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Dreaming of the River Lady Jane Franklin’s

journey through South West Tasmania, 1842

Paintings by John Lendis

27 May – 23 June 2004, Charles Hewitt Gallery, Sydney, Australia

Introduction ‘The reader, interested in the enterprising and romantic antipodean shores of Tasmania, if he casts his eye upon any of the charts will perceive a considerable portion of the convict’s land styled ‘This journey has placed in his Excellency’s hands Transylvania. It is a belt girdled on its west by the vast Pacific Ocean, a vast deal of local information. He has traversed with which it runs near parallel, in an almost north and south line, a region, which, hitherto, has remained all but a and embraces an area of probably a third or fourth of the entire sealed book. With his own eyes he has viewed a vast island. This territory, although here and there penetrated, has and diversified extent of a country utterly unknown… never been officially, or even superficially surveyed… One of It ought always, moreover, to be borne in mind, that the earliest pieces of intelligence that greeted my return from this knowledge was neither smoothly nor delightfully England in November 1841, was the intimation that his acquired, but purchased at the expense of weary limbs and Excellency, the Lieutenant-Governor Sir John Franklin, an empty stomach. The largest and most laborious portion of accompanied by Lady Franklin, and a few friends, had the journey was achieved on foot, over watery marshes, nearly resolved upon an overland journey from Hobart impracticable swamps, through tangled forests, across precipitous Town to Macquarie Harbour, a tour which, of mountains, boisterous torrents and flooded rivers, which rose in need, must lead the party through a large angry turbulence to bar his passage, whilst rain, hail, sleet, and snow, section of this unknown western land. descended upon his head.

Front cover: Towards Transylvania, 2004, oil on canvas, 120x160 Back cover: Looking West from Government House, 2004, oil on linen, 101x122 © 2004, the artist, author, photographer and designer.

‘Her Ladyship was borne part of the route in a rude sort of palanquin, but in the roughest and most inaccessible parts she was compelled to wade through miry sludge, or scramble the mountain passes, encamping upon the damp cold ground, the green fern leaves her bedding, blankets her seat, and earth her table. ..The strife of elements,-the flooding of rivers,-and exhaustion of supplies, caused six or seven days’ journey to occupy two and twenty…The tour, therefore, whatever the amount of information acquired, was certainly not one of ease or pleasure…’ Extracts from the Narrative of the Overland Journey of Sir John and Lady Franklin and Party from Hobart Town to Macquarie Harbour, 1842, by David Burn (a member of the party).


To have touched more lightly “You ask me to do an impossibility; you ask me to do that which a genius alone could do, and such an animal is not found once in a century. To give a sketch of Lady Franklin, that is, a word painting of her, would require the descriptive pen of a Scott or a Dickens . . .” James Calder, 1872

Deluge at Lightning Ridge 2004, oil on linen 120 x 160 cms

or strength. We dress her in vanity, in charity, in persistence, in intelligence - all depending on which account of her we have read. We envisage her sitting imperiously atop a sedan chair whose weight fell on the shoulders of convicts, or imagine her giving a hated snake its marching orders out of her own private Eden of Van Diemens Land. We see her, in quieter moments, at study in the glyptothek she named Ancanthe, her head whirling with words in Latin, French and Greek, or weeping from a church pew for the husband who was said to have forged the last links of the Arctic’s Northwest Passage with his very life.

Lady Jane Franklin has long ceased to be a woman. The representation, reinvention and reimagination In this exhibition, however, John Lendis looks for a Lady Jane of her, which began even before the end of her life, beyond the figure she cuts in a period tableau. He looks for a version have made her instead an icon. She is the heroine of her outside the frame of the stuffy portraiture of her day and between of 19th century monographs and the subject of the lines of accounts by fawning diarists like James Calder. Lendis takes gilt-framed portraits. She is the protagonist of Lady Jane far from the confines of the “settled districts” of the colony, and 20th and 21st century novels and plays. This places her in the context of an overland journey into the uncontained and most famous of governors’ wives has become uncontainable wilderness of the southwest of Van Diemens Land. He removes for us now a colonial doll, of the cardboard her from the categories that historically have defined her, and seeks instead after cut-out variety, with corkscrew curls, white the essential humanity of a woman transfigured by her contact with something petticoats and a benevolent smile. To Lady new and chaotic and wild. Jane we ascribe attributes and attitudes, affixing them to her as if folding the tabs of When Sir John and Lady Jane Franklin and their entourage set off in 1842 paper costumes around her two-dimensional into the wilderness, the terrain they were to cross might well, on their map, shoulders and waist. We give her the outer have borne the warning “Here Be Dragons”. Instead, the region into garments of boldness, of curiosity, of sensitivity which they were venturing was marked “Transylvania” in an expression of early colonists’ awe of its Gothic peaks, impenetrable undergrowth, malign weather and primeval beasts. To the party’s final destination


Sleeping Lady Jane 1 2004, oil on linen 120 x 190 cms

Dreaming of Home 2004, oil on linen 76 x 101 cms


Although the pastoral makes an appearance in its costume of subdued tones, it is everywhere dominated by the bolder shapes and shades of a more contemporary figurative style. Here, the brushwork shows us the effect on the woman in the wilderness of the new, of the unknown, as she encounters it in this space of intense otherness. Planes shift. Colours intensify. A creature which might be a thylacine appears in naive guise, its shape expressing not its taxonomy was attached no less of a sense of foreboding: but its mythology. In places the paint itself resists shape. Instead of it was Macquarie Harbour, the site of a penal coalescing into known or recognisable forms, it runs and dribbles; settlement with a reputation for housing the worst there are blank spaces where the wilderness has resisted class of criminal. Like fairy tale questers, the Franklins all definition. would attempt to pass the tests posed by this most fearful of landscapes in order to reach its heart of darkness. In this series of paintings we find the paradox of “Transylvania”. That this feared For Lendis’s Lady Jane, this is a journey into the mythical forest, where the precinct, which lay on the other side accoutrements of position and identity fall away. Even as she drifts further from of the blurred edge of the colonial a secure sense of self into a dreamy collision with the natural world, images of the imagination, was beautiful. Not safe realm of settlement linger in her mind. Fragments of the paintings gently parody beautiful in the sense of how like the pastoral style of a John Glover or a Claude Lorrain - artists for whom the very land it was to a classical European forms seemed to pose in perfect, and perfectly harmless, composition. One of these scene which might artfully, playful visual asides incorporates a view of Government House as it still stands in all its sandstone authority in Hobart’s Queens Domain. That this particular Government House post-dates the Vice Regal residency that housed the Franklins themselves is unimportant. The artist toys with history, portraying its essence while remaining unconstrained by its specificity.

tidily, close in around a piping shepherd in the foreground. Nor beautiful in terms of the scale and impressiveness of distant, glowing peaks that could not help but have been scaled, once upon a time, by Gods in the midst of earth-shattering deeds. The beauty in this wilderness was, and is, close. Cloying even. It is in the feel of the leaves that brush your face, the give of the moss beneath your feet, the rhythm of the river in your ears, the animal sounds that echo in your spine, the smell These paintings are seen for the first time of the rot of logs, and of the new life that springs from them. And this in the (officially sanctioned) year of Hobart’s Lady Jane in the wilderness is semi-permeable. Her head is open, quite Bicentenary, a year in which we peer even more literally, to each of these new sensations. This wilderness is tactile, intently than usually into the brackish pool of our as expressed in the repeated motif of a pair - or more - of pale past deeds. It is important, of course, that it is Lady Jane slender hands. Often these are found reaching. They Franklin and not her husband Sir John that we follow in make bridges across the blue barriers of rivers, “Dreaming of the River”. The journey of the Governor’s wife into the delve deeper into dense foliage. But while the wilderness seems somehow less penetrative than the journey of the Governor reaching hands express desire, it seems to himself. That we know we cannot change the nature of the moment of colonial be a desire to feel, rather than a desire contact simply by switching the gender of the white-skinned hands which we paint, to possess. draw or describe in the act of reaching out to grasp does not diminish the desire to soften the gestures of the past. We wish that we had stroked the river instead of choking it, that we had laid down and dreamed upon the earth instead of clearing it. Perhaps what Lendis has painted for us here, in this series of dreamscapes, is our collective wish to have touched more lightly. Danielle Wood Hobart, Tasmania May 2004

Danielle Wood is a Tasmanian author who lives and works in Hobart. She was awarded the Australian Vogel Literature Prize in 2002 for her novel The Alphabet of Light and Dark.


Crossing the Gordon 2004, oil on linen 110 x 150 cms

Here there be Dragons 2004, oil on linen 71 x 91 cms


Curriculum Vitae John (Andrew) Lendis

Selected Solo Exhibitions Silent Spaces, Charles Hewitt Galleries Sydney South Wind, Autore Gallery Melbourne Traffic, Bett Gallery Hobart Trespass, Charles Hewitt Galleries, Sydney Searching for the Moon, Salamanca Collection, Hobart Observing Imagination, Charles Hewitt Galleries, Sydney South Wind, Glen Eira Arts Centre, Melbourne

2003 2002 2002 2001 2000 2000 1999

Selected Group Exhibitions Ten Days on the Island, Stanley, Tasmania Synergy CSIRO / Bett Gallery, Hobart Ten Days on the Island, Stanley, Tasmania Solitude, (CAST) Carnegie Gallery, Hobart Flesh, Strickland Gallery, Hobart Poets and Painters, Bett Gallery, Hobart

2003 2002 2001 1999 1997 1997

Selected Reviews & Commentary 2002 2002 2000 2000 2000 2000 2000 2000 1997 1997 1995

Timms, Peter, The Australian, ‘New Paintings by John Lendis’ 25/2/02 Tyzack, Helen, Eyeline Magazine, ‘John Lendis, Traffic’, Autumn 02 Brown, Damion, ABC TV, ‘Profile on John Lendis’ Recorded 24/ 6/ 00 Cox, Tim, ABC Radio, ‘Interview’ recorded March 00 Andersch, Joerg, The Mercury, ‘Spirituality at heart of search’, 15/4/00 Montgomery, Bruce, The Weekend Australian, 19-20/2/00 Tonks, Lisa, Antiques in New South Wales, 12/99 - 5/00 Caldwell. Allison, ABC Radio National, ‘Interview and Report’ 4/00 Dermody, Louise, ABC Radio National, ‘Arts Today’ 29/1/97 Knights, Mary Catalogue essay, ‘In a Practical Sense’ Andersch, Joerch, The Mercury, ‘Paintings by John Lendis’ 8/4/95

Awards, Grants 2004 2002 2000 1999 1999 1998 1997

National Association for Visual Artists – Grant Tasmanian Postgraduate Research Scholarship – University of Tasmania National Association for Visual Artists – Artists Benevolent Fund Grant Arts Tasmania – Artist Development Grant Arts Tasmania – Artists Development Grant (joint) Arts Tasmania – Artists Development Grant Arts Tasmania – Inaugural ‘Artists in National Parks’ residency Cradle Mountain (3 months) 1995 Mt Nelson Prize in Art – University of Tasmania

Detention Bend 2004, oil on linen 120 x 175 cms


List of Works Sleeping Lady Jane 1 2004, oil on linen 120 x 190 cms

Sleeping Lady Jane 2 2004, oil on linen 120 x 160 cms

Beyond the Franklin 1 2004, oil on linen 120 x 190 cms

Beyond the Franklin 2 2004, oil on linen 101 x 122 cms

Looking West from Government House 2004, oil on linen 101 x 122 cms

Stars on the Gordon River 2004, oil on linen 71 x 91 cms

Dreaming of Home 2004, oil on linen 76 x 101 cms

Through the Cloud River 2004, oil on linen 76 x 101 cms

Detention Bend 2004, oil on linen 120 x 175 cms

Franklin River 2004, oil on linen diptych, 122 x 204 cms overall

Acknowledgments Palanquin 2004, oil on canvas 118 x 116 cms

Moonlight Ridge 2004, oil on linen 160 x 120 cms

New Trees

The artist wishes to thank the National Association for Visual Artists (NAVA) for funding the production of this catalogue essay through the Visual Artist and Craft Grant Scheme. Thanks also to the School of Art, University of Tasmania for support and assistance.

2004, oil on linen 71 x 91 cms

Catalogue Essay:

Danielle Wood

Deluge at Lightning Ridge


Simon Cuthbert

2004, oil on linen 120 x 160 cm

Here there be Dragons 2004, oil on linen 71 x 91 cms

Graphic Designer: Tracey Allen Printing:

Monotone Art Printers, Hobart.

Towards Transylvania 2004, oil on canvas 120 x 160 cms

Across the Franklin 2004, oil on canvas 120 x 160 cms

Crossing the Gordon 2004, oil on linen 110 x 150 cms

Exhibition dates: 27 May – 23 June 2004 Charles Hewitt Gallery 300 Glenmore Road, Paddington 2021 New South Wales, Australia. Tel: 02 9331 4988 Email:

Into the New World 2004, oil on linen 160 x 120 cms

Eden 2004, oil on linen 180 x 120 cms

 2004 - the artist, author, photographer and designer.

27 May – 23 June 2004

Charles Hewitt Gallery 300 Glenmore Road, Paddington 2021 New South Wales, Australia. Tel: 02 9331 4988 Fax: 02 9331 4877 Email:


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