoked through references and allusions. Karen has made field trips to Kakaku, the Flinders Ranges, Moreton Island, Port Arthur, Carnarvon Gorge and the Jondaryan Woolshed, where glimpses of Australia's soul has been captured in each series. The lore of the land whispers through layer upon layer of watercolour as a site for legends to be born, and, at the beginning of this series, the story of Pat and Jimmy Kenniff trickles into the Moffatt images until it became the torrent.
"Moonlighting in Moffatt" is a product of many field trips, many stories, and much research that opened new directions for the images to move beyond the land, across creekbeds and campsites to the court records and to the computer.
A few words from Karen
It was by camping in Mt Moffatt National Park that I got a sense of the hidden places where the brothers, Patrick and James Kenniff, had made their own camps and concealed the odd cow or two. Caves and gullies offered ideal holding grounds for beasts 'borrowed' from neighbouring properties; ideal shelters where brands could be rearranged and where 'moonlighting', 'poddy-dodging', 'duffing' and finally murder took place. A prolonged court hearing resulted in a first for Queensland - a death sentence for Patrick Kenniff who was hanged at 8am, Monday January12, 1903.
Mt Moffatt was indeed a wilderness that made me feel like a tiny pebble rolling along tracks that took me back in history. It was in the 1890s that the brothers and their uncle secured a useless block of land, 'Borer Block', in the Augathella district and registered their brand, U lateral K 6. They were ready for business. Their small block was surrounded by several big cattle stations.
As you look through the images I hope you get a sense of Mt Moffatt. The Ranger was away when I first camped in the park so I was alone in a very big place. My presence however, was recorded as I had gained permission and also had alerted the neighbours at 'Womblebank' before entering the park. The second time I visited the park I was invited to stay in 'The Barracks', self contained quarters a short walk from the Ranger's home, and thus I settled in for days of driving and walking to actual sites where 'duffing' had taken place and finally murder at 'Cremation Rock' in the creek bed at 'Lethbridge's Pocket'. My visits took me to key properties such as 'Forest Vale', 'Womblebank', 'Merivale', 'Westgrove', 'Crystalbrook', 'Cooper Murra' and 'Normanby' where real outback hospitality surpassed any stories I had heard. Lasting friendships were made at 'Ardrossan', and Mt Moffatt holds a very special place in my head and heart. Karen