Around the world on the back of a bike: celebrating life
FOR some, travel is about the beauty of a foreign country or its food, history or architecture.
But for Murwillumbah artist Dianne Durnell, travel is all about the people, a window into the soul of humankind, an opportunity to reach out and discover new cultures and traditions.
And, for someone with a fine eye for detail and an incredible skill to relay that to paper through her artwork, there is no better way to travel than on the back of a motorbike.
Childhood sweethearts who grew up in then Rhodesia before migrating to Australia in the early 1980s, Dianne and husband Haydn have perfected the art of motorbike travel.
"We love living in Australia, it is our home,” said Dianne, who moved to Murwillumbah about six years ago.
"But we also love to travel and discover new places.”
After bringing up their children in Toowoomba, the couple decided to "take off” with Haydn's skill as a mechanic an added bonus.
Their first major trip took them from Alaska on the northern tip of North America, all the way down to Chile at the southern-most point of South America in 2004/05.
Bitten by the bug, the couple returned to Australia at the end of their year-long journey to the Americas, but soon longed for more.
So they packed up their jobs and, got back on the bike, and set their sites on the Asian sub-continent, travelling from south-east Asia through India, the Middle East and through to Syria and Turkey.
Later, they moved to the Pacific, living in Papua New Guinea and the islands for several years.
"We just love to travel, of meeting people from different cultures who are different but essentially the same in spirit,” Dianne said.
Together they have travelled to more than 40 countries across Africa, Australia, the Pacific Asia, Europe, the Middle East and the Americas, spurred on by the amazing people they meet along the way.
Now once again settled in Australia, Dianne is putting her talents as an artist to the test, with an exhibition of her work due to be on display next week.
"I've always had a love of art,” said Dianne.
"Travel has given me the inspiration to visually record a world viewed from the back of a motorcycle.
"I paint portraits that reflect my belief in people from all walks of life, ordinary people, you and me. As an artist, I am driven by my passion to promote multiculturalism in a time when world peace is not attainable and ignorance is not an option.
"We all have our part to play, and as a traveller, I represent the people we met on our journey.”
Using oil paint on canvas, Dianne recreates the memories of her travels first caught on camera, with her new exhibition featuring portraits of some of the characters she has met along the way.
The exhibition - entitled Same same but different'after the catch cries of traders in south-east Asian markets - features characters from different cultures around the world, from Africa to India to the Middle East and closer to home, Australia.
"So many different cultures and family traditions shape the individuals we met along the way,” Dianne writes in the introduction to her exhibition booklet.
"Underpinning these differences is religion, but regardless of a person's belief system, a moral goodness prevails and the same value system as ours is prevalent. When we learn to appreciate this, similarities become undeniable and it is this familiarisation that I share in my artwork.
"This exhibition is a thank-you to all the wonderful people we have met along the way, that have enabled you to be a part of their life even for a short time. Who have invited us into their homes to communicate with us”
* Same same but different will run from September 10 to 23 at Kirra Hill Community Art Gallery, 1 Garrick St, Coolangatta, from 9am to 4pm daily.