Artists Statement

Artists Statement from the "Man changes Land, land changes man" exhibition.


The Australian Landscape
Terra nullius did exist in Australia 50,000 years ago. 

"When James Cook sailed up the east coast of Australia in 1770, he remarked that the land looked like a gentleman's park. And indeed it was, for those eucalypt groves set in grassy plains were the result of 45,000 years of careful management by Aboriginal people. They, just like the Europeans, irrevocably changed the land when they first arrived - but thereafter they crafted it with fire and hunting, creating something new. It was that 'something new' that we now recognise as the distinctive Australian landscape. Thus, in a very real sense, this land is human-made - a handicraft of the Aboriginal people."
An Ark - Full of Ancient Life by Tim Flannery from the Australia Day address 2002.

In the 1830s, less than 50 years after the First Fleet's arrival at Sydney Cove the signs of change were noted by Major Mitchell...
 "...the omission of the annual periodical burning by natives, of the grass and young saplings has already produced in the open forest lands nearest to Sydney, thick forests of young trees, where, formerly, a man might gallop without impediment and see whole miles before him”

In the 1970s and 80s Tasmanian photographer Peter Dombrovskis was inspirational with his detailed colour images.  His Wilderness Society calendars and Franklin River images helped define the way we think about remote places and directly influenced political change.  They present a land that appears untouched by man.  The notion that this is the way it looked before Europeans arrived is compelling.

"There is no Australian wilderness, and no national park that can exist in its pre-1788 form without the ongoing input of people."

An Ark - Full of Ancient Life by Tim Flannery from the Australia Day address 2002.

I believe that the Australian landscape is currently in an unstable state, influenced by both man's action and inaction.  Over the last 200 years we have changed the land, but have we learnt how to live in balance with this new creation?

"Our gum trees act as if their aboriginal part-creators were still here; and modern settler Australians act as if gum-tree forests can be lived in as one would live among deciduous trees of the north. We cannot see the trees for the smoke.”
Burning cities: a posthumanist account of Australians and Eucalypts
by Adrian Franklin 2005.   School of Sociology and Social Work, University of Tasmania,

Wilderness is a romantic concept that we see illustrated in glossy colour images in airport lounges, but has it existed in Australia since ancient man first spread through the land 50,000 years ago?

Do we confuse wilderness with our own (very modern) creation, unmanaged land?

I’m interested in the conflict between our ideas of managed land, unmanaged land and wilderness.
Colin Page