Possibly the most isolated farm that we visited on the field trip – isolated in terms of its distance from where other fruit cartons are located on the Cartonograph – was Topaz Gold, Cloudforest Organic Ginger and Tumeric. It was a grey and drizzly day up on the Atherton tablelands turning to mist as Ciara and I snaked our way through the rainforest towards Topaz, becoming more cloudforest-like the closer we got to the farm.
We drove some distance past it before we realised we’d gone too far; something that tends to happen regularly when trying to find farms. Driving in towards the farmhouse it was like we were in a cloud when David Child of Topaz Gold emerged to greet us. We pulled up and it wasn’t long before we were talking about the ostensible purpose of the visit: the fruit carton.
The Topaz Gold carton is definitely one of the most unique in the collection, not in a quirky way but in that it has a symbolic pattern as the central motif, and has no immediately obvious reference or connection to the produce that it contains. However the design on the carton is a spiral taken from the symbolism of Islam and David explained that aside from this spiritual relationship the pattern also resembles the flower of the ginger plant. To me the spiral reminded me of the Fibonacci spiral, and I’m sure there are mathematical resemblances as well. David mentioned his past trade as a stonemason in Melbourne and I recalled the spirals on the column headstones that I had positioned in a public artwork in Rockingham, Ireland (pictured below), called Constellation (2014). In that work there was three column heads positioned in such a way as to replicate the triple spiral, an iconic pagan motif found at spiritual locations in Ireland (and in variations elsewhere). These classical and pagan spirals are similar to the mathematical Fibonacci spiral, or the Golden Mean, and so I was excited to learn that David’s approach to his Topaz Gold carton design was similarly influenced, and that a kind of spirituality was embedded in this approach.
After we had discussed the carton David offered to take us down into the valley to look at the crop, so we piled into his landcruiser and ambled down the bumpy and muddy track, all the while accompanied by a herd of David’s Brahman cattle. They were excited about the prospect of changing paddocks and stayed close to the ute, sometimes bumbling into it. The steep and muddy track through the rainforest was not something our SUV would have ever made it down, let alone up, so we were glad to have the ride, which was very bumpy, given how slow were were travelling. Emerging out the other side into a paddock some the Brahman mooed excitedly and trotted off giddily around the valley.
The misty rain continued as we inspected the crop. David showed us the flower of the ginger plant and its resemblance to the motif on his fruit carton. Neither Ciara nor I had ever seen a ginger crop before so it was special to see one first hand, the fresh ginger root pulled straight from the ground. David said that his tumeric was not as far along in its development so there wasn’t much to see at the time we visited, but we walked past and had a look at the crop as it was on our way to another part of the farm that David was keen to show us.
To look at this spot the ute was not required. We walked across the corner of the small valley to a fence near the tumeric crop, which we stepped through and shimmied down a steep slope using the trees to prevent us slipping. We came to a full creek and tiptoed across where we could on stones above the water line. The canopy was high above and David told us about the trees and other life in the rainforest, which he knew a lot about. Before long we were at a waterfall, which despite not being a large drop, was nonetheless quite dramatic, even in the low light. The stones on the face of the waterfall were like enormous river stones that had been place by hand, such was the order of their arrangement. It was an uncanny and magical place and David suggested it was likely a special place for the traditional owners of the land. We admired the tranquility of the location for some time, which was not interrupted too much by us having to yell over the loud noise of the falling water. David said that he had not long discovered the spot and that it was a good one to cool off when the tropical conditions were at their most intense.
When it was time to go we began the journey back up the slope to the edge of the field. Before heading back to the ute we took a walk up to the ridge line on of the field, which gave a good vantage point of the valley. Brahman were scattered about the place and I wondered if I’d find this spot easily on a map later on. I also wondered what it would be like to live in this sort of place, a place that David said it was fairly “interesting” sometimes to be an outsider.
I find it interesting to have the perspective of people not long in a place, as they obviously see it much differently to those that have been in a place their entire lives. I have an an affinity for the newly-arrived as I remember being a 6 year-old and arriving in Australia and seeing the enormity of the sky and clarity of the light. It really struck me and is very clear in my mind’s eye still. For me it was a very visual thing. I will have to ask my folks what it was like for them… as I’m sure there were other factors that I was oblivious to at the time.
Back up the top of the valley the clouds had not yet lifted and we said goodbye to David and thanked him for the epic farm visit. It was definitely the most unique experience on a farm we’d had, which shouldn’t have been surprising in retrospect, given the farm’s relative isolation and the carton’s artwork that is unlike any other in the collection. I guess the Topaz Gold carton is an example of a carton that is emblematic of the farm and the farmer. And just like the text states on the carton, the farm really is in a “cloudforest”… really puts the mist into mystical.
A side note about the carton documented vs the carton that is installed in the exhibition: the documented carton is a larger-sized carton than the installed carton, which has cropped some of the artwork. In the documented carton the spiral at the centre of each face (as opposed the spirals on each corner resembling the ginger flower) is more fully represented. Generally if I have 2 versions of one carton I will install one and show the alternative version in the picture in the image map.