My work has always been concerned with the uneasy relationship between the natural world and ourselves; this is a relationship historically ‘explained‘ by religious narratives. My concerns in the paintings produced for this exhibition lie partially with this interchangeability of religion and wilderness, and also with how these concerns are expressed in the historical traditions of Western art. Contemporary Western ideas of wilderness and traditional Western religious narratives slip easily into metaphors and contexts for each other, and provide key elements within all my work.
These paintings of Jane Franklin’s journey to Tasmania’s outcast Sarah Island in 1842 are not simply a depiction of a well known historical narrative; for me, Jane’s story becomes an imagining framework, a parameter that brings them into the realm of essential things.
As these paintings grew they became enmeshed with images from the Victorian era of Romantic poets and painters; men of Jane’s own time. Haunting women such as The Lady of Shallot, Ophelia and Lady MacBeth merged with scenes from Joseph Conrad’s’ Heart of Darkness. Familiar to me from my own childhood, Katherine Hepburn on The Eastern Queen, is fused in my memory with Aquire The Wrath of God. My own paintings came to represent abandonment to the unknown – the classical and mythological journey in search of the source or heart of the ‘other’, that is also the kernel of the self.
Any ambiguity within these works arises from my compulsion to pursue these concerns and their conflation with a similarly intense desire to ‘remake’ experience as beauty. The works in this exhibition evoke a colonial landscape that is also a site of dreams. Images of the legendary Lady Jane move between states of desire, embrace, fear and forgetting as she moves within and against the landscape, and as she tries to find herself and her place within a world that is neither past nor future, but exists only now – below our line of vision.
John Lendis at Arts Society of Tasmania
John Lendis at Charles Hewitt Gallery
Leave a Reply