Janet Laurence: After Eden at SCAF

  • Categories: Blog
  • Date: 23rd March 2012
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WOW – this is something not to be missed.
Janet Laurence: After Eden commissioned by and installed at the Sherman Contemporary Art Foundation (SCAF) in Paddington is an absolute must. www.sherman-scaf.org.au 
SCAF is the follow on from the highly successful Sherman Galleries. It was established in 2008 as a privately run foundation that aspires to present far-reaching installations, exhibitions, research and education programmes. There have been some incredible events since it morphed from commercial gallery to a not-for-profit foundation – Ai Weiwei, Jonathon Jones, Brook Andrew – which also celebrate productive partnerships with public institutions, regional galleries, universities and art events.
Much has already been written about Janet Laurence: After Eden, and much more will be written, discussed and thought about. This is a beautiful, thoughtful, provocative experience. 
The various media that make up the entire piece says alot really about how Janet works and has worked over many years: After Eden, 2012
    hanging gauze – each vignette/ tableau is gently cordoned off behind a gauze;
    glass with duraclear – Janet’s work is identified by the layering of this photographic process   onto glass sheets which are then invariably layered across other sheets to create a delicate translucency;
    acrylic, oil, pigment, wood, steel, minerals, crystal, plants (living, artificial, dried),
   Chinese medicine plants, ash, salt – a full range of material which describes a cross over between the scientific and painterly worlds
   silicon tubing, specimens from the Australian Museum & the Macleay Museum, Uni of Sydney – reminiscent of laboratories and museum classifications;
   projected images – the contemporary medium, in both positive and negative, which brings into sharp focus the drama of the subject.
There are no dimensions cited: it is an all encompassing installation, quietly filling an exhibition space and your senses.
It is a bit like walking into a hospital ward where patients are still and quiet, and attendees are respectful, moving slowly and quietly, speaking in hushed tones. The lighting is low. Cordoned off tableaus are gently spot lit; projected video images hazy against the gauze backdrop. The outside world is closed off: you’ve entered a dreamy world, where animals hold sway.

Janet Laurence After Eden (detail) 2012 multi media
Commissioned by Sherman Contemporary Art Foundation.
Image courtesy the artist.

But this is not about patients being cured and discharged. This is akin to a hospice, whose priority are animals who face extinction and loss of habitats. 

Says Laurence “We talk about climate change, but we live in an age of mass extinctions and the loss of bio habitats.”

The tableaus are themed and titled: Blood and Chlorophyll, Abandoned, Traded, Bewildered, Love and Extinction, Fabled and the the central circular one of varied taxidermied small birds ironically titled Anthropocene that is, humans as the most important and central factor of this geo-epoch.
Each part of the total work comprises a range of objects and materials, all of which have been carefully gathered and grouped, to establish relationships and meanings which resonate. They are akin to those wondrous scientific, museological cabinets of curiosities, but in After Eden the formal classifications and descriptions are not so much clinical as descriptors of an emotional mood. 
Just about all the areas of the plight of animals and their habitats are covered, but this isn’t an aggressive campaign of animal rights or liberation rather one in which we are gently provoked to empathise and so, understand. Laurence provides us with a framework for thought. 
It is a cherished partner to a recent major work featured in the Botanic Gardens for the 2010 Biennale of Sydney, which spoke of plants, a veiled freestanding room, Waiting – a medicinal garden for ailing plants. Definitely a piece worth preserving in itself. 
This exhibition links in closely with the politics of the well-known Sherman family’s other passion, that of animal rights, organised through their not-for-profit thinktank Voiceless www.voiceless.org.au
There is a good catalogue to accompany the exhibition, with discussions reaching back into Janet’s earlier work, see www.janetlaurence.com  Thanks again to Andrew and Cathy Cameron for having the foresight and generosity to support this publication. Benefaction is good.

Janet Laurence After Eden (detail) 2012 multi media
Commissioned by Sherman Contemporary Art Foundation. 
Image courtesy the artist.

Janet Laurence’s solo exhibition Fabled which sits alongside After Eden opens at BREENSPACE opens on 30 March. www.breenspace.com. Can’t wait. 

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