Created Environs: Janet Laurence and Jill Orr

Laurence-McClelland- Collage

“If we would hear the call of those who are slipping out of life forever. There we might encounter a narrative emerging from extinctions, a level of blood that connects us. ” Deborah Bird Rose, Wild Dog Dreaming: Love & Extinction

Janet Laurence‘s work addresses our relationship to the natural world through both site specific and gallery works. Throughout her long career, working in varying mediums, she continues to create immersive environments that address the interconnections between all living forms.Although she has experimented with, and explored a variety of mediums, Laurence’s overarching concern for the fragility of the living environment has remained steadfast and continuous within her practice.

As her career has progressed, she has delved more and more deeply into this concern for the fact that the environment is becoming undone, and that wilderness is an integral part of our planet. Laurence’s work retains organic qualities and a sense of transience, occupying the liminal zones, or places where art, science, image and memory converge.

Laurence-pic- CollageJanet Laurence.

Her most recent exhibition, Avalanche, celebrates the beauty of the pristine Tarkine Rainforest in Tasmania; one of the most threatened environments in the world that remains ecologically intact. Unprotected by Australian heritage laws, this unique environment is under threat from mining and forestry interests.

Her work brings into focus this rare and special botanical environment. Through a dignified combination of strength and poetry, Laurence brings into focus the rare and special botanical environment of places such as the Tarkine, offering us entry into an intimate, modern-day space, within which her passion for these precious environments are thoughtfully voiced.

Laurence-AGNSW-CollageJanet Laurence, After Eden.Commissioned by Sherman Contemporary Art Foundation, 2012. Hanging gauze, glass with Duraclear, acrylic, oil, pigments, wood, steel, minerals, crystal, plants (living, artificial and dried), Chinese medicine plants, ash, salt, carbon, silicon tubing, specimens from the Australian Museum and the Macleay Museum, University of Sydney, projected images.

After Eden represents a culmination of themes that have driven Janet Laurence’s recent work and exploration of the interrelationship between all living matter. Focusing on environmental fragility, the plight of animals and our relationship to them, this ambitious work comprises a series of curved, semitransparent structures within the gallery space, some of which can be entered and others looked into by the gallery visitors.

Presented as eight large cylinders in mesh and gauze and suspended from the gallery ceiling, they hover just above the floor and suggest self-contained units or unique bio-habitats dedicated to both living and extinct animal life. A sense of discovery and wonder – of the Renaissance Wunderkammer or ‘cabinet of curiosities’ – is even present in the work, and reflects the artist’s travel and research in historical museums of Europe. In the centre of the gallery, a delicate mesh cylinder houses a ring of taxidermic birds, attached to life-support tubing, upon a floating platform; and below is a cluster of white barn owls, bird bones and eggs and white, calciferous powder suggestive of alchemical transformations.

Laurence-lot 87 CollageAUSiMED Lot# 87 Carbon Capture III, 2009 by Janet Laurence.

After Eden is a poignant reference to a past era of natural diversity and fecundity, and its decline in the wake of human supremacy and zealous industrialisation. Laurence observes, ‘We talk about climate change, but we live in an age of mass extinctions and the loss of bio habitats.’ Citing the 2000 exhibition Muses as an early precursor to the current work, with its veiled animals and memorial sensibility, she asks, ‘What is the plight of animals and their loss of habitat? I want to create a sense of empathy, of our connection to animals, which are so completely threatened’.

Laurence travelled extensively in 2011, spending time in Southeast Asia and China; and it is from Fauna and Flora Elephant sanctuary and remnants of untouched forest in Aceh and a Panda conservation centre in Sichuan, that she derives significant source material for her exhibition. Presented as Photographic and film footage, alongside taxidermic animals from the Australian Museum and the Macleay Museum, and dioramas housing objects and materials drawn from the natural and medicinal world, they offer reprieve and nurture – the hope for a better future. Avoiding sentimentality, they instead provide care and attention where it is urgently needed. Rachel Kent, Changing Topographies: The Environmental Art of Janet Laurence. In After Eden, 2011

Australian Art Collectors‘ Ingrid Periz writes; ” With a string of notable public commission behind her, Janet Laurence turns her attention to the environment, creating image-spaces where nature, memory and loss collide”.


On December 21, 2012, the 5,000-year-old Mayan Calendar ended. We seem to have survived. On October 19, 1960 Yves Klein pretended to leap out of a window. We never landed. On January 17, 1963, Robert Filliou proposed that Art began one million years ago, when someone dropped a sponge into a bucket of water. We have been partying ever since. From December 8 to 15, 2012, the first edition of Venice Performance Art Week again redefined performance art. There is a fresh whiff in the breeze. Jill Orr presented a photography exhibition, the live performance and installation The Promised Land and talked about “Space, Place and Performance from an Australian context”.

Jill Orr-Venice-1-Collage

Jill Orr-Venice-3- CollagePhotographs by Alice Pozzoli of Jill Orr: Venice International Performance Art Week,  Palazzo Bembo, Italy, December 2012.

Orr is best known for her works in performance, photography, video and installation that often explore the body, and its positioning within social, political and environmental contexts. While Orr’s works are predominantly site-specific, the recordings are regarded as equally significant aspects of her working practice. Her work centres on issues of the psycho-social and environmental where she draws on land and identities as they are shaped in, on and with the environment be it country or urban locales. She grapples with the balance and discord that exists at the heart of relations between the human spirit, art and nature.

Orr-Venice-CollagePhotographer: Christina Simons for Jill Orr, © Jill Orr  2012

This is an excerpt from an interview by Claire Bridge, artist, and creator of, with artist Jill Orr:

Art World Women: When considering the title of your show ‘The Promised Land’ it brings to mind the potency of religious ideas – Jewish and Islamic traditions. It recalls Moses, “the promised land”, the discovery of land, colonisation and settlement, the promised land of refugees searching for a safe haven, “boat people” and many more evocations. What meaning does the title hold for you?

Jill Orr: The title has all of the resonance you have mentioned. I do want the work to penetrate beyond the daily politics and the rich overlay brought through associations to the title enable interpretive multiplicity.

AWW: The boat form you use in ‘The Promised Land’ is the skeleton ribs of a boat. It can not sail. It seems to remind us of death. It seems to speak to the impossibility and hopelessness of  ‘the Promise’ – or does it?

JO: I suppose I have a touch of black humour and the sense of the ridiculous. Indeed this boat will not float but maybe it does!

AWW: What is your message about asylum seekers and immigration?

JO: I don’t really have a message. I think that viewers have their own minds and I am not going to tell them what to think. I hope the images can be viewed and interpreted openly and in that viewers take with them what they need. Art may be political but it is not politics. Art, I think, needs a deeper enquiry beyond the daily occurrences that largely occupy politics. For me, art meets politics in philosophical, ethical and psycho-social realms, to name a few.

Read more here.

Promised Land ii-CollageAUSiMED Lot 3  , The Promised Land ii, 2012 by Jill Orr.

Jill Orr has delighted, shocked and moved audiences through her performance installations which she has presented in cities such as Paris, Beijing, Hong Kong, Amsterdam, Antwerp, New York, Toronto, Quebec City, Graz, Hong Kong, Sydney, Melbourne, Adelaide and Brisbane from the late nineteen seventies to now.

Johannes.Deimling_Performance.Art.Is_Venice.Performance.Art.Week Santiago.Cao_Performance.Art.Is_Venice.Performance.Art.Week



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