When I contact artists and ask to photograph them, the answers vary from bewilderment, ‘Me? Why?’, to the enthusiastic, ‘Yes! I’d love to!’ – somewhere in between though, was the reply I received from artist India Flint, known to many as the Prophet of Bloom. “If you’re up for an adventure, meet me at the Mt Pleasant Post Office. I’ll be there in a white Hilux with a Koolie in the back.” Yes! But what the hell is a Koolie? Who is this mysterious woman? What sort of adventure does she mean? I google Mt Pleasant, South Australia – Population 593. A bit of a hike, but it turns out it’s one of those fantastic scenic drives that make me wish I was a passenger, offering combinations of rolling hills, cute little towns and bursts of every kind of green.At 14, when everybody else was trying to secure meaningful employment at Woolies, Flint was busy working and soaking up all things botanical in a plant nursery in the Piccadilly Valley, outside Adelaide. Her fascination with plant-life was fuelled by her father, a professor of meterology and committed tree-planter. The 500 acres she lives on now grows trees she planted twenty years ago with him and have become a living reminder of him. She has gone on to be a leading force in botanical alchemy, writing many books on the topic, ‘dyeing for a living’ and being in constant demand to share her knowledge, skills and unique perspective from Scotland to the USA and occasionally, in Australia. Her work stretches across media but always comes back to ‘place’, both literally and philosophically. So, it was a wonderful privilege to be able to be at a meaningful and botanically abundant area at the northern end of the Mt Lofty Ranges region by the Reedy Creek with her for a day.
Yes, there was a white Hilux (this is the bush after all) and yes, there was a Koolie, who turned out to be a dog named Kubbi. Once I had the lick of approval, I managed to be temporarily elevated to the front passenger seat with a thermos and some home baked goodies in a basket at my feet. My kind of adventure! Flint sees beauty in all, nothing escapes her observant eye – on that day, we found it not only in the natural environment, but on the black lines left in paddocks by sheep walking behind one another, the path’s relationships to the fence lines, graffiti on lonely roadside rocks as well as ancient geological layers – all drawn together by the simplicity of mark making and the beautiful impact a line can make on any surface at any scale.
She says, ‘ I negotiate a path between installation, printing, painting, drawing, writing and sculpture – immersing myself in and paying deep attention to the environment, gathering thought and experience, imagery and marks, as well as harvesting materials for making; trying to step lightly on the land while being nourished by it. The work of each day, philosophically rooted in topophilia (the love of place) literally begins with a walk’.