It feels like the edge of the Earth. A roadside sign reads ‘population unknown’ with a large black question mark. Lightning Ridge has become an escape for hopeful miners, restless drifters and broken recluses looking for somewhere to disappear. Derelict cars, makeshift camps and precarious mineshafts dot the barren and hostile landscape.
Life on the minefields is slow. Simple. Modest. There’s not much to do but drink and dig. Those that mine live a subterranean existence only to surface for more diesel and beer. It’s backbreaking work fraught with injury and occasional fatality. Even the flies know their limit as the digging deepens and the sky recedes above. As if to reach into the darkness of deep space and discover a wayward star, finding an elusive ‘flash’ of opal is much of a blind lottery. Some prospectors inherit claims worked for years and deemed futile, only to dig a mere meter more than their forerunner and emerge with a life’s fortune.
Born of mineral alchemy opal is much like wine. Collected, traded, hoarded, its value is determined by a complex rubric complicated by international markets, subjective taste and ambitious salesmanship. Like a savvy sommelier, opal dealers can read the signatory characteristics of the iridescent stone, placing its regional origin to specific mine sites with an uncanny accuracy, from Lunatic’s Hill to 3 Mile.
Aboveground miners are coy about their success. They sit poker-faced at the pub weary of shifty ‘ratters’ who make their living as underground thieves. Some are scruffy millionaires with holes in their boots and camps in deliberate disrepair trying to blend in and avoid trouble. The more resourceful folk short of cash or downright bored will spend their days in the scorching sun ‘noodling’. They sift by hand through the mountains of discarded mullock for any overlooked or inferior gems, often sold in jam jars to naïve tourists at scheming prices.
Today the Ridge is a cliché tale of boom and bust. As the opal exhausts and trade contracts, tourism has transformed the town into a mining caricature. Lightning Without Flash meanders off the map, unearthing stray visions of a dusty town and the people who call the Ridge home.
Joe will be in Warwick on Saturday 14 May at 11am to present a talk about his work
Warwick Potters Association was formed in 1973 by an enthusiastic group, keen to learn pottery. The Potters continue to promote the art of clay and support the Southern Downs community.
The Potters hold regular workshops with visiting tutors and conduct in house lessons for both adults and children with their own skilled members. This exhibition showcases the wonderful potential of clay as an expressive medium.
Participating artists; Pat Almond, Sue Creed, Dianne Gray, Leah Kelly, Sue Keong, Penny King, Alan Lang, Roslyn Lang, Noelene Luck, Kym Rose, Jennifer Shergold and Sue Whitton