well here it is folks. the beginning of it all. the little adventure that set me off on this very special journey, which subsequently lead me to taking you all with me. and it started on this road. and with these sheep...
Where are we? In a dry dusty deadbeat country town called Bathurst, in New South Wales. Ha, I am only joking with you Aussies in the know out there! I am exaggerating of course, it's my Hollywood voice (I didn't know I had one but apparently in this post I do).
Bathurst is actually a flourishing, rich soiled country town, full of cool people, cool shops and awesome restaurants. But compared to the Sydney beaches where I come from, Bathurst is dry and isolated, so lets just go with that for the sake of my story. Anyhow, this is perhaps not where you expected the inspiration for My Heart Wanders to begin. But that's how the good things happen: In the subtlest of ways, and in the most unsuspecting of places.
I was on a mission on this day back in '03. My friend and artist idol, Greg Hyde, had agreed for me to come and shoot his incredible property. Getting up at the crack of dawn I drove the 3 & 1/2 hours to his country home, located in a part of Bathurst called Sunny Corner. Once I had turned onto the long winding driveway, passed his picture-perfect sheep and entered into the main courtyard, I felt something. Somehow, something had whispered to me that I was somewhere very very special.
Greg's entire home has been made from things he found and salvaged from torn down homes and boutiques, and the rest he made with his bare hands; forming, drying, and stacking individual mudbricks. Greg and his lovely wife Trish completed the project about 20 years ago. There is also a large studio, small gallery, and pristine croquet lawn on the estate.
The main house features an old, country style kitchen with a long rustic table that seats more than ten people. This is the centre of the home, the welcoming area for guests who pop in for a cup of tea and a chat. A number of doors surrounding this area lead into other areas of the home: off to the right is a formal dining and music room, filled with artworks, books, a piano and dining table. All rooms lead to the outdoors with floor to ceiling antique French doors. These rooms are richly decorated with heavy fabrics and oil paintings in vibrant reds, oranges and black. Continuing down the hall is a gorgeous bathroom complete with a ‘vacancy and occupied’ doorknob, antique shower head and vanity mirror. Further down the hall is the greenhouse, complete with Vincent's Yellow House which Greg decided was essential to create for this light filled space. Another one of his personal inspiration corners, no doubt.
Going left from the bathroom is the family quarters – 2 rooms featuring white painted mud bricks and wooden window frames. These rooms are cool and calming, with views out over the valley. Above these rooms is the main bedroom with a breakfast balcony that looks out over the clothes line and onto the property and surrounding paddocks.
Every corner of the property lures the eye with some creation. And upon walking back down the stairs from the main bedroom I spotted something I did not notice on my ascent – did I see correctly? A lace curtain had a distinct rip in the left corner. The rip was in the shape of a heart, and the afternoon sun was shining right through it. I took a photograph and stood there for some time, gazing at this piece. And all of a sudden I felt my heart wander - right through this heart shaped hole and out the window. I couldn’t help but smile deeply. Something had been awoken in me, and it would be a few years later before I found the meaning of this intimate moment.
Something else that caught my eye was a line of artworks with the last one an unmistakable portrait of one of Australia’s most-loved figures – Mr. Squiggle. Fashioned by Abigail Hyde, Greg’s eldest daughter, this gorgeous artwork was featured in a Sydney Gallery and at the opening Mr. Squiggle himself attended the event. He was so taken by the portrait that he immediately offered to purchase the work. Greg advised his daughter not to sell, and so the work sits in this humble home and seems like it could not fit more perfectly anywhere else.
The barn is home to the studio, artist’s library, framing workshop and gallery. Ink bottles form an artwork in themselves, with a backdrop of the croquet lawn. Oh how I felt like a game, but time was of the essence! I only had the day to shoot and interview Greg, and it was already late and I had to drive home.
Greg let me do whatever I wanted that day, I was free to play in his house and home, to wander through his private studio and gaze up at his scribblings and unfinished works, to sip tea with him and talk deeply of what we'd each learnt in this life. I felt silly telling him my wisdoms, I was just 25, but still he listened intently to what I had to say, and took it all in as if he was listening to the Dalai Lama. At 6pm I had to pull myself away from this magical place, but not before I had a chance to create a little still life set of my own with Greg's retro table and chairs that I found in the old workshed...
Before I drove away I saw this, dangling from a tree branch. Was it my heart, caught on a eucalyptus branch, swaying and glistening in the afternoon light?
I left that place with so much inspiration. The artist in me that had been suppressed for so long had finally found it's escape - right through that torn lace curtain and into the big wide world. I realised a piece of my little wandering heart had indeed remained on this magnificent property, and remains there still. But in the years to come I would realise that my heart had always been a roamer, and had left a little trail all over the world, from the time I was born on that big island down under, to all the places I have lived and loved in this world.
And it's a wonderful thing, this wandering heart.
Because it led me straight to you.
All images and words by Pia Jane Bijkerk.
Home courtesy of Greg Hyde. To view and purchase his incredible work,click here. If you are in Bathurst you can check out his home gallery, just give him a call. Or visit this gallery in Bowral which will be holding an exhibition of his work from this Friday June 6, for a month.
Extra notes: All images were shot on my trusty Canon AE-1 - oh i do miss film. And are you wondering why I didn't take photos of the interior? Well I did! But all the shots are on film and some were not transferred into digital files so all the negatives sit patiently for me in a box in Sydney. One day I will be able to show you the rest of Greg's beautiful home. So there will be a Part 2 to this story sometime in the near future.
extra extra note: this post needs a soundtrack i have decided, and this is it. enjoy.