Olive Cotton at Spring Forest

Reviewed by
July–August 2013, no. 353

Olive Cotton at Spring Forest

Reviewed by
July–August 2013, no. 353
I was very happy, I loved the space and freedom …
no, I never regretted coming here.
 Olive Cotton, 1998

On the door to Olive Cotton’s room there is a Dymo-tape label with the name ‘N. Boardman’. Boardman has no relevance whatsoever to Olive’s life story. His name is there because Olive and her husband Ross McInerney’s home – what they always called the ‘new house’ – was previously a construction workers’ barracks. Boardman was one of the occupants, along with Ken Livio and Chris Parris, whose names appear on the doors to adjacent rooms. Olive and Ross, who lived in the ‘new house’ for nearly thirty years, never removed the labels or modified their bedrooms, bathroom, or living areas. This fascinates and perplexes me. Why wouldn’t you erase the signs of those who lived there before you? Why keep them in your most personal, intimate space, your home? What does it mean to live like this? These questions are part of a much larger set arising from my desire to better understand Olive’s life and work, especially during the years when she and Ross lived in country New South Wales, mostly on the property they named ‘Spring Forest’. For much of this time, Olive was invisible to the photography world.

From the New Issue

Comments (6)

  • I revisited "WIRRUNA" 9th September after 66 years. I was born at Hornsby 18 September 1946 and lived there for the first six months of my life. My father, a Royal Marine had gone back to England in Nov. that year. Mum & I followed in March 47 and we returned in Sept 1948, once again to Hornsby and that lovely house. We lived there till 1951-2 when it sold. Yes we lived in the "COTTONS HOUSE". From there we moved to 14 Muttama Rd., Artarmon which was also owned by Leo Cotton.
    Leo had lived there with his sons from about 1939-1949, when he retired as Prof. of Geology at Sydney University. The house at Artarmon was in stark contrast to that of Wirruna, very basic and minimalistic.
    Over the years, both my Aunt and I have correlated a huge amount of info on the Cottons, Channons and others who were part of Hornsby. Those living in the house during the years 1943 included my Grandparents, Alaric & Jean Wilkinson, their son
    Gordon Wilkinson, his wife and two children, Yvonne Wilkinson, Phyllis Wilkinson,
    my mother, Dorothea Jean Buckley (nee Wilkinson) , myself and four siblings and my father, Frederick.
    Posted by Denis Buckley
    13 September 2017
  • Thank you for this biography. Enthralling. I am a photographer who has studied some of Olive Cotton's work. It's wonderful to know more of her story.
    Posted by Rob Smith
    06 February 2016
  • Thank you for a most interesting fabulous recount of Olive Cotton's life. I am a Cotton, as Olive was my father's (Brian Cotton) first cousin. Although I didn't know her, she is legendary in family tales and my parents thought of her most affectionately, occasionally visiting her in Cowra. What touched me most is the similarities between my father's personality and hers. I will ensure future generations read this fine article. Thankyou
    Posted by Janice Cotton
    05 June 2015
  • I visited the home at Koorawatha about 18 years ago after seeing Olive on a tv documentary and realizing she was my grandmothers niece/Ellen Channon.As it happened she was not home that Sunday and so I met her son and daughter in law.I love art and poetry and perhaps it is a trait inherited from family genes.I finally gave the genealogy hobby up after finding over 1800 relatives.I agree that a certain amount of eccentricity exists in the family
    Posted by William Coleman
    13 May 2014
  • I previously knew something of Dupain and his work but knew absolutely nothing of Olive, her association with Dupain or, her work. Just shows how well we manage to promote the thunder whilst ignoring the rain. Very enlightening and absorbing.
    Many thanks for the biography.

    Bill Gifford
    Posted by Bill Gifford
    06 April 2014
  • I knew nothing of Olive Cotton. Now I feel I know much. Thank you.
    Posted by Angela Matchett
    03 March 2014

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