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Curated by Gavin Wilson


APY LANDS, ADELAIDE STUDIO WOMEN’S COLLECTIVE - JOSEPHINE MICK, RHODA TJITAYI, KATIE CURLEY, BARBARA BAKER, MARGOT BROWN, INAWINTJI WILLIAMSON & MARGARET RICHARDS together with ALLANA BELTRAN with MATTHEW NEWTON & HEIDI DOUGLAS ROB BLAKERS GW BOT NICHOLAS BLOWERS NICI CUMPSTON TAMARA DEAN RACHEL ELLIS LOUISE FOWLER-SMITH RICHARD GOODWIN NICHOLAS HARDING JANET LAURENCE IDRIS MURPHY ANDREW MERRY EUAN MACLEOD PEGGY PATRICK WILLIAM ROBINSON SHANE SMITHERS MARY TONKIN EMMA WALKER JOHN R. WALKER JOSHUA YELDHAM

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TREE OF LIFE a testament to endurance

10 April - 30 May 2021

Curated by Gavin Wilson


TREE OF LIFE a testament to endurance As we cautiously emerge from the Covid-19 pandemic, humanity is faced with a stark reckoning. The concept for TREE of LIFE is the central motif that signifies the challenges we face. What remains of the natural world is the one beacon in a perilous age of drought, fire, floods and plague, exacerbated by the constant reality of climate change. The recent horrific fire season experienced across the country will go down as the greatest extinction event for Australian wildlife and habitats since Colonisation. To temper an already dangerous over reaction to the vexed issues of hazard reduction, tree thinning and further rampant land clearing, this major exhibition led by First Nations artists will generate a fresh, positive energy towards the reclamation of diminishing natural resources. Threads woven through TREE of LIFE will recognise the deep spiritual and physical associations that connect all forms of life: Life that must be nurtured as we chart a course of action through this perilous age of climate change, pandemics, wildfires and floods. As a nation with a mere 233 years experience of the Australian reality, we are now just beginning to recognise the towering achievement of Indigenous Australians. The seven artists; Josephine Mick, Rhoda Tjitayi, Katie Curley, Barbara Baker, Margot Brown, Inawintji Williamson and Margaret Richards from Anangu Pitjantjatjara Yankunytjatjara (the APY Lands) in the north-west corner of South Australia completed a major collaborative work for the TREE of LIFE exhibition, Tjukula Tjuta. The artists, working from the Adelaide Studio Women’s Collaborative, point to a profound yet simple reality magnified in desert regions – water is life. The painting is a joyous enactment of the sacred knowledge that attests to a culture deeply attuned to the subtle life-forces embedded in Country. Following is a statement from the artists: ‘The circles of this design represent rock holes, where water collects after the rains. These rock holes were an important source of water during the dry season when most of the water holes and creeks dried up. Water is an essential element in the desert. Knowledge of rock hole sites is passed on from generation to generation and revered by all Anangu (people) Pitjantjatjara.’ 4


APY Lands, Adelaide Studio Women’s Collective Josephine Mick, Rhoda Tjitayi, Katie Curley, Barbara Baker, Margot Brown, Inawintji Williamson and Margaret Richards

From close observations over many decades, I’ve noticed that the bush has its own way of arranging itself – whether it’s coastal heath, open or dense woodlands, rainforests in tropical or temperate zones or inland arid regions, each one of these places has a distinct character that speaks to the spirit. Not all of us are aware of this subtle dialogue, but that could be changing as we open our eyes and hearts and take time to look more intently at the remnants of a diminishing natural environment. Let’s not forget that trees absorb carbon dioxide (which is good for the planet) releasing oxygen that makes a walk in the bush so invigorating. According to the immunologist and author Dr Qing Li, being in a forest can reduce blood pressure, lower stress, improve energy levels and boost the immune system. 5


While scientists, ecologists and their cohorts measure the inventory or losses to the natural order it’s writers, artists and activists who provide us with the vision of wonder and humility that may help us reach a rapprochement to co-exist with a world we have wilfully subjugated to the point of imminent collapse. As the great environmentalist David Attenborough pointed out: ‘We depend upon the natural world for every mouthful of food we eat and every lungful of air we breathe.’ As the tragic loss of species and habitat continues to mount, books have begun to appear telling us of ways in which the natural world communicates. In Richard Powers’ Overstory, and Peter Wohlleben’s The Hidden Life of Trees, we are told of the complex underground web of fungal threads known as mycorrhiza that allow trees to feed each other, create immune systems, store resources, act as families protecting young and old as well as sending warning signals to others. A case in point being a giraffe about to browse on an African acacia prompting the tree to release a chemical scent into the air warning other trees to activate their defence strategy by synthesising toxic chemicals to deter the browser. In his introduction to The Hidden Life of Trees, Tim Flannery pointed out: ‘The most astonishing thing about trees is how social they are. The trees in the forest care for each other, sometimes going so far as to nourish the stump of a felled tree for centuries after it was cut down by feeding it sugars and other nutrients, and so keeping it alive.’ As we take stock of the great losses that occurred in the 2019-2020 bushfires, it’s sobering to look back at some of the irreparable acts of environmental vandalism that have reshaped the national landscape. For instance, it has been estimated that 15 billion trees have been cleared from the Murray-Darling Basin to make way for agri-business, a grossly unsustainable enterprise that decimated the lives and culture of First Nations people throughout the region. The few great River Red gums, Eucalyptus camaldulensis that were spared remain as a testament to what was one of the greatest diverse inland river systems and waterways on the planet. In the Northern Rivers of New South Wales, another catastrophe took place. The unique region was created by the Wollumbin Volcano located around Mt Warning (Wollumbin) to the west of Murwillumbah. The rich red soil deposits that characterised the place sustained the largest sub-tropical lowland rainforest in eastern Australia – Gondwana. All that changed with European settlement, and by 1880, less than 1% of The Big Scrub remained from an estimated 900 square kilometres that centred on the Bundjalung nation. With no comprehension of this vast natural system, the colonial administrators made it mandatory for 6


all newcomers to clear the rainforest to claim their designated allotments. Since the 1970s, in an attempt to reverse this ecological disaster, limited restoration has taken place – a task that only magnifies the appalling loss the Bundjalung people have endured. Of the 5.3 million hectares of New South Wales destroyed in the Black Summer of 2019-20 one third was rainforest, with a devastating impact on the remnant Gondwana rainforest of northern New South Wales. These rare habitats that sustain stands of coachwood, quandong, turpentine and black bean to name a few, are not fire-adapted and may never recover. Living and working for over the last 20 years in the Northern Rivers region of NSW, artist Emma Walker has developed a close affinity with the region’s fecund, sub-tropical environment. The organic shape and incised surface of the artist’s plywood format sets the tone for a revealing foray into the mysteries of the forest floor, as the artist explains: ‘Intricate and far reaching networks of communication and exchange, occur beneath our feet. Rich worlds of relationship, chatter, barter and life are concealed in the dark cavities of forest soil and beyond, as they extend below our lawns, houses and sealed roads. Invisible to the eye (like love and fear), the inter-woven eco systems in our forests echo the unseen and largely unrecognised connections that bind us all. It is said that trees cannot speak for themselves and though they cannot signal as we do, a mindful walk through any forest will soon disabuse us of this notion. When attention is paid and due reverence given, trees can provide us with a wealth of information and inspiration. Their presence and magnificence creates an atmosphere that is both calming and energizing. As we witness the global impacts of climate change, never has there been a more crucial time to walk, listen and heed the whispered imperatives of our forests. My works in the Tree of Life, are an ode to the shadowed beauty and crucial importance of our forests and to what lies above and beneath the surface.’

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EMMA WALKER Dark sublime 2019 oil & mixed media on carved board Private Collection, courtesy Arthouse Gallery, Sydney

EMMA WALKER Aquifer 2019 oil & mixed media on carved board Private Collection, courtesy Arthouse Gallery, Sydney

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The mitigation of major conflagrations in the age of Climate Change is a complex problem addressed in the 2020 Royal Commission that produced Background Papers on Land management – hazard reduction and Cultural burning practices in Australia. It made interesting reading. In regards to the effect of logging activity on fire intensity, there is an alarming correlation. ‘Research in some eucalypt forest subject to logging activity indicates that forests that have regenerated after harvesting were at greater risk of burning at higher intensity than older unlogged forests.’ (Price and Bradstock 2012:, Taylor et al; 2014) The underlying problem is created by the logging slash leftover, adding to the fuel on the forest floor, along with the loss of understory plants such as tree ferns that help prevent the drying of the forest. Cultural burning is the term used in the Royal Commission paper to describe burning practices developed by Indigenous Australians to enhance the health of the land and its people. Cool fires are slow moving, resulting in a mosaic of burnt and unburnt country which removes fuel for a potential fire late in the dry season. In cultural burning, the emphasis is on protecting the canopy which is described as ‘sacred’ in the sense that it provides shelter and shade, with habitat for animals and flora and the seed bed for the next season. A cool cultural burn should not reach the canopy while a hot prescribed hazard reduction burn has every chance of destroying it. It’s time to take lessons from the Indigenous practice of cool cultural burns undertaken with deep knowledge and understanding. As the artist J.R.Walker rightly points out, ‘For forests of eucalypts and their fire-loving allies, fire is an essential part of their life cycle. It can be better managed, but it cannot be eliminated.’ John R Walker is an artist committed to the region he inhabits around Braidwood in NSW. Paint for Walker is simply a means of transferring the emotion felt amidst his wanderings in the bush. From recent correspondence with the artist, the Black Summer of 2019/2020 had a deep personal impact: ‘Fireground 1 (for Bruce R) 2020 is part of a series which drew strongly upon what I saw in the eyes of friends who were in the front line of the ‘Black Summer’ fires in the Braidwood region. In the case of Fireground 5 (rebirth), it was wondrous to witness the new green shoots, a green version of the flames that had been soaring up the tree trunks only a few weeks earlier. For forests of eucalypts and their fire-loving allies, fire is an essential part of their life cycle. It can be much better managed, but it cannot be eliminated.’ 9


JOHN R. WALKER Fireground 1 (for Bruce R) 2020 archival oil on polyester Private Collection, courtesy Utopia Art Sydney

JOHN R. WALKER Fireground 5 (Rebirth) 2020 archival oil on polyester Collection the artist, courtesy Utopia Art Sydney

Further afield, Walker has, at times, often found himself gripped by the spectral appearance of a motif that demands his attention. The artist explains: ‘My earliest painting for the exhibition, Hollow Tree 2001, was inspired by an old tree on the ridge behind the Bundanon artist residences. Old, hollow, decrepit trees are, paradoxically, vital centres of life in the forest. They constitute a veritable apartment block for nesting parrots and a horde of other creatures, great and small.’

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JOHN R. WALKER Hollow Tree 2001 archival oil on polyester Orange Regional Gallery, Chroma Collection Donated through the Australian Government’s Cultural Gifts Program by Jim Cobb 2013

‘Memorial Grove: all that fall 2019 is one of a series of paintings whose genesis was the result of a number of visits to Yuranigh’s grave near Molong, west of Orange. This grove is one of a few remaining Indigenous carved tree grave sites. Andrew Sayers once remarked that many of my landscapes ‘reminded him of photographs of the Menin Road and other old battlefields.’ Belinda Cotton also remarked that many of my Bedervale paintings were ‘full of a sense of erasure and of ghostly presences.’ This sense of erasure, palimpsests if you will, both physical and from memory, has been central to my preoccupations about country for a long time.’

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JOHN R. WALKER Memorial Grove: All That Fall 2019 archival oil on polyester Collection the artist, courtesy Utopia Art Sydney


As we now place a high value on the forests that survived the Black Summer fires, a recent directive from the NSW State Government Transport Minister to level a 40 metre swathe of bushland along the side of all state highways had communities reeling! Thankfully, a high-level state bureaucrat refused to implement the minister’s directive. Levelling a 40 metre-wide corridor, the equivalent of 145,000 football fields to mitigate bushfires would have been grossly counter-productive. The remnant strips of native habitat are vital links for wildlife in what’s left of the bush. This raises the issue of koalas: No clear state policy is in place for their protection. If things continue as they are, the animal is on track for extinction in the wild in NSW before 2050. Intelligent bipartisan intervention is vital in the face of habitat loss, chlamydia, drought, bushfires and global warming. Environmental activism remains a vital means of bringing the public’s attention to the need to protect our irreplaceable forests from the chainsaw and the bulldozer. There have been many well documented battles such as the 1979 fight to save the Terania Creek rainforest, in Northern NSW, a remnant of the Big Scrub. The then NSW premier Neville Wran intervened when he saw the tide of public opinion rising in favour of protection. A similar situation occurred in 1983 when freshly-minted prime minister Bob Hawke saw for himself the pristine wilderness of the Franklin River. The thought of damming the region was seen at the time, by the majority of the public, as an abomination. Acting on his instincts and a wave of public opinion, the Prime Minister intervened, thereby saving the Franklin. After many battles lost and won, activists have evolved into well organised, articulate groups – the need to be media savvy is critical. Passion and forbearance alone will not carry the day in the battle to preserve our wilderness areas. One of the most celebrated moments of successful environmental activism in recent times occurred in the Weld Valley of Tasmania in 2007. At the entrance to the Old Growth Forest, 22 year-old performance artist and activist Allana Beltran achieved the performance of a lifetime, capturing the attention of local and international media. Suspending herself in a giant tripod 10 metres in the air, the artist/activist was prepared to sacrifice herself to save the ancient forest. With her face painted white, lips red, dressed in a costume with wings made of white cockatoo feathers and draped in long white fabric, she became known as the Weld Angel. The artist’s 10 hour performance prevented access to the logging area, only coming to an end when she was arrested and extracted from the tripod by the SES using a cherry picker. In a landmark compensation claim, the artist was sued by Forestry Tasmania and the Tasmanian Police.

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After a 6-month battle, the court case ended in favour of the Weld Angel. In 2013 as a result of the relentless campaign spearheaded by committed activists, 175,000 hectares of endangered Old Growth Forest in Tasmania’s South-West forest, was protected under World Heritage status.

top left: ALLANA BELTRAN performer MATTHEW NEWTON photographer The Weld Angel 1 2007 The Weld Valley, Tasmania, Australia. courtesy of the artists top right: ALLANA BELTRAN performer MATTHEW NEWTON photographer The Weld Angel2 2007 The Weld Valley, Tasmania, Australia. courtesy of the artists bottom left: ROB BLAKERS Sassafras 1. pre-logging 2006 Tombstone Creek, Upper Esk Tasmania digital photograph courtesy of the artist bottom right: ROB BLAKERS Sassafras 2. post-logging 2008 Tombstone Creek, Upper Esk Tasmania digital photograph courtesy of the artist

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The concept for the TREE of LIFE has universal resonance. As a meta-myth, it is deeply imbedded in all Indigenous cultures. In the Western tradition, it emerges in the Book of Genesis, the first book of the Hebrew Bible and the Christian Old Testament: ‘And out of the ground made the Lord God to grow every tree that is pleasant to the sight and good for food: the tree of life is also in the midst of the garden and the tree of knowledge of good and evil.’ Genesis 2:9. Both Janet Laurence and G.W. Bot have delved deeply into biblical, esoteric and literary texts that inform and inspire their practice. G.W. Bot’s Tree of Life is forged as a kind of elemental reckoning in the wake of recent fires. It is, in its essence, a symbol of hope gained from the artist’s experience in the Canberra region of the ongoing bushfire cycle, now exacerbated by global warming. ‘This relief sculpture, Tree of Life, 2019, bronze and ceramic, consisting of seven pieces is made from materials which have come from ‘out of the ground’. The blackened bronze shapes or glyphs protect on either side a fragile, pale blue ceramic glyph - the centre of the Tree of Life - as the artist points out: ‘Our traditions of language and imagery refuse to allow trees to do otherwise than express life. They grow, rise, endure, regenerate, bear fruit, nurture, shelter, shade and give oxygen. They have symbolic power and anthropomorphic metaphors. In this work the pale, celestial blue central glyph can be seen as a ladder between earth and another reality - a bridge between mortality and immortality. It is a symbol of hope, of the future - the start of a story, a shoot, a sign of refusing to despair in these desperate times.’

GW BOT Tree of Life 2019 bronze, glass and ceramic, 7 pieces – dimensions variable Collection the artist, courtesy Australian Galleries

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In the Tree of Knowledge, Janet Laurence takes us on a journey through time and space. It’s a work imbued with imagination, feeling and reverence that trumps scientific certainty. Once upon a time, ‘trees were taller than anything else alive’ as the critic/writer John Berger pointed out ‘their roots went deeper than any creature, they grazed the sky and sounded the underworld.’ Like the branching of a great tree, the artist has compiled a rich cultural reservoir – a kind of memory bank. As the artist explains: The Tree Remembers ‘The Lives of trees is something that has engaged me for a long time and is deeply embedded into my work. My awe and wonder about these great beings continues to grow. In my MCA exhibition I made a vast Theatre of Trees which included a Herbarium and a Tree of Knowledge Library. This work for TREE of LIFE exhibition is drawn from both this library and the herbarium however on a much smaller scale - I’m wanting the work to create a tribute to trees a sort of humble shrine. Placed onto a tree/bush table and extending up the walls are a series of objects fragments of assembled tree parts and images representing the Lives of Trees and their stories the historical , the mythological and the biological . We could think of this work as the memory within trees And we know how deeply that runs …….’

JANET LAURENCE Tree of Knowledge multi-media installation Collection of the artist

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Some of the finest meditative writings on the enduring centrality of the tree in our collective imagination can be found in Roger McDonald’s The Tree in Changing Light. ‘We wrote philosophies, built faiths, and took every kind of comfort from trees. They gave language to our existence as we put down roots, stretched our limbs, budded in infancy and were felled in old age. They were mute companions to our lives and worshipped beyond ourselves as the better part of balance and aspiration. They offered steadiness and long patience even as we failed in those. They were meeting points and sights of rough justice. They gave the idea and supplied the material for shelter. They offered an image of completion which was an illusion, but it was enough. Theirs was a whisper in the wind to the human ear both tragic and hopeful. Civilisation grew from exploiting, destroying, venerating and looking back on them. Trees led us to ourselves and we stood among them trunk to trunk, arms upon branches, our thoughts tangled in the stars.’ (P.155,156) It is interesting to observe two disparate artists whose work can be viewed as a hard-won tribute to the sacred moment in which the physical and spiritual coalesce - William Robinson in the ancient rainforests of the Lamington National Park in South East Queensland, and Rachel Ellis in the street trees of her Bathurst township in the Central West of New South Wales. In a conversation with QAGOMA director Chris Saines, William Robinson evoked a telling encounter that triggered a profound connection behind a major series of works including Rainforest in morning light 2002.

WILLIAM ROBINSON Rainforest in morning light 2002 oil on canvas Private Collection

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‘… the Antarctic beech trees are left over from a time when the continents were joined. Gondwanaland. Those Antarctic beeches up there are reputed to be a couple of thousand years old. They’re not huge, but they’re twisted. And, of course, in that damp climate, they grow an enormous amount of moss. You’re looking at something that’s older than something like Chartres Cathedral. When we first saw Chartres Cathedral, it had little trees growing out of it on the outside. It was just green in colour due to the moss. Inside, it was a great heavenly place, but outside it reminded me so very much of an ancient rainforest. And it does evoke the question of creation.’ (William Robinson in conversation with Chris Saines, September 2017) In a recent correspondence with Rachel Ellis, the artist outlined the inspiration behind her work for the exhibition: ‘The street trees of Bathurst where I live, both move and trouble me. The majestic trees cut (hacked) to make way for powerlines trigger my imagination. The painting is my response to the predicament in which the trees find themselves as well as their relationship to the light which sustains them. Glancing down Hope Street in Bathurst some years ago, the centrality of a tree and its precarious lean, silhouetted by the glow of afternoon light, caught my attention. The attraction of shape and light essentially. Bathurst Landscape - Hope Street was my response. The lone pine with its own loss of limb at the edge of the picture plane, reaching for connection, seemed a testament to communities of trees - things witnessed and endured. ‘

RACHEL ELLIS Bathurst Landscape, Hope St 2013-18 oil on linen on board Private Collection,courtesy King Street Gallery on William

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The indiscriminate hacking of mature trees in cities and townships across the country to accommodate power and communication lines could be prevented. Placing all overhead infrastructure underground will go a long way towards preventing the practice of dismembering street trees that store carbon and oxygenate our cities. In an age of urban expansion, coupled with questionable development approvals, the natural world is the first casualty. Recently in western Victoria, an ancient and culturally significant tree was destroyed to make way for a highway. The directions tree, thought to pre-date colonisation, was removed amid much protest. The road planned to go through a group of ancient trees directly linked to the songs and stories of the local Indigenous people, the Djab Wurrung. The trees connect them to nearby Mount Langi Ghiran, known as the black cockatoo dreaming site, and to the Hopkins River, which is associated to the eel dreaming. The main birthing tree, believed to be 800 years old, was a place where women gave birth. Placentas were mixed with seed and buried underneath the directions trees, tying them to a child’s life. As a result of the protests 15 trees, including two birthing trees, were saved when planners agreed to protect them from destruction. Sydney as a liveable city has suffered extensively at the hands of inept state government functionaries. Perhaps the most egregious act took place in 2016 along Anzac Parade in Sydney’s Eastern suburbs. Planted 100 years ago in honour of the ANZACS who fought and died at Gallipoli and the Western Front, the great Morton Bay figs (Ficus macrophylla) were the people’s sacred link to a tragic past. Seventeen of these magnificent trees, including the Tree of Knowledge, which stood near the Centennial Park/Randwick gates, were destroyed. No amount of agitating and protests could deter the state government from re-directing an ill-conceived light rail project. In the early morning light, people stood and wept at the destruction that had taken place the night before. What had seemed inconceivable was now a grim reality. The urban fabric of Sydney is now littered with disfigured suburbs that were in the way of light rail projects, tunnels and tollways. At the Barangaroo site on what was once known as The Hungry Mile, the erasure of history on all levels – natural, Indigenous and industrial - has been spectacular. Sculptor Richard Goodwin’s Tree of entropy is a resounding riposte to the corrupt and chaotic milieu of present day Barangaroo. The work is an elegant response to a site where a towering hollow object attests to the culture of corruption and greed; a culture that has gripped the city. The artist’s meditation on what could become of the site 18


in Barangaroo Masterplan was triggered by the lone Port Jackson fig (Ficus rubiginosa), placed as a token beneath the tower. As the artist pointed out: ‘Barangaroo has preoccupied me for many years as I watched the cumulative corruption seeping out of its development from working waterfront to commercial site. I also watched the fading of civic voice as power and greed took hold of Barangaroo’s fate. Now we are left with a “monstrous edifice”, as curator Gavin Wilson states, with a single, young, struggling Port Jackson fig tree at its feet. My sculptural work, titled Tree of entropy, is about the triumphant march of entropy , which will, over time, convert the shiny, new thing into its elements. The drawing, titled Barangaroo Masterplan, is a meditative map of a future Barangaroo.’

RICHARD GOODWIN Barangaroo Masterplan 2021 charcoal and pastel on cotton paper & Tree of entropy 2021 bronze clad with gold gilt and beach driftwood Collection of the artist, courtesy of Australian Galleries

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One of the few trees to be largely spared the axe in the Sydney region was the Angophora costata. Growing on Hawkesbury sandstone, the twisted anthropomorphic character of the tree excluded it from use as a building product. On the other hand, artists have found the angophora to be an inspiration. For instance, the architect and artist Marion Mahoney in Castlecrag, Adrian Feint on Pittwater and Brett Whiteley on the peninsula’s northern beaches all responded to the sinuous beauty of its limbs as it soars towards the light. Joshua Yeldham is an artist closely associated with the riverine environment of the Hawkesbury River where the mighty angophoras cling to the sandstone escarpment. He sculpts, draws and paints with a fastidious adherence to harnessing the unalloyed emotion that drives his creation. Steeped in recovered memory, Angophora-Yeomans Bay is a tribute to endurance. As the artist put it: ‘It is adornment and it is reverence.’

JOSHUA YELDHAM Angophora – Yeomans Bay 2020 acrylic and cane on hand carved board Private Collection, courtesy of Arthouse Gallery, Sydney

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Among the many fine works assembled for TREE of LIFE, two large scale panoramas have particular resonance, Mary Tonkin’s Madre, Kalorama 2008 and Nicholas Harding’s Wilpena Pound and Eucalyptus (Sliding Rock) 2019-2020. Mary Tonkin’s work takes the viewer deep into a wet sclerophyll forest in Victoria’s Dandenong ranges - the site continues to be a constant source of inspiration for the artist. The muted, tonal atmosphere across the five metre format establishes a sense of immersion, along with a feeling of reverence at the site of an ancient Eucalyptus regnans rising majestically from the forest floor. In a recent correspondence, the artist outlines the on-going physical and emotional impact of the site: ‘When I first sighted this tree from across a gully I involuntarily said “Madre” - even at a distance she exuded a powerful matriarchal and generative presence. She is a Eucalyptus regnans - Mountain Ash (specimens of which are the tallest flowering trees in the world). She has survived many bush fires, lost most of her upper reaches and reached a substantial girth, her enormous thighs allowing her a purchase on her perilous spot atop a steep incline to a seasonal creek. This painting was made entirely in the presence of this venerable tree, in wet sclerophyll bush on my family’s farm at Kalorama in the Dandenong Ranges, Victoria; this is where I grew up and where I work every day, it is bush that carries deep meaning for me, that I come to know better each year. Madre is constructed from several different points of view, at a true-to-life scale in colours that are not local - all of which is intended to convey the might and magnificence of her being, her warm Motherly embrace. Perhaps I should use a past tense to describe her as she has sadly died since this painting was made, but it seems somehow inappropriate as she still stands, sheltering animals and insects, feeding a host of fungi and exerting her considerable presence over the surrounding bush.’

MARY TONKIN Madre, Kalorama 2008 oil on linen courtesy Australian Galleries, Melbourne

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In contrast to the damp forest of the Dandenongs, Nicholas Harding found inspiration in a semi-arid region of South Australia, Wilpena Pound. The artist’s sustained encounter with this harsh region has resulted in some of the finest landscape painting of recent times. Harding’s sensitive response to the light and subtle tonal variations reveal the distinct character of this tough piece of bushland regenerating after bushfire. Embedded in the work is the artist’s personal story of renewal. The following correspondence also reveals Harding’s long standing connection with the region: ‘Among the ad hoc hanging of framed reproductions of paintings in the classrooms and corridors of Normanhurst Boys’ High School, my alma mater, was a faded Hans Heysen Flinders Ranges landscape. The qualities of light were evident despite the print’s diminished colour. The nature of Australian light has had a seminal impact on me since arriving in Australia as an eight year old boy, and in 2015, I visited the Flinders Ranges in South Australia for the first time. A semi-arid climate, Pound Gap is within Wilpena Pound, an amphitheatre of mountains in the IkaraFlinders Ranges National Park. This creek runs after infrequent rain, reflected sky pooling in the water as the stream dries out. Ikara means “meeting place” in the language of the Adnyamathanha, the traditional owners of the Pound. The central tree figure has been a favored subject of mine since first visiting the region. I have returned with my partner Lynne in 2017, 2019 and recently in 2021. The landscape always changes. The Pound Gap landscape was burnt out by bushfire prior to our second visit in 2017. What had been a verdantly coloured vista punctuated with wattle blossom in 2015 had become a tonal spread of ash and charcoal. It was while contemplating these blackened trees I first noticed lumps in my neck, subsequently diagnosed as cancer. For me the ravages of the bushfire became symbolic of the radiation treatment for my disease. Amongst the ashen ground and torched vegetation I noticed a few green shoots, the beginnings of recovery. Bushfire destroys yet it is a necessary catalyst for regrowth of flora, the landscape again flourishing. This particular tree has significance for me, a sentinel figure, a marker of nature’s replenishment, an analogy for my recovery. It has become my tree of life.’ 22


NICHOLAS HARDING Wilpena Pound and Eucalyptus (Sliding Rock) 2019 – 20 oil on linen Private Collection, courtesy Olsen Gallery

Both Louise Fowler-Smith and Idris Murphy have ventured into arid zones in the far west region of New South Wales in search of inspiration where sturdy trees such as the mulga and leopard tree flourish. Both these artists bring a deep felt sense of the spirit of these indomitable specimens eking out an existence in the desiccated environment of the arid zone. Fowler-Smith describes herself as an environmental artist who aims to promote new experimental ways of experiencing the land. For the past 20 years her practice-led research has focused on the veneration of trees, a subject she was drawn to for the magnitude of their environmental significance and their universal, symbolic importance. She has researched the significance of the Tree historically, culturally, symbolically, politically, scientifically and how perceptual shifts through imaging and disseminating the images can activate change and contribute to creating new insights into environmental issues.

LOUISE FOWLER-SMITH The Illuminated Mulga 2009 cotton rag print using Ultra Chrome Ink, edition of 8 Collection of the artist

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The works in TREE of LIFE: a testament to endurance, are from the artist’s Tenacious Trees of the Australian Desert series. These works focus on trees found predominantly in the arid zone of far western NSW, particularly trees and bushes such as the Mulga, with its umbrella like form and isolated existence. For Idris Murphy, trees have special meaning, best revealed in the pared-back spaces he returns to time and again in the far west of New South Wales around Fowlers Gap. Light is a crucial factor in both Murphy and Fowler-Smith’s work. For Murphy, it’s the light emanating from within his idiosyncratic picture-plane. In contrast, Fowler-Smith uses light as an armature to emphasise presence and form. Like many before him, Murphy’s first attempt at painting a picture involved depicting a tree. ‘The first (real) painting that I ever attempted was of a tree, using a very old set of Winsor and Newton oil paints from a friend of my dad’s. It belonged to his father, or grandfather and as I was the only one who was vaguely arty, I was given this set which I promptly mishandled and made a very bad resemblance of a eucalyptus. I have painted trees in one form or other since then, with these two works exhibited here, being somewhat a metaphor and a reflection on trees in very different circumstances. Trees that survive and often thrive in unlikely desert places and others that live with flooded waters.’

IDRIS MURPHY Green tree waterhole 2019 acrylic & collage on aluminium courtesy King Street Gallery on William

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Thankfully, trees are resilient beings and are slowly regenerating in parts of the country’s burnt-out bushland. Yet, our old growth forests and wilderness areas are again gravely threatened. This is a travesty, perpetrated by poor state and federal governance that must be addressed as we stagger through a perilous age of climate change, pandemics, wildfires and floods. As a people, we should be planting and protecting native forests, not tearing them down. My hope, as curator of TREE of LIFE: a testament to endurance, is that audiences will connect with this compelling body of work, and perhaps look more closely at the fragile, natural wonders that sustain life as we know it. Gavin Wilson

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APY Lands, Adelaide Studio Women’s Collective Josephine Mick, Rhoda Tjitayi, Katie Curley, Barbara Baker, Margot Brown, Inawintji Williamson and Margaret Richards

The APY Art Centre Collective is a social enterprise made up of 11 Aboriginal owned and governed arts and culture organisations from the Anangu Pitjantjatjara Yankunytjatjara (APY) Lands. As a collective, these organisations work to increase income for Aboriginal artists and support the important work of art centres in APY communities. This artwork was made at the APY Art Centre Collective operated APY Studio in Adelaide, which provides APY artists with a satellite art centre for artists off ‘Country’. The APY Studio affords APY artists with income stability alongside culturally appropriate support to access healthcare and the opportunity to maintain vital cultural and community connections when in Adelaide.

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APY LANDS, ADELAIDE STUDIO WOMEN’S COLLECTIVE Tjukula Tjuta acrylic on Belgian linen 243 x 198 cm courtesy APY Gallery, Sydney 27


ALLANA BELTRAN performer MATTHEW NEWTON photographer The Weld Angel 1 2007 The Weld Valley, Tasmania, Australia. courtesy of the artists

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ALLANA BELTRAN

On the 23rd of March 2007 artist Allana Beltran took a stand using performance art to save the ancient forests of Tasmania from clear-fell logging at the equivalent rate of 40 football fields per day. She was arrested and eventually sued by Forestry Tasmania and the Tasmanian Police in a landmark compensation claim. News of the case struck national and international media. The court case ended in favour of the Angel after a 6 month battle. As a result of the relentless campaign in 2013, 175000 hectares of endangered Old Growth Forest in Tasmania’s South West forests was protected under World Heritage status. The image of the Angel has become an enduring International icon for people wanting to elevate humanity, rise up to face the challenges of our collective crises and save our natural world. Almost 15 years on the Weld Angel has evolved into a world-wide movement of people actively defending the natural earth, for more information visit www.climacts.org.au To be involved in the campaign to save the Tarkine Valley visit https://www.bobbrown.org.au/takayna_tarkine

ALLANA BELTRAN performer MATTHEW NEWTON photographer The Weld Angel 2 2007 The Weld Valley, Tasmania, Australia. courtesy of the artists 29


ROB BLAKERS

This was a horrible episode - the ABC followed up on the story in about 2016 and sent me back to rephotograph. No rainforest of course, just lots of tiny wattles and occasional spindly eucalypts. They then asked a forestry guy to comment and his basic line was that there never was rainforest there in the first place. Just wilful duplicity.

ROB BLAKERS Sassafras 1. pre-logging 2006 Tombstone Creek, Upper Esk Tasmania digital photograph courtesy of the artist

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ROB BLAKERS Sassafras 2. post-logging 2008 Tombstone Creek, Upper Esk Tasmania digital photograph courtesy of the artist 31


NICHOLAS BLOWERS

There is a busy, chaotic feel to my work; a world of debris and clutter that one often finds in the Australian landscape. I search for places that have a heightened sense of drama. I’m interested in certain subjects because of their unruliness and anarchic structural elements. The painting depicts a mine tailing pond at Savage River in Tasmania. These tailing ponds are a place of conflict, it is a landscape where both human interests and wildness compete. Paradoxically It is also a place of beauty at odds within the drama that is unfolding. Savage River is in the north west of Tasmania and is a remote place between the townships of Corrina and Waratah. It’s within a region called the Tarkine, which contains a significant area of a cool temperate rainforest in Australia. This duality of intent uniquely shapes the landscape. On one hand you have the conservationists and on the other the mining & logging interests. What is undeniable is that the prominence of mining in the region has consequently resulted in the heavy metal pollution of Tasmania’s Western rivers. NICHOLAS BLOWERS Savage Entropy in Paynes Grey 2019 oil on canvas Private Collection, courtesy Nanda\Hobbs 32


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NICHOLAS BLOWERS Collapsing river bank study i 2020 oil on paper Private Collection, courtesy Nanda\Hobbs 34


NICHOLAS BLOWERS Collapsing river bank study iI 2020 oil on paper Private Collection, courtesy Nanda\Hobbs 35


GW BOT

GW BOT Tree of Life 2019 bronze and ceramic, 7 pieces – dimensions variable Collection the artist, courtesy Australian Galleries

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NICI CUMPSTON

Nici Cumpston is a senior Indigenous artist and curator with Barkandji, Afghan, Scottish and Irish heritage. As a photographer who has at one point in career, worked for six years in the forensic department of the South Australian police force, Cumpston brings a patient, probing eye to the devastated remains of her peoples’ riverine environment in the lower Murray-Darling Basin. In the following statement, the artist outlines the sensitive process of spiritual and physical recovery as she traverses her ancestral lands. ‘The three works in Tree of Life: a testament to endurance are from the series having-been-there which was created in response to my Barkandji family’s ancestral country in western New South Wales. In 2011, I undertook a residency at Fowlers Gap Arid Zone Research Station, which allowed me to take my time walking the ridges, feeling the country, watching the light and taking in the surroundings that are rich in the spirit of my ancestors. Everywhere I went I saw the evidence of Aboriginal occupation of this land prior to European settlement. There were remnants of flints and grindstones, which were used to manufacture tools and to grind native seeds and grains. People scarred the trees by removing the bark for canoes, coolamans, shields and shelters, indicating like street signs areas of safety and abundance. I had the sense that the ancestors had only just gone, but they left their subtle calling cards to let us know how important these sites were for them. Uncovering these signs of occupation creates awareness of the places that were and still are meaningful to Aboriginal people. Some of the images also record the ongoing demise of these sites as a result of colonisation. It is important that these stories of occupation, abundance, and destruction be documented from an Aboriginal perspective.

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NICI CUMPSTON Leopard Tree II 2011 archival inkjet print on canvas, hand coloured with synthetic polymer paint, edition of 3 Collection of the artist, courtesy Michael Reid 38


NICI CUMPSTON Fossil waterhole 2012 archival inkjet print hand coloured with synthetic polymer paint, backlit transparent archival film Collection of the artist, courtesy Michael Reid

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NICI CUMPSTON Scar tree, Fowler’s Creek 2011 archival inkjet print hand coloured with synthetic polymer paint, backlit transparent archival film Collection of the artist, courtesy Michael Reid 40


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TAMARA DEAN

In Our Nature is a symbolic reminder that we are neither separate nor superior to nature. Instead, it acknowledges, we are a part of nature, and that to wreak destruction upon nature is to ultimately wreak destruction upon ourselves. In Our Nature was a site-responsive photographic series set in the Adelaide Botanic Gardens and Mt Lofty Gardens over the course of a year. Over 35 people between the ages of two and eighty years modelled for this series as well as dancers from the Australian Dance Theatre. This series was created for the 2018 Adelaide Biennial of Australian Art. For this series I symbolically linked the seasonal changes in the flora with the lives of the people in the photographs, staging interactions between the models and the plants at particular points in their life cycles. Making symbolic connections between the human body and the natural world in order to show that we are all a part of an interconnected system.

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TAMARA DEAN Messmate Stringybark (Eucalyptus Obliqua) Summer 2018 archival pigment print on cotton rag, edition of 8 Collection of the artist, courtesy Michael Reid Gallery

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TAMARA DEAN Fallen Willow (Salix) in Autumn 2017 archival pigment print on cotton rag, edition of 8 Collection of the artist, courtesy Michael Reid Gallery

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TAMARA DEAN Colony Willow (Salix) in Autumn 2017 archival pigment print on cotton rag, edition of 8 Collection of the artist, courtesy Michael Reid Gallery

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RACHEL ELLIS

RACHEL ELLIS Bathurst Landscape, Hope St 2013-18 oil on linen on board Private Collection,courtesy King Street Gallery on William 46


LOUISE FOWLER-SMITH

LOUISE FOWLER-SMITH The Celestial Mulga 2009 cotton rag print using Ultra Chrome Ink, edition of 8 Collection of the artist 47


LOUISE FOWLER-SMITH The Illuminated Mulga 2009 cotton rag print using Ultra Chrome Ink, edition of 8 Collection of the artist 48


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RICHARD GOODWIN

RICHARD GOODWIN Barangaroo Masterplan charcoal and pastel on cotton paper Collection of the artist, courtesy of Australian Galleries

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RICHARD GOODWIN Tree of entropy bronze clad with gold gilt and beach driftwood Collection of the artist, courtesy of Australian Galleries

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NICHOLAS HARDING Wilpena Pound and Eucalyptus (Sliding Rock) 2019 – 20 oil on linen 52 Private Collection, courtesy Olsen Gallery


NICHOLAS HARDING

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JANET LAURENCE

JANET LAURENCE Tree of Knowledge 2021 multi-media installation Collection of the artist

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JANET LAURENCE Tree of Knowledge 2021 (details) multi-media installation Collection of the artist

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EUAN MACLEOD Roots 1993 oil on canvas Private Collection

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EUAN MACLEOD

Trees are something I often try to leave out in my paintings, or at least the foliage. I prefer to see the structure of the bare earth and they are hard to paint. I tend to look down rather than up so this painting is based on Napoleon Reef, an old gold mining area near Bathurst. The workings are still very obvious and all the trees are of a similar size, as the original ones would have been cut down for stampers. It must have looked shocking at that time but now with the regrowth it has its own harsh beauty which is what attracted me to the area in the first place. That and the seemingly bottomless pits that dot the area which remind you of the labyrinth of tunnels that exist under the surface. I love the Inca idea of trees being the link between the three levels of ‘reality’: the underworld, our world and heaven. This work and my work generally seems to dwell on the underworld which according to them is, among other things, where the growth happens. The beautiful tree and its root system that is the subject of my painting still exists after all it has been through and I had the pleasure of revisiting it recently. I may not love painting trees but I cannot even begin to imagine a world without them.

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IDRIS MURPHY

IDRIS MURPHY Reflections and shadows waterhole 2019 acrylic on aluminium courtesy King Street Gallery on William 58


IDRIS MURPHY Green tree waterhole 2019 acrylic & collage on aluminium courtesy King Street Gallery on William 59


ANDREW MERRY Blue Gum Forest regeneration 2020 archival pigment print courtesy of the artist

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ANDREW MERRY

Trees and their landscapes have been an ongoing theme throughout my life and photography. My first series of photographs was at age 12 and the subject was an old tall dead tree that I photographed from different angles. In my early twenties I travelled to the island of Borneo in search of dense primary tropical rainforest to photograph. The only way gain to access to the remote environment was on rivers and via logging camps in areas where the rainforest was being rapidly cleared. These images later became the series The Jungle Island. Another tree-inspired series, Xeno Eucalyptus (2009), involved digitally imaging eucalyptus trees into idyllic European landscapes. This series depicted a ‘European gaze’ of the Australian landscape. When curator Gavin Wilson asked me to be part on the Tree of Life exhibition it was shortly after the 2019-2020 ‘Black Summer’ bushfires. I did not share his optimism of the endurance of trees as large areas of the Blue Mountains have been devastated by fire. Even nine months later many areas had barely began recovering, but then the rain came, and the landscape literally burst back to life. Trees can be resilient, but the diversity of an ecosystem can only cope with so much destruction though climate change before irreparable damage is done. The photographs in the TREE of LIFE exhibition represents two different perceptions of the 21st century environment. Firstly, there is despair portrayed in Mount Banks visible through the burnt out Blue Gum Forest 2020, where the usually dense forest is so void of foliage that a view that is normally not possible - from the Grose Valley’s Blue Gum Forest to Mount Banks - is clearly visible through the tree trunks. I cropped this in an oval shape to give a sense of depth to the tree trunks. This image makes a reference to the colonial botanist, Joseph Banks, who is the mountain’s namesake. The second photograph, Blue Gum Forest regeneration 2020, has an optimistic view of the environment. Taken on the same day as the other image, this photograph shows a severely burnt tree making a fast recovery little over a month after the fire swept through the Grose Valley.

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ANDREW MERRY Mount Banks visible through the burnt out Blue Gum Forest 2020 archival pigment print courtesy of the artist 63


PEGGY PATRICK Peggy Patrick is a senior Gija artist from Warmun in the East Kimberley region of Western Australia. The artist’s suite of Boab Trees 2009, depict an important native tree in changing light. As the artist states: ‘The Jumuluny (boab tree) is for women, Ngalim ngalim – boorroo. When women gave birth out in the bush, they would often put their placentas in the boab tree, to make the baby strong. Then that boab tree belongs to that child. Boab trees are also an important food source – The roots of the young trees can be eaten with the boab nut. People still eat it widely today.’

PEGGY PATRICK Boab Trees 2009 synthetic polymer paint on belgian linen courtesy of Cooee Art Gallery

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WILLIAM ROBINSON

WILLIAM ROBINSON Rainforest in morning light 2002 oil on canvas Private Collection

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SHANE SMITHERS

Shane Smithers is a Darug man of the Burraberongal clan. The artist’s traditional country extends along the Hawkesbury River to the upper reaches of the Blue Mountains. As a senior Darug artist and academic, Smithers transforms traditional Aboriginal symbols and designs to forge a strong contemporary idiom. Informed by ancient and modern stories, Smithers’ intricate paintings Women’s Dreaming Tree 2018 and Men’s Dreaming Tree 2018, carry sacred knowledge. The artist details the significance of the works in a recent correspondence: ‘The men’s dreaming tree has incredible allegorical significance in Aboriginal lore. Its roots extend well into, and are nourished by the earth (our mother, Wiari). The roots rise to become the trunk, the trunk extends up, its bows, branches and leaves reaching into the sky (our father, Biari). The dreaming tree is about connection between mother and father, it salutes the creative forces that give birth to all life and celebrates regeneration. The tree in this painting is significant to men and men’s lore. While I can paint the tree, I cannot talk about some of the mysteries that it holds. What I can say is that this tree is a men’s tree. The leaves, every one of which is in the shape of a diamond, represent men’s stories. The men’s dreaming trees is one of the simplest and therefore most traditional. Often, as an accompaniment to oral stories, the old men would draw pictures or symbols in the dirt. These drawings were often simple, geometrical and easy to understand. The tree in this painting is obviously depicted in a contemporary style, and yet is strongly linked to our ancient past, showing the connection between then and now.

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SHANE SMITHERS Men’s Dreaming Tree 2018 acrylic on linen Collection the artist

The women’s dreaming tree or scarred tree has incredible allegorical significance in Aboriginal lore. The idea that the tree is a kind of conduit between the earth and sky, It’s roots extend well into the earth, it’s leaves and branches reaching into the sky. Trees are therefore seen as having spiritual significance, highlighting the fecundity of the union between sky and earth. The tree in this painting is significant to women and women’s lore. I was given permission to paint it, but do not have permission to talk about some of the mysteries that it holds. What I can say is that the fig tree is a Woman’s tree. The leaves, painted as little diamonds with rounded, rather than pointed, sides representing woman as life-giver. They represent stories that the women share with their children, their families. This dreaming tree tells many stories, great and small and represents the stuff of daily life, of survival and of Aboriginal culture.’ 67


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SHANE SMITHERS Women’s Dreaming Tree 2018 acrylic on linen Collection the artist 69


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MARY TONKIN

MARY TONKIN Madre, Kalorama 2008 oil on linen courtesy Australian Galleries, Melbourne

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EMMA WALKER

EMMA WALKER Dark sublime 2019 oil & mixed media on carved board Private Collection, courtesy Arthouse Gallery, Sydney 72


EMMA WALKER Aquifer 2019 oil & mixed media on carved board Private Collection, courtesy Arthouse Gallery, Sydney 73


JOHN R. WALKER

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JOHN R. WALKER Hollow Tree 2001 archival oil on polyester Orange Regional Gallery, Chroma Collection Donated through the Australian Government’s Cultural Gifts Program by Jim Cobb 2013


JOHN R. WALKER Memorial Grove: All That Fall 2019 archival oil on polyester Collection the artist, courtesy Utopia Art Sydney 75


JOHN R. WALKER Fireground 1 (for Bruce R) 2020 archival oil on polyester Private Collection, courtesy Utopia Art Sydney 76


JOHN R. WALKER Fireground 5 (Rebirth) 2020 archival oil on polyester Collection the artist, courtesy Utopia Art Sydney 77


JOSHUA YELDHAM

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JOSHUA YELDHAM Angophora – Yeomans Bay 2020 acrylic and cane on hand carved board Private Collection, courtesy of Arthouse Gallery, Sydney 79


LIST OF WORKS APY LANDS, ADELAIDE STUDIO WOMEN’S COLLECTIVEJOSEPHINE MICK, RHODA TJITAYI, KATIE CURLEY, BARBARA BAKER, MARGOT BROWN, INAWINTJI WILLIAMSON MARGARET RICHARDS Tjukula Tjuta 2020 acrylic on Belgian linen 242.5 x 199cm Courtesy APY Gallery ALLANA BELTRAN with Rob Blakers and Heidi Douglas The Weld Angel 2007 Weld Valley Tasmania film of performance wooden poles, rope, harness, body paint, costume including handmade wings courtesy of the artist ALLANA BELTRAN, performer MATHEW NEWTON, photographer The Weld Angel 1 2007 digital print, 88 x 60cm courtesy the artists ALLANA BELTRAN, performer MATHEW NEWTON, photographer The Weld Angel 2 2007 digital print, 88 x 60cm courtesy the artists ROB BLAKERS Sassafras 1. pre-logging 2006 Tombstone Creek, Upper Esk Tasmania digital print, 76 x 60cm courtesy the artist

ROB BLAKERS Sassafras 2. post-logging 2008 Tombstone Creek, Upper Esk Tasmania digital print, 88 x 60cm courtesy the artist

GW BOT Tree of Life 2019 bronze, glass and ceramic, 7 pieces 84 x 320 x 3 cm Collection the artist, courtesy Australian Galleries NICHOLAS BLOWERS Savage Entropy in Paynes Grey 2019 oil on canvas, 164 x 204cm Private Collection, courtesy Nanda\ Hobbs NICHOLAS BLOWERS Collapsing river bank study I 2020 oil on paper, 57 x 56cm (image size) courtesy Nanda\Hobbs NICHOLAS BLOWERS Collapsing river bank study II 2020 oil on paper, 57 x 56cm (image size) courtesy Nanda\Hobbs NICI CUMPSTON Leopard Tree II 2011 archival inkjet print on canvas, hand coloured with watercolour & pencil, edition of 3 97.5 x 97.5cm Collection of the artist, courtesy Michael Reid NICI CUMPSTON Scar Tree, Fowlers Creek, New South Wales 2011 backlit transparent archival film 55 x 99.5cm

Collection of the artist, courtesy Michael Reid NICI CUMPSTON Fossil Waterhole 2011 backlit transparent archival film 36 x 99.5cm Collection of the artist, courtesy Michael Reid TAMARA DEAN Fallen Willow (Salix) in Autumn 2017 archival pigment print on cotton rag, edition of 8, 120 x 160cm Collection of the artist, courtesy Michael Reid TAMARA DEAN Colony Willow (Salix) in Autumn 2017 archival pigment print on cotton rag, edition of 8, 120 x 160cm Collection of the artist, courtesy Michael Reid Gallery TAMARA DEAN Messmate Stringybark (Eucalyptus Obliqua) Summer 2018 archival pigment print on cotton rag, edition of 8, 75 x 100cm Collection of the artist, courtesy Michael Reid RACHEL ELLIS Bathurst Landscape, Hope St 2013-18 oil on linen on board, 105 x 139cm Private Collection, courtesy King Street Gallery on William LOUISE FOWLER-SMITH The Illuminated Mulga 2009 cotton rag print using Ultra Chrome Ink, edition of 8 65 x 86cm (image size) Collection of the artist


LOUISE FOWLER-SMITH The Celestial Mulga 2009 cotton rag print using Ultra Chrome Ink, edition of 8, 65 x 89cm (image size) Collection of the artist RICHARD GOODWIN Barangaroo Masterplan charcoal and pastel on cotton paper 150 x 220cm, 4 sheets Collection the artist, courtesy Australian Galleries RICHARD GOODWIN Tree of Entropy bronze clad with gold gilt and beach driftwood Collection the artist, courtesy Australian Galleries NICHOLAS HARDING Wilpena Pound and eucalyptus (sliding rock) 2019 – 2020 oil on linen, 176 x 400cm Private Collection, courtesy Olsen Gallery JANET LAURENCE Tree of Knowledge 2021 multi-media installation variable dimemsions Collection of the artist

acrylic on aluminium, 141 x 151cm Courtesy King Street Gallery on William ANDREW MERRY Mount Banks visible through the burnt out Blue Gum Forest 2020 archival pigment print 72 x 101cm (image size) Collection of the artist ANDREW MERRY Blue Gum Forest regeneration 2020 archival pigment print 56 x 83cm (image size) Courtesy of the artist PEGGY PATRICK Boab trees 2009 acrylic on Belgian linen 101.5 x 101.5 cm each panel, 6 panels Courtesy Cooee Art Gallery WILLIAM ROBINSON Rainforest in morning light 2002 oil on canvas, 167 x 244cm Private Collection SHANE SMITHERS Women’s Dreaming Tree 2018 acrylic on linen, 180 x 300cm Collection the artist

EUAN MACLEOD Roots 1993 oil on canvas, 137 x 183cm Private Collection

SHANE SMITHERS Men’s Dreaming Tree 2018 acrylic on linen, 201 x 121cm Collection the artist

IDRIS MURPHY Green tree waterhole 2019 acrylic & collage on aluminium 141 x 151cm Courtesy King Street Gallery on William

MARY TONKIN Madre, Kalorama 2008 oil on linen, 244 x 508cm courtesy Australian Galleries, Melbourne

IDRIS MURPHY Reflections and shadows water hole 2019

UNKNOWN ARTIST incised Boab seed pods Courtesy of Cooee Art Gallery

EMMA WALKER Dark sublime 2019 oil & mixed media on carved board 146 x 178 cm Private Collection, courtesy Arthouse Gallery, Sydney EMMA WALKER Aquifer 2019 oil & mixed media on carved board 125 x 152cm Private Collection, courtesy Arthouse Gallery, Sydney JOHN R. WALKER Fireground 1 (for Bruce R) 2020 archival oil on polyester, 243 x 182cm Private Collection, courtesy Utopia Art Sydney JOHN R. WALKER Fireground 5 (Rebirth) 2020 archival oil on polyester, 244 x 183cm Collection the artist, courtesy Utopia Art Sydney JOHN R. WALKER Memorial Grove: All That Fall 2019 archival oil on polyester, 243.5 x 183cm Collection the artist, courtesy Utopia Art Sydney JOHN R. WALKER Hollow Tree 2001 archival oil on polyester, 180 x 280cm Orange Regional Gallery, Chroma Collection Donated through the Australian Government’s Cultural Gifts Program by Jim Cobb 2013 JOSHUA YELDHAM Angophora – Yeomans Bay 2020 acrylic and cane on hand carved board 210 x 158.5cm Private Collection, courtesy Arthouse Gallery, Sydney


Angophora costata, Hardys Bay Photograph Gavin Wilson 82


Gavin Wilson is a leading independent curator, award-winning landscape architect and author. His wide-ranging exhibitions focus on the interconnected themes of landscape and culture in the Australian experience. Since 1993, he has conceived, researched and curated many significant exhibitions for public galleries in metropolitan and regional areas. They include: The Artists of Hill End (1995) AGNSW and tour; Escape Artists: modernists in the tropics (1998) Cairns Regional Gallery and tour; David Moore - Sydney Harbour 50 years of photography (1999) State Library of Hawaii, Australian Embassy, Washington; Rivers + Rocks: Arthur Boyd and Brett Whiteley (2001) Bundanoon Trust and tour; The Big River Show: Murrumbidgee Riverine, (2002) Wagga Wagga Regional Art Gallery; Beneath the Monsoon: visions north of Capricorn (2003) Artspace Mackay and tour; Encounters with country: landscapes of Ray Crooke (2005) Cairns Regional Gallery and tour; Fireworks: tracing the incendiary in Australian art (2006) Artspace Mackay and tour; Cuisine & Country: a gastronomic venture in Australian art (2007) Orange Regional Gallery; Harbourlife: Sydney Harbour from the 1940s (2008) Manly Art Gallery & Museum and tour; Love on Mount Pleasant: Garry Shead toasts Maurice O’Shea (2009) Maitland Regional Art Gallery and tour; Surface Tension: the art of Euan Macleod (2010) Tweed River Art Gallery and tour; Elemental Reckoning: the art of Tim Storrier (2011) S.H. Ervin Gallery; Picturing the Great Divide: visions from Australia’s Blue Mountains (2013) Blue Mountains Cultural Centre, Everyone Is Here : Jason Benjamin paintings & graphics (2013:14) NSW tour; Re-figuring Dystopia: the art of Richard Goodwin (2014) Bathurst Regional Art Gallery and tour: Country & Western: landscape re-imagined (2015) Perc Tucker Regional Gallery and tour; Self Portraits on Paper (2016) Yellow House Gallery, Sydney; Interiors (2018) Orange Regional Gallery; River on the Brink: inside the Murray-Darling Basin (2019) S.H. Ervin Gallery. www.gavinwilson.com.au


ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS The S.H. Ervin Gallery would like to acknowledge the assistance of the following people and organisations in the presentation of the exhibition: We are indebted to the many lenders to the exhibition and to the many private galleries including, Arthouse Gallery, APY Sydney Gallery, Australian Galleries, King Street Gallery on William, Michael Reid Sydney + Berlin, Olsen Gallery, Utopia Art Sydney and Cooee Art Gallery, and the exhibiting artists who have generously loaned works for the exhibition. Our thanks go to the exhibiting artists who have embraced the exhibition and have been so supportive in providing the works for the exhibition. We thank them for their dedication and commitment to this important environmental issue which needs to be addressed by all in our society. Finally our sincere thanks to the exhibition curator Gavin Wilson, who has championed the exhibition from the very beginning and secured the artists and works for it in an impossibly short timeframe. He has, with the valuable and unstinting support of Maggy Todd, created another thought provoking exhibition for the S.H. Ervin Gallery.


Project Team Curator: Gavin Wilson S.H. Ervin Gallery Director: Jane Watters Assistant Curator: Katie Yuill, Alicia Douglas Catalogue Designer: Alicia Douglas Installation: Thomas Kuss, Stuart Watters This catalogue is copyright. Apart from fair dealing for the purposes of private study, research, criticism or review as permitted under the Copyright Act 1968, no part may be reproduced without prior permission of the publisher. E-Published to accompany the exhibition: TREE of LIFE: a testament to endurance ISBN: 978-0-6483847-3-1 Published by the National Trust of Australia (NSW) 2021 Watson Road, Observatory Hill, The Rocks, Sydney NSW 2000 © National Trust of Australia (NSW) S.H. Ervin Gallery artworks ©the artists and the artist’s estates or as noted text © Gavin Wilson


2021