We consider depictions of the land

 

Telling the Story of Australian Art

Highlighted in our third post on your Australian Art Collection reimagined are works which are included in the chronological ‘spine’ along the back wall of the Josephine Ulrick and Win Schubert Galleries. Adjacent to Dale Harding’s wall commission view works from both the European landscape tradition and representations of country by Aboriginal artists.

Dale Harding working on his commission, inspired by rock art
Dale Harding working on his commission, inspired by rock art / Dale Harding’s work was commissioned with funds from anonymous donors through the Queensland Art Gallery | Gallery of Modern Art Foundation / Photograph: Chloe Callistemon © QAGOMA

Conrad Martens’s Forest, Cunningham’s Gap 1856 is an early Queensland watercolour depicting the steep track from the Great Dividing Range’s tropical rainforest to the Darling Downs plains below. An English-born colonial painter, Martens arrived in Australia after working on the HMS Beagle as the ship’s artist. Nearby are Judy Watson’s sacred ground, beating heart 1989 and Gordon Bennett’s Untitled 1991. Watson produced sacred ground before visiting Waanyi country in north-west Queensland, the home of her matrilineal family; the natural pigment and pastel work reflects the artist’s deep connection to her ancestors. Bennett’s painting depicts a ship adrift on a stormy sea, amid images of Aboriginal heads. Referencing the Raft of the Medusa 1818–19 by French artist Théodore Géricault, Bennett asks us to consider the effects of the upheaval caused by colonisation, specifically the separation of people from their homeland.

Conrad Martens, England/Australia 1801-1878 / Forest, Cunningham's Gap 1856 / Watercolour on paper / Purchased 1998 with funds raised through The Conrad Martens Queensland Art Gallery Foundation Appeal and with the assistance of the Queensland Government's special Centenary Fund / Collection: Queensland Art Gallery
Conrad Martens, England/Australia 1801-1878 / Forest, Cunningham’s Gap 1856 / Watercolour on paper / Purchased 1998 with funds raised through The Conrad Martens Queensland Art Gallery Foundation Appeal and with the assistance of the Queensland Government’s special Centenary Fund / Collection: Queensland Art Gallery
Judy Watson, Australia b.1959 / sacred ground beating heart 1989 / Natural pigments and pastel on canvas / Purchased 1990. The 1990 Moët & Chandon Art Acquisition Fund / Collection: Queensland Art Gallery / © Judy Watson 1989/Licensed by Viscopy, 2017
Judy Watson, Australia b.1959 / sacred ground beating heart 1989 / Natural pigments and pastel on canvas / Purchased 1990. The 1990 Moët & Chandon Art Acquisition Fund / Collection: Queensland Art Gallery / © Judy Watson 1989/Licensed by Viscopy, 2017
Gordon Bennett, Australia 1955-2014 / Untitled 1991 / Oil and synthetic polymer paint on canvas / Purchased 1992 / Collection: Queensland Art Gallery / © The artist
Gordon Bennett, Australia 1955-2014 / Untitled 1991 / Oil and synthetic polymer paint on canvas / Purchased 1992 / Collection: Queensland Art Gallery / © The artist

These paintings join other treasured works by artists such as Russell Drysdale, Mirdidingkingathi Juwarnda Sally Gabori, Rosalie Gascoigne, Eugene von Guérard, Rosemary Laing, Daphne Mayo, Jon Molvig, Fred Williams, and of course, R Godfrey Rivers, whose Under the jacaranda 1903 holds many stories. Rivers was an important figure in Brisbane — an artist, teacher and champion of the Queensland National Art Gallery (which opened in 1895) — and he, like the tree in his painting, and like so many people living in Brisbane today, came here from elsewhere. (In the jacaranda’s case, on trading ships from South America.) Under the jacaranda has a history with our audiences, who have admired it for many years — some even lay jacaranda flowers under the painting when the trees bloom in spring.

R. Godfrey Rivers, England/Australia 1858-1925 / Under the jacaranda 1903 / Oil on canvas / Purchased 1903 / Collection: Queensland Art Gallery
R. Godfrey Rivers, England/Australia 1858-1925 / Under the jacaranda 1903 / Oil on canvas / Purchased 1903 / Collection: Queensland Art Gallery

We also explore our physical involvement with the land through agriculture and mining, so central to the history of the state, along with the development of the country’s labour movement and working women. The Queensland climate, which has shaped ideas of ‘the deep north’, also features here, with works by celebrated artists Margaret Olley, Max Dupain, Tracey Moffatt, Kenneth Macqueen and others. Moving back in time, George Wishart’s newly restored A busy corner of the Brisbane River, painted in 1897 (since identified as the Eagle Street Wharves), is a rare depiction of the river’s bustling commercial activity around the turn of the century. Charles Blackman’s Stradbroke ferry 1952 brings us to Minjerribah (North Stradbroke Island), where contemporary Quandamooka weaver Sonja Carmichael is based. The Ngughi artist’s commission is an installation of jewelcoloured bowls woven from natural, commercial raffia and discarded nylon fishing nets, materials found on the shoreline of her island.

George Wishart, Australia 1872-1921 / A busy corner of the Brisbane River 1897 / Oil on canvas / Acquired before 1962 / Collection: Queensland Art Gallery
George Wishart, Australia 1872-1921 / A busy corner of the Brisbane River 1897 / Oil on canvas / Acquired before 1962 / Collection: Queensland Art Gallery
Charles Blackman, Australia b.1928 / Stradbroke ferry 1952 / Enamel and tempera on heavy cardboard / Gift of Barbara Blackman, AO, through the Queensland Art Gallery | Gallery of Modern Art Foundation 2016. Donated through the Australian Government's Cultural Gifts Program / Collection: Queensland Art Gallery / © Charles Blackman 1952/ Licensed by Viscopy 2017
Charles Blackman, Australia b.1928 / Stradbroke ferry 1952 / Enamel and tempera on heavy cardboard / Gift of Barbara Blackman, AO, through the Queensland Art Gallery | Gallery of Modern Art Foundation 2016. Donated through the Australian Government’s Cultural Gifts Program / Collection: Queensland Art Gallery / © Charles Blackman 1952/ Licensed by Viscopy 2017

As visitors enter and leave the end gallery, near the Gibson entrance, they will encounter Anmatyerre artist Emily Kame Kngwarreye’s timeless Utopia panels 1996, a major commission completed by the artist at the end of her brief painting career and in the last year of her life. Among her boldest pieces, the multipanel series is one of the Gallery’s great works.

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Dr Kyla McFarlane, Australian Art, QAGOMA
Feature image detail: Conrad Martens, Forest, Cunningham’s Gap 1856

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