'Living and learning' were guiding principles for Elizabeth Durack; her interest in many subjects and cultures persistent and life–long. Some 40 years before the phenomenal rise of international tourism and
luxury package tours she travelled widely through five
continents visiting great cities and tiny out–of–the-way places making notes, walking and drawing constantly and frequently using local transport. She claimed, at one stage: 'There's nothing like comfort to dull the senses ...'
This series depicts three major East Asian centres — Hong Kong, Manila and Singapore. All date from the 1960s and early 70s. (Mainland China had not yet opened to the West.) Within the series a range of styles and moods are evident. Some paintings are developed and quite complex, others more simple and literal. Most incorporate a sense of movement characteristic of Durack's art. All have aesthetic as well as historic appeal. In each image an essence of a city is captured. Inhabitants and visitors alike recognise within them a distinctive spirit of place — the spirit that persists despite constant change.
Elizabeth Durack hardly ever developed her travel drawings; she'd use them instead as guides for writing. So these 36 paintings are the only finished works by this Australian who visited her 'northern neighbours' forty and more years ago and portrayed their cities and their peoples with empathy, detachment and wonder.