From tragedy to beauty on the canvas

Francesca MannGeraldton Guardian
First Light by Paul Lucas, the first painting in his Batavia Aground series.
Camera IconFirst Light by Paul Lucas, the first painting in his Batavia Aground series. Credit: Paul Lucas

Former Geraldton artist Paul Lucas always knew he wanted to paint a series of works on the Batavia’s final moments off the Geraldton coast in 1629.

For years Lucas has been researching the flagship of the Dutch East India Company.

Three months ago inspiration struck and the 63-year-old got to work on the first painting in the Batavia Aground series: First Light.

With no photographs or plans to work from, Lucas relied on historical documents, pictures of a full-size replica in the Netherlands, and a small model.

“The whole event was recorded in the Commander’s journal, hour by hour, and I’ve tried to do paintings along those lines,” he said.

“The paintings are fairly time-consuming as they’re very detailed — there was lots of things to consider.

“And not being a sailor myself, it was all very new to me.

“I even went to the length of buying a model and that has been such a help.”

Having lived in Geraldton for 32 years, Lucas was no stranger to the Batavia or the Abrolhos Islands.

Lucas has been visiting the islands — “the jewel in Geraldton’s crown” — for 40 years, including a short stint living and working out there.

After living in Geraldton for more than 30 years, including dozens of trips to the Abrolhos Islands, artist Paul Lucas knew he had to paint the final moments of the Dutch East India Company ship Batavia.
Camera IconAfter living in Geraldton for more than 30 years, including dozens of trips to the Abrolhos Islands, artist Paul Lucas knew he had to paint the final moments of the Dutch East India Company ship Batavia. Credit: Sarena Lucas

Lucas said his own experiences on the isolated islands helped him bring the Batavia’s final moments to life.

“When you paint, you can’t just paint from photos,” he said.

“You have to absorb yourself in the surroundings and try and incorporate that into the artwork.

“I’ve been out to that reef where it happened a couple times and I’ve walked around the Batavia graveyard.”

Within 48 hours of sharing the completed oil painting online, it was snapped up by a Geraldton-based collector.

But the community will still be able to catch a glimpse of the series in May.

On May 3 an exclusive selection of Lucas’ artwork — including two pieces from the Batavia Aground series — will be on display at a ticketed event at HarbourView.

Lucas’ artworks will be displayed at Northgate Shopping Centre on May 4 as part of a Batavia Coast Maritime Heritage Association display.

The association will be promoting the Balayi — Open Your Eyes Festival, which marks 400 years since the Abrolhos Islands were discovered by Dutch explorers in 1619.

The festival will be held on July 27 and 28.

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