YOORUN MAGIC: rock, rainbow and the silver river - Michael Gormly

Exhibited at Kerrie Lowe Gallery, Newtown Sydney, 21 June - 9 July 2013

A butterfly created by reflections in the Turon River
Above: Butterfly, one of the many animal shapes created by rock reflections in Turon River waterholes. black pixel


"Symmetry – one of nature's 'favourite' manifestations. "

- Paul Davies, The Mind of God

This series comprises photos taken over five years on the Turon River near Sofala, typically showing symmetrical patterns created by rock reflected in water. Some reveal striking connections with the rare surviving art of the original Wiradjuri people - the Yoorun - who lived in the region before Australia's first gold rush in 1851 drove them away. These images are a speculative attempt to reveal secret magic in this vivid landscape, enabling a deeper 'connection with country' and demonstrating the power of this foundation of Aboriginal culture and cosmology.

The symmetry of bedrock reflected in water creates animals, faces, fantastic creatures and patterns that may have influenced Yoorun art and spiritual belief. Many of these images create illusion simply by rotating them 90 degrees - to the point of view of someone lying on the riverbank.

Arborglyphs and 'geoglyphs'

The two top images on the right are traditional tree carvings (Also known as arborglyphs or dendroglyphs) from the Central West area, held by the State Library of NSW.

The two lower images are from my Turon River photo series and closely resemble the chevron and ripple patters seen in the tree carvings. The photographer has coined the term ‘geoglyphs’ for the rock reflection images.

On this page is a small selection from the many images in this body of work.

Wiradjuri tree carving comparison with river patterns

Geoglyph 05

Geoglyph 16 - Scary Bird. A surprising number of pretty scary fantasy creatures manifest in these geoglyphs. Could some of these have made their way into local lore as 'bogeyman' figures?

The Crucible

Crucible - A blazing campfire, the Silver River and a rock hosting lichen together make a vivid metaphor for the origin of life in the cosmos. The Milky Way is known throughout South East Asia as ‘The Silver River’ and is reflected in rivers below, both physically and in myths. The Wiradjuri word for Milky Way is ‘Bila-bang’, also the origin of ‘billabong’ which is itself a section of river. Aboriginal astrology and astronomy play a central part in the legends and myths of their Dreaming. Here, a striking kangaroo-shaped constellation is visible to the right of the flames, about level with the lower edge of the rock-planet. In an area richly populated by these animals, such a manifestation quite possibly had deep significance.

fish geoglyph by Michael Gormly
Geoglyph - fish.

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