Articles, Blog

The Outback Artist – The Incredible Journey

February 14, 2020

“Australia you are very beautiful”
that was the astonished reaction of NASA astronaut Scott Kelly as he soared 400
kilometres above the nation’s red centre recently aboard the International Space Station. Commander Kelly posted back several
photos to twitter of the outback from space as he marvelled at Australia’s
beauty. Yes the outback certainly does look good from space, but not nearly as
spectacular as it does when you’re right down here in it with your boots covered
in red dust. The Australian outback is a place of unique beauty, its vast open
spaces, its landscapes, monumental backdrops, the natural wonders and the
vibrancy of the colours that stretch from one horizon to the other have attracted
and inspired explorers, cattlemen, miners, farmers, filmmakers, poets and
storytellers. But one group more than any other have truly been able to capture
the very spirit and essence of the outback, artists. Many Australian artists
have fallen in love with the dust of the outback; Sydney Nolan, Pro Hart, Fred
Williams, Albert Namatjira and others have found international fame for their
paintings that capture the unique beauty of the wide open spaces found only in
the outback of Australia. This is a landscape that draws artists deep into
the interior, capturing their hearts and feeding their passion to create with
epic scope, vibrant colours and the shimmer of heat on the horizon. Today
we’re going to follow the footsteps of an amazing and talented artist who had a
dramatic life-changing experience that gave him a totally new perspective and
added a new dimension to his life and his outback paintings. You won’t want to
miss his story because it could provide a new perspective and dimension to your
life too. Australia is big, very big, we all know
that it takes three days to cross Australia by train and five hours by
plane but you don’t really appreciate just how big it is until you get into
the outback. The outback is enormous, it covers about three million square
kilometres, now to put that into perspective, the outback is as big as
India, this vast interior of Australia is the world’s biggest desert after the
Sahara in Africa, the Outback is not only vast it’s a place of exceptional beauty
and wonder, it’s also harsh and wild, some people refer to it as the remote places
beyond the bush, to others it’s known as the back of beyond or the never never,
the land of never-ending landscapes. Others measure it by annual rainfall, 30
millimetres or less. Australia’s desert landscapes have inspired and helped
define Australia’s identity and the outback has long inspired the
imagination of artists drawn in by its vast emptiness, the vivid colours of the
land and the big open skies. One of those artists was Frank Pash, he possessed a
unique gift that enabled him to use his palette and brush to bridge the gap
between the city and the outback, but what is the purpose of this art? Well in
considering this question perhaps Pablo Picasso answered best, “The purpose of art
is washing the dust of daily life of our souls.” And that was certainly true of
Frank’s art, it lifts its viewers to another plane and takes them to another
dimension. This is Lake Jualbup in the Perth suburb of Subiaco in
Western Australia, the lake is a peaceful place in a city famous for long hot dry
and dusty summers. The water here is a haven for the local community and the
local birds. Many types of birds, including the famous West Australian
Black Swan, can be found around the lake and if you look carefully you can also
find some turtles. This peaceful suburban park features in a painting by Frank
Pash that is part of the art collection of the West Australian Parliament. The
state parliament art collection has two Frank Pash paintings that focus on
nature and the outback, the second is a painting of a rock formation in the
Sandstone Shire of Western Australia called London Bridge. Like many other
artists, Frank Pash was captivated by the unique colours and landforms of the
Australian outback. Pash’s paintings are so well regarded that they feature in
the National Gallery and Australian embassies all over the world and many are
part of private collections scattered right across Australia and beyond. [Karen] His big passion was painting. He painted every day of his life from when he was
about 5 years of age, he’d never had a hand that didn’t have a brush in it or a
pencil, dad loved the outback, he loved the colours, the people, the scenery. He was
in heaven when he was out in the bush and any opportunity he had he would
start planning and off he would go. He stopped often at stations where he
painted portraits of the occupants, he painted gorges, he came back with the
most beautiful paintings and he had a clientele for them. [Gary] Frank Pash was born in 1920
in South Australia. While he was still young his
parents moved to England and Frank went to school in Leeds. At age 11 he won a
scholarship to Leeds College of Arts, he then won a second scholarship to an art
school in London, but this was interrupted by the outbreak of the
Second World War. Frank enlisted and served in Burma,
continuing to sketch and paint during his war service. After the war Frank
married and in 1965 he returned home to live in Western Australia, his passion
for painting was fed by the beauty of the Australian outback, he travelled
widely, visiting outback stations, national parks and indigenous
communities. Frank was an outdoor man and wild at heart, he had no religious
convictions and no interest in spiritual matters,
he enjoyed drinking and gambling and nothing else seemed to matter except his
outback paintings, that was his passion. But there was one exception to this, he
had a beautiful teenage daughter, Karen was his pride and joy
and Frank loved her dearly. [Karen] One night I was involved in a terrible car
accident, I went through the windscreen and the rear-vision mirror impacted on my eyes
and my eyelids were shredded and there were shards of glass in my eye and I was
whisked to hospital and the doctors didn’t know whether I would see again or
whether I’d lost my sight. My parents were notified that I’d had an accident
and they rushed like crazy to the hospital,
the surgeon very wisely asked them to sit down and advise them
that no one would know as to whether I would see again and I was to be kept
sedated for at least a week, when the bandages would have been removed and
then they would get their answer and my father said ‘What what can we do?’ and the
surgeon said ‘the best advice that I can give you Mr Pash is that you go home
and you pray that your daughter will see again’. [Gary] Those words cut like slivers of
glass into Frank’s own heart, he wasn’t a man of prayer, but now his young girl, the
love of his life, lay in a hospital bed swathed in bandages and heavily sedated.
What should he do? The following days were the worst that Frank had ever
experienced, he stopped drinking and started praying. It seemed as if that
week would never come to an end, the ophthalmic surgeon told Frank that when
he removed the bandages and tested Karen’s eyes he would immediately ring
Frank to tell him the results of the surgery.
Frank prayed as if his whole life depended upon it and then he sat
nervously, waiting by the telephone, finally it rang, Frank picked it up, and
before anyone spoke, a wave of peace flooded his heart and the picture of a
face was burned into his mind, the face of Jesus Christ. In an interview Frank said “I had in my
mind, from where I do not know, an image of Christ”, the doctor said I’ve got good
news for you, your daughter’s sight has been saved, she will see again. “I put down
the phone and that image in my mind burned itself in.” Frank wasn’t sure what to do or how to
respond, there was nothing he could do except paint the face he saw and that’s
exactly what he did, Frank started painting the face of Jesus just as he
had seen it. The vision never left him and Frank started producing painting
after painting featuring the face of Christ, each one having a freshness and
vitality. Then Frank decided he wanted to paint a whole series of paintings
concerning the life of Christ, Frank was a changed man, he now knew Jesus as his
personal friend and could picture him in every detail.
His cousin Brian Pash was a poet and writer and when he saw Frank’s pictures
he immediately began to write poems that told the story of what Frank was
painting, they both wanted to travel to Israel to find background material, but
needed financial support and so Frank began approaching people who had shown
interest in his outback art, but they were not interested in religious art,
they told him that for continued commercial success Frank should focus on
his Australian outback paintings. Notice the word ‘should’ but the face of Jesus
was burned into Frank’s heart and he felt he must share this face in his
paintings. So much of our lives are taken up by what we think we ‘should’ do. There’s
a drawing by Elle Luna that shows how so many ‘shoulds’ try to pull us in opposite
direction from what we must do. Elle explains; should is how other people want
us to live our lives, sometimes ‘shoulds’ are small and easy like you should
listen to that song, at other times shoulds are highly influential pressures
that convince us to live our lives going the wrong way.
Must is different, must is who we are, what we believe and what we do. When we are
all alone with our truest, most authentic self. When asked about the turning point
in his life after his daughter’s accident Frank said in an interview “For
the rest of my life, I must paint and draw so that people realise that Christ
is as living and as real as you are to me now.” So Frank turned his back on all those who said ‘should’ and focused his passion
and energy on sharing what he felt he must share, the story of Jesus. He found a
financial backer and went to follow the steps of Jesus in Israel, Frank lived his
dream in Israel, he brought his vision to life and painted the face of Jesus, that
had been burned into his mind, in the very places where Jesus had lived and
ministered. Frank was a painter not a preacher, but his paintings proclaimed a
powerful message, they told the story of Jesus. Frank believed that everyone needs
to know the good news, the story of who Jesus is, what he did and what he teaches.
So the outback artist told the story of Jesus through his paintings and sketches
in Israel, he painted Jesus on the shores of Galilee calling his disciples to
follow him and become fishers of men, he sketched the joy at the wedding at Cana
when Jesus changed the water to wine, he pictured Jesus at the well with the
woman of Samaria, a meeting that changed her life forever as she finds the water
of life. He captures the joy of the widow of Nain
as her son is restored to her. Frank shares the peace that forgiveness brings in his
sketch of the adulteress who is forgiven, then there’s a storm on
Galilee where Jesus calms the wind and the waves, just as he can bring peace and
assurance to our stormy lives. But it’s Passion Week, the final week of Christ’s
life on earth, the climax of his ministry that is
the true focus of Frank’s brush, he paints Jesus’ triumphal entry into
Jerusalem were those who have experienced forgiveness joyfully leading
the way. Then the Last Supper as Christ shares a final meal, the Passover meal,
with his disciples and shares with them how his body will be broken and his
blood shed for them and for all who will respond to the gospel invitation and
find lasting peace and happiness. Frank follows Christ to Calvary, he
pictures the trial, the mockery of a trial, as the Prince of Peace is
condemned to death. Jesus then carries his cross to Golgotha, the place of the
skull, where he’s nailed to the cross, he took our place and paid the penalty for
our mistakes, so that our sins can be forgiven and we can have eternal life.
Frank had experienced that forgiveness, he knew Jesus, he’d seen His face, he’d
found the peace and assurance that comes from standing at the foot of the cross,
that only comes from knowing Jesus as your personal Saviour and it’s that good
news that Frank wanted to share and proclaim through his paintings.
Frank Pash was a remarkable artist, these paintings are stark in their
realism and all the details of the life and death of Jesus somehow take upon
themselves a freshness that only an Australian outback artist could see. His
unique collection of paintings is a wonderful contribution to Christian art.
‘Art enables us to find ourselves and lose ourselves at the same time,’ the poet
and writer Thomas Merton said that. While in Israel
Frank lost himself in sketching and painting in Nazareth, Bethlehem, Jerusalem,
along the shores of Galilee and many other places associated with the life
and ministry of Jesus. He painted landscapes of actual locations mentioned
in the Bible and he also sketched and painted scenes from the life of Jesus as
he saw them in his mind. The famous Russian author Tolstoy
considered the best art to be highly infectious, where an artist hands on to
others feelings he has lived through and other people are infected by these
feelings and also experience them. In every painting Frank does we experience
his feelings of the warmth of life and love shining in the eyes of Jesus and
this love colours every landscape. Tolstoy went on to say that the amount a
piece of art will infect us grows based on the degree of sincerity in the artist,
Frank sincerely felt that he must produce these paintings not to please
others but to sincerely share the passion and peace that filled him when
he lost himself in painting these scenes. An Oxford professor of poetry once said
the nature of a work of art is to be not a part or a copy of the real world, but a
world in itself. In Frank’s paintings of a life of Jesus the stories are placed
into the actual locations in Israel, but we the viewer are drawn into individual
worlds where Jesus and regular people are living and learning through their
lives. Frank and his cousin Brian went on to publish two books of religious art and poetry. Art asks us to think differently, see differently, hear
differently and ultimately to act differently, here in this painting
Frank reminds us that Jesus cares for everyone, every culture, every child, we’re
all part of his family. The painting asks us to think about
whether we demonstrate the same care and love, the painting could even make us
uncomfortable when we open our hearts to honestly examine our attitudes and
practices towards people and cultures different from our own, when we look at
art like this seriously it makes us better people, because the painting asks
us to remember and reflect. Art oft breaks the rules and taboos in our
society which is something that would have made Frank smile,
he liked to push boundaries and make people think, but not through words
“instead”, he said, “my gift is to give life and spirit a shape on canvas.” The face that Frank saw in his mind when
his daughter’s sight was saved reminds me of a story that Frank painted for the
final page in his first book, in this story Jesus is walking with three
followers; Peter, James and John, they climb a mountain, the three men are
walking in a bit of a daze as Jesus has just astonished and alarmed them by
informing them that he was going to be put on a cross and killed by Roman
soldiers, then as they climb the mountain Jesus started to change, his clothes
began to glow and light poured from his face, when they stopped climbing the
three men realised that Jesus is talking with Moses and Elijah, long-dead
historical Jewish figures. They’re amazed, but since Jesus had told them that he
would return from the dead their entire reality was upside down and the
impossible had become possible, Peter starts to chatter unsure how he should
respond to these amazing sights, note the word ‘should’ let me read the rest of the
story here in Matthew chapter 17 verses 4 to 8: “Peter broke in, ‘Master, this is a
great moment! Should I build three shelters here on the mountain – one for
you, one for Moses, one for Elijah? While he was going on like this, babbling, a
cloud of light enveloped them, from deep in the cloud came a voice: “This is my
beloved son, marked by my love, focus of my delight. Listen to him.” When the
disciples heard it, they fell flat on their faces, scared to death. But Jesus
came over and touched them saying, “Don’t be afraid.” When they opened their eyes
and looked up all they saw was Jesus, only Jesus.’ When Frank looked up in
his darkest hour like Peter, James and John, he saw only Jesus and this vision
stayed with him until his death and flowed through his paintbrush until his
last breath. Sharing this vision was something Frank felt he must do and he
passionately complained on his deathbed ‘I can’t die, I still have so many more
paintings I must do,’ the focus of his life was on only Jesus, that’s where he
found his peace and fulfilment. If you’d like to find that same peace and
fulfillment that can be found in Jesus only, why not ask for it right now as we
pray? Dear Heavenly Father, today we’ve been reminded of what’s most important
in life, our relationship with Jesus, we live such busy lives that it’s easy to
get distracted and tied up with the things others say we should do rather
than the important things we must do, like strengthening our relationship with
Jesus. Like Frank Pash may Jesus feature in the paintings of life that we are
creating each day and in our dark hours may we too look up and see Jesus only.
Lord keep us close to you and grant us the peace and fulfilment that can be
found in Jesus only, we ask this in Jesus’ name. Amen. Frank Pash certainly was a gifted artist
who found fresh inspiration for his paintings when he met Jesus and
established a close relationship with him. This new relationship not only added
a new perspective and a new dimension to his paintings,
but to his life as well, it brought him peace and fulfilment.
God really made a difference to his life. If you would like to experience this
peace and fulfilment in your life I’d like to tell you about the free gift we
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delay, phone us now on 0481 315 101 or text us on 0491 222 999 to request today’s free offer. Contact us
right now. If you’ve enjoyed today’s journey be sure to join us again next
week when we will share another of life’s journeys together and experience
another new and thought-provoking perspective on the peace, insight,
understanding and hope that only the Bible can give us. The Incredible Journey
truly is television that changes lives. Until next week remember the ultimate
destination of life’s journey: “Now I saw a new heaven and a new earth… and God
will wipe away every tear from their eyes, there shall be no more death, nor
sorrow, nor crying, there shall be no more pain, for the former things
have passed away.”

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