Katherine Rooney: Travelling the Federal Highway
02 - 24 April 2016


Katherine Rooney is a traveller – regularly journeying from Sydney, north beyond the Hunter Valley, and south via the Federal Highway to Canberra .

The Federal Highway is a 72 km stretch of road, existing since 1931, roughly between Sydney and Canberra, travelling through the southern tablelands of NSW. It starts, or finishes, at its junction with the Hume Highway near Goulburn, and runs south west towards Canberra’s Northbourne Avenue and the Barton Highway. NSW meets the ACT on this road at Wollogorang where the poplars are.

It is this stretch of highway that is the subject matter for the majority of Katherine’s new paintings in this exhibition.

This road took Katherine Rooney through the small towns of Collector and Sutton, as well as skirting the western side of the Lake George Basin. The works in this exhibition document stops on this journey, recorded sometimes in postcard like vignettes and other times in larger paintings of sky, road, land and cows, a familiar terrain that is so much a part of everyone´s memories.

As a family traveling this road through to the Snowy Mountains in the 80´s, says Katherine Rooney, we listened to ´hooked on classics´ and golden oldies... the familiarity of memory..., experiencing the past,.. travelling this road. I listen to classical music because it evokes a familiar memory. I listen to talk-back because to me it´s the hum of chatter that I recall in our family car, the radio replaces my family, but the ´natter´ is still there.
Road sides... many roadside stops, I stop at re-fuel places, short whistle stops, get out and looking around, a nostalgia hits me... it´s good and yet it´s a sensitive good... comfort stops for us kids to buy smurfs from the BP and chocolate bars and donuts... especially donuts.

Road trips, and the associated songs, are so much a part of the Australian way of life as to be almost a rite of passage for Australian Youth. Travelling the Federal Highway is familiar to all east coast dwellers, if not to all Australians, and the works in this exhibition capture that familiarity.