Here is a Liam Donnelly podcast.
Liam invited me to his "someone to take the edge off," afternoon session. What's groovy about this link is that you may listen to all of the wonderful other people he has connected with. This is a bundle of Hobart soundbites. I love it. I teaches me that there is much more that I can do with this site too.
and I am down the list, Episode Number 10.
ps A little warning! There is some gritty language in there.
3 essays below hail from 2004 to 2016. The first is not an essay, merely the story that helped to get things on the move. The words are mine.
Conversing with recalled landscapes.
In my father’s dusty work car, on a hot expanse of vinyl, smelling the fuel and fan, we drive along the gravel road and I love it. I listen to his detailed description of everything we pass. We see tall dead gums, many wedge tailed eagles, gigantic piles of dozed up bush from the formation of new paddocks, lines of fencing wrapped with the debris from the latest flood. We cross causeway after causeway and enjoy the sound of the water against the metal belly of the car beneath our feet. I look at my sandals and wiggle my toes in the sweaty moisture. I smell the musty seat belt against my neck. We visit farmers and move through the many gates slowly. I get out to un-loop the chain and let Dad through. I jump back into the seat, gasping and jumping at the freshly hot surface.
On another day all five of us stuff into the Hillman hunter that smells so new with its very groovy locking switches. We cannot go anywhere without fighting about who sits in the middle.
We are going out to fill the boot with firewood and kindling, cut with the bow saw by Dad after he wanders around selecting the day’s fallen limbs. (This mingles with journeys home to Tasmania. The memories have slid together now). We have to gather fire sticks, quickly. We argue over the right way to stack them. We sit on the rug for our lunch and occasionally if permitted range around a little; wary of funnel webs and trap doors. There are snakes and ticks and in the waterways, green spotted, black, shiny blood sucking leeches as big as my thumb.
We eat cheese and vegemite sandwiches, tea from the billy and Mum’s chocolate packet mix cake. Dad swings the billy around and round as if it really is the only way to get the tea drawn just so. We all love this. Mum and Dad are the only ones who drink the tea…we have our sparkling apple juice as a treat.
I love to feel the crackle of the grass under my sandals…always sandals…and the way the smell of the dry leaves and dirt mingle in the air as I walk.
I have worked out that the bush trips were wonderful because they broke up the tedium of arguments of day to day school and life at home. The picnics were like birthday parties in the bush, a ceremony at the end of a journey, a whole day of sun and scrub till the drive home and evening bath and bed.
Living on the North West coast during my high school years is a different landscape experience because it is wet with pungent swampish mud. We are able to head off alone into the swamp. We leave after breakfast in our gumboots and shorts. We have bare feet in the warm cotton lined boots or in dampness that warms up after a short walk to the glade. It is like a fairy glade to Mum and she suggests this enough so that we spend our days re designing the area, making dams and new watercourses in amongst the tea trees and paper barks. We peel off great lengths to use in our constructions and move a great many ferns from place to place and avoid leeches with our Vaseline and salt-rimmed boots.
Sometimes we venture for whole day trips over to the waterfalls and take a little bag of rock cakes with our drink bottles. We clamber down the tracks winding beneath massive man ferns towering above us and exalt in the sweet mists of the falls. The massive boulder at the base announces that we have made it. It is where we see if the lady beetles are still there in their millions, coating the boulder with sparkling orange joy. We eventually take the long haul back up the hill, through the leach zone and up over the paddocks home.
When Dad comes home from his west coast job we go for day trips further up the coast to Sisters or Boat Harbour, Table Cape and Wynyard. Mum and Dad repeatedly remind us that people died at Doctor’s Rocks. We are warned, over and over, about the dangers of swimming un-supervised because an undertow will sweep us away. I do not really enjoy these stuck in the back trips…we still fight in the back seat…it never seems to cease. I prefer to look at the nature of the coastline as a long and shifting band like my views of the mainland from the back seat of the family car. This is a different magnificence though of buttressed headlands arching out over the sparkling Bass Strait and hiding the myriad of valleys winding with tannin black spaces just to the south.
I attempt to return to these long strips of memory on the North West coast and in New South Wales. I try to rekindle the roads and dams and bush wood collecting sites. The smells are the same and I feel like I might be home but the actual memory is not there. I want to feel the memory, making it strong, an impossible request of my mind and the land. It is not in some sort of time repository in the land. It approximates some kind of song line that I alone give life to.
The new journeys become a time to learn to see the memory sites again. Photography and drawing in ink pace an examination of the shape and the space, the colour and the texture and rhythms, the trees, the crackle and the spicy heat. The hot air, the wet air and the smells and sounds are the same and different. I practice drawing it and painting it. I frame it up, I print it and I write about it. I paint small ink works in my pub room at night, write up the day’s experience and plan the next.
I choose routes that enable the pleasure of the drive, the experience of a road that is the closest thing to my memory. At night the painting begins to distil into language. The lengths of the view, the strip of the fleeting land from the car is paramount. The length of paddocks and their intersections become devices for the rhythms I seek. Fence posts and road workings, scrubs and edges of the gravel strips and warmly smelling waving sheets of grasses continue their encouragement.
I seek to develop this conversation via the regimen of the MFAD. I try to see beyond the reality of experience compared to memory. I drive to Launceston every week through a colonial landscape deranged by sheep and crops, yet littered with delicious shifting lights as the clouds sweep by.
I take the opportunity during second semester to travel to Russia, showing my work and giving master classes. During this time I see new lands, different and alike and I see how Siberian artists respond to their lands. I consider what I remember. I draw and draw and reflect. Exactly what is it that sits in my mind? I produce a small body of work about this Siberia seen from a train.
As result of photographing the Tasmanian midlands to send images of my journey back to new Siberian friends I begin to see the midlands as the experience I should value.
The middle of Tasmania is a gentle distance between hills that ribbon close and shift away. The plains flow and point, connecting and jarring into each other. The colours merge one moment and pull apart the next, controlled by the paddocks, creeks and stock tracks. Soft greys become bleached yellows; silver flecks cover quiet cherry browns. They are reduced colours that contrast with the North West coast and evoke the lands of New South Wales.
When I am out there the wind is cold and it heightens the joy of my isolation. I stand over the ute tray working the drawing and locating the sweep and belly beyond the road. At night I lay the work out and assess the successes and failures, reworking some, discarding some, and making smaller sketches in ink. When I work the larger paintings in the studio all of the material produced on the journey emerges, is considered and underpins the compositions.
It seems to work. The spread is physical and wide. The ink and enamel when used together and worked on paper taped to the floor became alive and excitingly are just beyond my control. I make multiples of small and large works, using the floors of two rooms and a large wall. I work through a range of technical approaches with ink and enamel. I set up a table of inks on one side of the studio and the enamels and rags on the other. The floor expanse is clear of all extraneous material.
Eventually the lack of control grows and nothing seems contained. I can never see the works in the studio as a set and they cannot be stored in any way that maintains them. While some are rolled up in the corner of the studio, most of them are now layered beneath the carpet in another room. I knew I was not happy with the results.
A good friend suggests that I use good paper and she demands that I protect the edge and work to a scale within my control. Perfect. While I now command the scale and the composition from the other side of the room I can still permit the work to take me on its tiny journey.
The works are now built on aquarello rag paper. It is taped to the wall in strips of the three that fit and sometimes panels of four. Sometimes I use enamel first to paint up the composition but mostly I mark it out in fine ink first. There are days when I approach the wall with the need to dig in and scratch the composition into being. Other days find me walking quietly with the Chinese brush to softly lay out the length.
I think of the art I have seen and words recently read while I look back to the journal for the photographs, thoughts, sketches and plans for each new work. They are a twisted length of twine and I take out a strand every two days and lay it on the wall.
Jane Giblin 2006
A Conversation with Country
Friday 19 August – Sunday 18 September 2005
Burnie Regional Gallery
Fire, Flood, Silt and Change
This exhibition by Jane Giblin contains oil paintings; ink wash works on paper, and small, dense black and white photos. They represent different ways in which she has responded to the challenge of working through her responses to the landscape over the last decade.
The landscapes range from western NSW, through open forest, riverbeds and darkened thickets, to the North West coast of Tasmania. Giblin has described much of the included work as a learning process: learning about painting in a new style, learning about meaning lies in the landscape, and perhaps most of all, about how the landscape help's to define one's identity.
There are the oil paintings with their segmented modules, united by raw shapes filled by thick linear webs which surge and move across the surface. There are ink wash works on paper, which represent efforts to capture, in an evermore spontaneous and intuitive manner, essential elements in a passing landscape. In seeming contrast are the small photographs that often project elements at odds with the tactile manual energy of the other works. They are like private moments staring at "the secret place" among the trees.
Art and Landscape
Many of our richest feelings are mysteriously buried in past childhood experiences. These long embedded "memories" subconsciously affect our response to certain kinds of landscape. In Giblin's case, she has been drawn to revisit places where she lived or travelled when much younger.
In 1998 on such a visit, she was consumed by a passion for the endless paddocks of outback NSW. The simplicity is beguiling; however the "flat" seen at an angle to the eye is a complex deep space. The mind provides the bird's eye plan to further complicate the transferal to a surface representation. Ever since the Post Impressionists, nature's shapes have been subject to a process of formal transformation. The process is complex and even photography transforms what many people see as "real".
However, the nature of Art is not just to record what appears real in that sense. It is essentially to convert the world and the artist's experience of it, into a new experience: an Art Object.
The Transient Shadow
The landscape painting process develops out of a curiosity to explore qualities that define a place, and then (to explore) specific aspects that have demanded the observer's subjective response. It requires the synthesis of memories, contextual meanings, and immediate sensory responses in a creative solution.
Giblin has often experienced an uncomfortable sense of encroachment that has striven to engage with her problem. She recognizes that there are established attitudes, which help to define what meaning a place has. There is a sense of possession, a union with the land, based on generations of occupation, which permeates the contemporary view of place and identity. However, Giblin has a self-conscious awareness of her presence in the landscape. She is struggling with a predicament, where she is not 'of' the landscape, but a visitor to it, who finds herself passionately involved or connected to it. For example, the painting 'My Shadow in Four Positions' provides surfaces, which correspond with these conflicting psychological and perceptual relationships.
Selection of a subject removes it from its surroundings. On the paintings surface a rocky headland may "float" in its newly created space (see The Last Cape) detached as it were from its origin. The subsequent picture structure is like an analogy for Giblin's sense of incursion into a land where people have lived for generations, investing it with a sense of heritage and the ecology of renewal burning. For her, their presence pervades and makes her feel that the most she can include is her shadow, because a shadow still allows direct access to the intrinsic value of the land. The shadows are by definition transient.
The Moving Glimpse
It is only when the observer moves through the landscape that you get an appreciation of scale, distance and spatial dimension. Through Giblin's excursions into the land she encounters the immediacy of the surface textures and the vital presence, which surrounds them. It is not just a visual but holistic experience. Giblin continually speaks of the smells and sounds which arise as she passes through an area; the crunch under foot and the swish or rustle as she passes into a zone of rediscovering memories. Often, however, a special event or recognition has passed before one can contemplate it. Moving through the landscape produces a myriad of such moments, glimpsed fleetingly, but potentially powerful elements in the experience. To capture this definitively elusive, special moment is not possible in a single image. However, a painting can develop from these seminal moments, which move the observer out of the usual condition of "just looking". The problem is that the resulting art works are destined not to "look" like what the casual observer is conditioned to believe and expect "their" landscape to look like. They are a journey into new worlds.
by Dr Margaret Baguley
Hill’s Edge; Jane Giblin & Sue Henderson
Burnie Regional Gallery 11 April – 18 May, 2008
Jane Giblin is an artist who captures an indefinable quality in her sweeping Tasmanian landscapes by bringing together a range of layers both in terms of media and memory. Giblin seeks to recapture fondly remembered childhood experiences of journeys, both in the car and on foot, of discovery beyond the reality of experience. Her love of the Tasmanian landscape results in works which are carefully yet spontaneously layered; anchored by objects which are often manufactured. Giblin forces the viewer to acknowledge and value every element and aspect of the work, which reveals her story of space and place. Oftentimes the negative spaces in Giblin’s work resonate with the same energy as the forms she depicts. This results in a rhythmic energy throughout her works, which is both alienating yet strangely familiar. It is a sense of the rhythms inherent in seasonal changes, which many people from the land are familiar with, and those who are not are alienated from. Her use of devices such as lengths of paddocks and fence posts recall to her the fleeting glimpses from a car window and the memory of the rhythmic pace of the journey being undertaken.
The sense of being ‘other’ is a recurring theme in Giblin’s work resulting in paintings and drawings, which often contain shadows, symbolising herself, against the landscape. The layering of paint or ink is also important to Giblin because it is in the spaces in between where she recognises existence. Giblin’s commitment to her art has seen her work in isolated landscapes for extended periods of time. As she states: ‘I adore the Tasmanian landscape, I feel like I am part of this Tasmanian landscape, I love the soil here.’ However, the tension in her work also reflects a quiet sense of dispossession of the land and empathy for others who have experienced this sense of isolation and disconnectedness. The denuded hills symbolise her intuitive concept of their forms rather than a realistic portrayal of their surface. The scratching and scoring of the surface of her work with ink results in her feeling and experiencing the landscape as she did when she was a child ‘with bindy burrs in your feet, walking barefoot, scuffing around in bare feet in gravel or getting the bitumen stuck on the soles of your feet’.
Giblin’s work is immediate and urgent. She seeks to capture a sensory and emotional recollection based on remembered physical immersion in the landscape itself. To this end her most recent works feature the recurring motifs of an irrigator and a shed, which she notes ‘have to take prominence for a time’. Giblin’s work cannot progress without real experiences resulting in her constantly experimenting with these motifs until her next immersion experience with the land. Although rapidly, but expertly executed, these works continually reflect upon and challenge the motifs, which Giblin is working with resulting in landscapes imbued with her story. The inclusion of water in her work, for example, references her father’s work with drought-ridden regions and his responsibilities in examining bores and designing dams for the communities of Tasmania and New South Wales. Including water in her work therefore enables Giblin to seek ‘a tiny vestige of redemption’ for water is a powerful symbol for both cleansing and survival. It is also a tribute to her father for imbuing in her this love of the land, which she constantly honours in her work. Giblin does not try to master her subject matter through challenge and control but allows it to speak to her, with gentle sensory reminders of smells and sounds, which are the same, yet different from those she encountered in the past.
Giblin’s compositions reveal an insightful and intelligent eye, which makes full use of the space available to capture the essence of the land and her relationship to it. Her drawing skills, honed after decades of practice, are expertly used to bring definition to the transient quality she endeavours to capture. Layers of paint and ink are skilfully used to reveal complexity and depth to the forms she has depicted. Her palette is defined by the mood of the work which ranges from brooding to celebratory, reflecting both an internal and external dialogue between her and the land itself. Drips, splashes and scratching into and onto the work allude to her recognition that nature itself is uncontrollable. They also lend a vibrancy and sense of movement to the more formal compositions simmering on the rag paper or canvas beneath.
The somatic experience involved in encountering Giblin’s work is similar to that captured by Lloyd Rees. Both artists seek to capture the immediacy of mood and the myriad effects of light resulting in works, which have an ethereal, enigmatic yet emotional quality. Giblin’s commitment to truth in materials and subject matter brokers no compromise between the way she perceives the landscape, her relationship with it, both past and present, and her absolute passion to capture its complexity and beauty. There is a lyrical quality to Giblin’s work, which reminds the viewer of their transient existence in relation to nature, which positions our lives with seasonal changes; constantly reminding us of time passing. Her work however also reveals that it is possible to work with the land rather than against it; to celebrate its immense power and constant claim on our existence. Giblin perceives denuded, desolate and scoured landscapes as possessing difference, interference and arrhythmia as well as rhythm, warmth, delight and seduction. These are qualities, which she has internalised and transformed into works, which are transitory and immediate, sensual and earthy.
Giblin seeks to create work, which is informed by past and present experiences simultaneously, which explore the qualities of space and personal sensory experiences. Her ability to do this in such a powerful and effective way reveals an artist who has interrogated her arts practice through discipline and hard work. Her prolific output is remarkable and is a genuine commitment to her role as an artist. We are indeed privileged to be able to view and converse with such honest, emotive, passionate and reflective works inspired by the Tasmanian landscape in this exhibition from an artist of Giblin’s calibre.
Catalogue essay, for Dog’s Belly, July 2016 Colville Gallery
One cannot experience the scoured Tasmanian landscape without enduring the silent presence of the past.
“Here… be warm and draw.” We are in a colonial garden. Jane instructs, handing me a large sheet of thick cotton paper, a dish of ink, a brush, and a whittled bamboo stick, she points to a fur coat sprawled in the grass. I crouch into the dew and seek out the darting transience of light and shadows across a tree and some emerging sheep and one loud peacock.
For the past eighteen months Jane and I have traveled into the vast lull of rolling hills and continually worked plateaus that are the Midlands of Tasmania. With Lilu the dog, the furs, paper, drawing tables, ink, brushes and bamboo in the boot, we roll into the long thin driveway leading to the scattered remains of some sandstone buildings.
Two women, two artists… a teacher, and a student, trespass in gendered territory, a landscape most often known as a male domain.
Pointing to her stack of thick cotton paper, Jane instructs and offers agency.
Pushing the paper into the parched red earth between patches of grass I imitate Jane’s hunt. Looking up before me, I squint, I search, and I slip the bamboo into the slick dark ink.
Primarily, here, there is a relationship with the landscape. This relationship is built with the present, the past, historic texts, the dirt, the animals, the garden, the paper, and the ink, as well as each other, all of which influence our response to this place. I depict through inspired practice, my own experience of this relationship.
This landscape emerges and recoils. It is fragmented, it is scratchy, and it is whole. These are reminders of core sensualities that saturate Jane’s memories of sweltering road trips with her father as a young girl. Since 2004, Jane has worked in the Tasmanian landscape, but now, she struggles to draw, and paint and photograph the figure in her search for a further distillation.
The existence of the figure in Australian landscape art evolved out of an early intention to provide a realistic yet picturesque report about a new and acceptable world. The Anglo-Saxon women who were shipped here to complete domestic chores and fill the ports with porcelain children share a restricted existence amongst the Tasmanian landscape. Encrusted with its thick history of proud misogyny, the Australian national consciousness has been manipulated and molded by centuries of Australian male artists’ depictions and exploitations of the landscape. Considering the scrutiny of art made by women as ‘craft’, and the ongoing enforced confinement to domestic spheres, women were, and still are ostracized from the representation of an Australian national consciousness.
The depiction of women’s initial experience in the Australian landscape is one in which exclusion from practical participation and engagements underpin their occasional representation. The understanding of the use of women in Australia, women in bush, female in human animal realm, tension and release, and even student in a teacher’s sphere, are comforting and hostile. Mythologies and historic truths, endured and acknowledged are inherent.
The merging of human animal with animals of the land allows for the exploration and recognition of human animal sexuality and animosity as well as the relationship between the working human and the working animal. Identifying herself with the rawness, the fur, the blood and the filth, Jane explores questions of identity and how one’s relationship with a land must consider its history. Jane toys with the intersectionality of female oppression and indigenous cultures by European and British settlers, and the suppression of the human animal.
When Jane tells me to walk out into the overgrown orbicular garden, barefoot and draped in furs, with Lilu to my left and compound bow at my right, she is no longer suggesting that I may, this woman may, be part of the land. She instead allows me to actually exist, react and respond to the landscape’s silent ethos.
Observing me, Jane records every movement of skin, fat, and hair across my bones, and the rise and fall of my chest, while Lilu and I work together to hold a position for the hunt.
The urgency of her scratch into cotton leaves no room for delayed contemplation. Becoming an automaton to her knowledge, experience, and lingering memories, opaque lines are pushed into the paper, dragging pigment across the cotton, pulling forms and tones together. This capacity to observe what is before oneself, consider and assemble the culmination of knowledge, experience, and the fine-tuning of the ‘control dial’ allows for Jane’s manipulation of risk, a risk she enjoys. The consequent mess and disarray are liberated from the confines of the historical representation of the Tasmania we have been taught to understand.
I sweat under the sun’s unwavering heat, and I shiver and squirm into the warm fur of a possum to escape the brutal bite of the wind.
We are women. We are in the bush, hunting for shadows that dance and hide, chasing fleeting sunlight, interpreting forms and textures, we draw.
Isabella Foster 2016
Interview with Jane Giblin March 3rd 2016
Wallis, Helen Margaret. "Abel Janszoon Tasman." Encyclopedia Britannica Online. Encyclopedia Britannica, n.d. Web. 01 June 2016.
Hughes, Robert. "The Colony 1788-1885." The Art of Australia. 2nd ed. Ringwood, Victoria: Penguin Australia, 1970. 28-31. Print
Hoorn, Jeanette. "Introduction: Regulating Art." Strange Women: Essays in Art and Gender. Carlton, Vic.: Melbourne UP, 1994. 1+. Print.
Jane Giblin, interview, March 3rd, 2016
“The Scratch” Jane Giblin, interview, March 3rd, 2016.
Jane Giblin, interview, March 3rd, 2016