Janet Laurence, Veil of Trees, 1999
Sydney. (In collaboration with Jisuk
This installation is near the Botanic Gardens in Sydney. It comprises 100 red forest
gums, 21 glass panels – laminated and enclosing seeds and ash with Australian poetry,
an corten-steel panels containing LED lighting so it can be seen at night.
Section I of the exam has three short
answer questions. They are worth
increasing amounts of marks, depending
on difficulty. This question is the easiest,
it’s worth 5 marks and suggests allowing
about 9 minutes to answer. Check out
today’s handout to see precisely what the
exam booklet looks like, and how the
marks are worked out.
Q: Apply the structural frame to
describe techniques used in Plate 1.
Plate 1: Sarah Fordham, (b . 1974, Australian) Pokeepskie, 2007, acrylic, oil and enamel paint
on canvas, 120 x 90cm
Q: Refer to Plates 2 & 3. Explain how these
artworks reflect the world of artists.
(Worth 8 marks – second hardest – suggest 15 minutes
for this question.)
Plate 2: Diego Velazquez (1599-1660, Spanish.) Las
Meninas (The Ladies in Waiting,) 1656, Oil on canvas,
318 x 276cm.
Plate 3: Tracey Moffatt (b. 1960, Australian.)
First Jobs, Meat Packing 1978, 2008.
Photograph. Archival pigments on rice paper
with gel medium 71 x 91cm. Edition of 20.
Janet Laurence
Janet Laurence, b. 1949 Aust. In the shadow, site specific installation Homebush Bay, 2000
Janet Laurence is a contemporary artist who works across a wide range of media
including painting, photography and sculpture. She is probably best known for her sitespecific installations such as In the shadow, an installation involving a 100 metre length
of a creek at Homebush Bay in 2000. It was created especially for the Sydney Olympics.
Unlike many installations, this one has become a permanent part of the landscape.
Laurence wants to convey a message with her work. She is concerned with
environmental issues, and all her work is involved with engaging an audience
and getting them to reflect upon this. Many of her works act to rehabilitate
an area or a group of plants, whilst being artworks as well; they therefore
could be said to have a double function: they’re not just something for
people to look at. It’s engaging with the world in a particular way, a more
politically active way than say, Christo & Jeanne-Claude or Goldsworthy.
In the shadow, 2000, details
The idea of audiences interacting with artwork with their bodies is not
new….where have we seen this before?
Antony Gormley, (b. 1950, British) Asian Field,
2006, (180,000 terra cotta figurines in a
warehouse at Sydney Biennale.) >>>>>>
<<<<<Aerial view of Inside
Life-size bronze figures from Inside Australia, 20023 Lake Ballard Western Australia. There were 51
figures life sized vertically but squeezed
horizontally, placed 750metres apart. They were
based on the bodies of people from the local area.
Christo & Jeanne-Claude, Wrapped Coast
1969, Sydney. The huge scale of this work
would have impacted on the audience…it
was over a kilometre long.
Walter De Maria (US, b. 1935): Lightning
field, 1977, New Mexico. The impact of
lightning, often accompanied by thunder
would impact physically.
Laurence is also interested in memories of places and peoples, and
the concept of change. Edge of the Trees is an installation in
collaboration with Australian artist Fiona Foley, in the forecourt of
the Museum of Sydney (down near Circular Quay.) This consists of
column structures of steel, sandstone, and timber.
The work lists names of
indigenous people from the
Eora tribe from the early days
of white settlement. They are
engraved on sandstone
pillars. The Sydney harbour
area is made of sandstone,
and was used from Colonial
times as a construction
material for buildings.
Edge of the trees, 1995, sandstone, wood, steel, oxides, shells, honey, bones, zinc, glass,
sound, 29 pillars
Edge of the trees, detail.
Coming from within the
installation are a continuous
sound recording of voices.
They murmur quietly, you
have to struggle to catch
them. They are Koori place
names… places which have,
of course, been colonised.
The voices sound like ghosts
murmuring through the trees
like a breeze.
Timbers which grew on this site were used to build a foundry for the colony
in Sydney. The timbers were salvaged from that building in the 1990s and
‘re-planted’ back at the Museum site for this installation. They were
engraved with names of fruits and flowers from the Colonial Governor’s
Garden, in Latin and in indigenous language. Steel columns are also included
in the installation, designed to rust red into the sandy ground in which they
are embedded. Names of First Fleet passengers are also included, engraved
on zinc panels and fastened to the poles.
The installation includes steel and glass structures as well, which contain
material such as rock oxides, bone, shells and ash, which would have been from
the indigenous campsites around the area. The structure is reminiscent of
traditional Aboriginal burial poles. When a person dies, once the flesh is gone the
bones are broken up and put into a decorated pole as the final part of the funeral
Edge of
<<Aboriginal burial
poles, Tiwi Island.
‘A hospital for plants: the healing art of Janet Laurence’, in Art
& Australia, Vol. 48 No. 1 2010, p.p. 64-67.
Janet Laurence’s website: http://www.janetlaurence.com/
Museum of Contemporary Art Education Kit:
Sydney Olympic Park Public Art:

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