reading the land


Plus listening to the land… Iconophilia reminds Canberra readers you have just this Saturday to catch Jan Hogan’s exhibition Becoming at the ANU School of Art Gallery – open from 12.00 to 5.00. This is an exhibition of prints and drawings which are the culmination of the artist’s various modes of engagement with and imprints from the land of Gundaroo Common made during her candidature as a PhD student at the School. The work above is Becoming, 2009 (woodblock matrix on floor, Japanese woodblock with Sumi ink and builder’s pigment on Kozo paper affixed to wall with rice glue, 448 x 732cm).

Jan has written about her approach to representing the land in Art Monthly Australia (June 2009): “My aim is not to draw a landscape but to find a new way of drawing the land.  I think of it as an open dialogue with materials, thoughts, the elements and the process of drawing all contributing.  The land and I need to come to some sort of understanding.  I want to feel my way in using all my senses rather than looking at the land using my perception and analytical skills.  Is it possible to convey the smell, the wind playing with the hair on my arms, the shifting shadows and the weight of the land in a drawing?


The work above is from the Emergence series, 2006-9, (Sumi ink, charcoal and Gundaroo dirt on Rives BFK, 80 x 80cm). “I lay the paper on the ground in the shadows of a large Yellow Box Tree.  The damp paper moulds itself to the indentations left by cows wallowing in the shade.  The roots of the tree make their presence felt under the paper and the shadows of the branches make extraordinary patterns on the surface.  The white paper no longer stares back awaiting a mark.  Instead it acts like a mark in the land.  My foreign piece of paper has gone and made the first step in the dialogue.  It reveals the traces of other presences and the encompassing nature of the tree…

“The paper retains traces of the land, the tree, the cattle, and the events of the day but what about human traces?  This is meant to be a dialogue after all, with as much input from the all elements as possible.  I start to put fingerprints on the paper.  I rub my finger on some compressed charcoal and then press on to the paper, accentuating the dark areas.  Gradually the fingerprints build to a multitude, acting like great crowds of people drifting across the land.  The ghostly quality of the prints as they shift in tone suggests that this is a reflection over time.  The drawing has made the past present in the now.  Generations of people have come and gone and left traces on the land.

“Something has begun to happen in the drawing, I am becoming aware that this piece of land has been traversed for centuries and continues to provide sustenance for both the community of people and the wider community of the environment.  The fingerprints amongst the dirt are poignant reminders of our eventual decline back into the earth.  What traces will be left of us?”


For Saturday only (12.00 to 5.00), Jim Cotter, the renowned Composition lecturer at the ANU School of Music, will present the sound work “Piece for Merry-go-round” (1976), at the ANU School of Art Gallery, in conjunction with Jan Hogan’s exhibition.

The piece was written for the merry-go-round in Civic to obtain a moving audience for a 4 track work. The work eventually became “The Weird Night Music” for The Man from Mukinupin after Dorothy Hewitt “fell in love with the piece”.

Coincidentally much of the original construction of the work (on paper) was undertaken in Gundaroo. The final realisation of the score was made with the first digital synthesiser in the world – the “Quasar” which was an Australian invention of the engineer Tony Furse and at the time was on loan to Jim Cotter as part of an Australia Council Grant.

Jim says he was “so impressed by the exhibition that I congratulated Jan and mentioned toungue-in-cheek that the only thing that could have improved the showing would have been some music by me! Then Nigel called me to account in an email last night – so here we are…”

Thanks to Lee Grant for the photographs…


#1 HB on 07.17.09 at 12:57 pm

ooooo yes I loved that work. It doesnt need words.

#2 Uselesslines on 07.30.09 at 4:09 pm

I’m so glad I caught Jan’s show (quite by accident) it was stunning. Especially Becoming.

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