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Carving a legendThe wonder of woolsheds

Painting and travel enrich Bill McKenzie’s life – his subjects are the woolsheds of Australia.

Story and photos Mark Muller

For Ian ‘Bill’ McKenzie, there is a majesty to woolsheds that fires his imagination and takes him back to a time when they were truly cathedrals shaping the secular heart of Australia. Throughout the past 16 years, Bill and his sculptor wife Kathy have travelled from their home at Tomakin on the south coast of New South Wales to places as far afield as Longreach, Qld, the Riverina, NSW, and the Mid North of South Australia visiting, photographing and later painting a wide variety of woolsheds.

Carving a legendThe results, exquisitely detailed and finely drafted watercolours, are beautiful and capture Bill’s deep affinity with the subject. “I very much like the fact that woolsheds are part of the amazing history and heritage of the country,” Bill says. “There is a special atmosphere in woolsheds, whether working or empty, there is something happening here that’s amazing.”

You know when listening to Bill talk about sheds that his vivid imagination brings them to life for him. He may well be looking at an empty building, but he sees the layers of time and labour, the people, the lives and the broader impact that woolsheds and all that they represent have.

“For me, the most important thing is the people that have been through the shed,” Bill says. “The workers, the owners, the classers, shearers, rousties, the dogs, the sheep themselves, and how they all come together to do something very important for Australia.” Story end

Full story OUTBACK Issue 36 Aug/Sept 2004

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