Issue 18

We relocated a group of 13 painters, sculptors, drawers from their everyday lives to Fowlers Gap, a research station owned and managed by the University of New South Wales, located about 90 minutes from Broken Hill.

By flicking through the pages of our current edition, you will notice it is a break from our standard format. That’s because many of the artists featured in the issue took part in an artist expedition to the arid desert of north-west New South Wales, sponsored by ARTIST PROFILE in conjunction with artist material specialists Winsor & Newton.

The vast desert zones surrounding Broken Hill are isolated from much technology, infrastructure, and creature comforts of an urban lifestyle. The landscape is a foreign beast for those of us from an urban, metropolitan centre. The sky stretches on for a seemingly infinite distance, uninterrupted by manmade structures. The usual hum of a city centre is nonexistent and you’re engulfed in silence. The darkness of the night is a blinding blackness that a city rarely experiences.

On top of these factors, the area is steeped in history for Australia. It has held a significant role in Australian art, painted by the likes of Sam Byrne and Pro Hart, like them or loath them. Indigenous dreamings, passed down over 1000s of years, are marked into the rocks of sacred sites around the area. All this is mind, the area is the perfect location for contemporary Australian artists to reflect on their histories and the context of their role as artists in this country.

We gave them art materials, housed and fed them, and took them on prepared tours with talks from local experts. We extricated them from their usual routines, from the distractions of the everyday, and also their comfort zones. Each confronted the challenge of interpreting Fowlers Gap in artworks in a different way.

In addition to the artists, writer and journalist James Compton and ABC Open producer Sean O’Brien join us on tour. While on site, these two maintained a live blog with video and sound interviews and pictures of the artists working en plein air. Compton spent time with each artist, discussing their experiences in the outback and then followed them home to their studios.

In the issue, Compton chronicles the journey from Sydney’s CBD to Fowlers Gap, the fortnight spent in the outback with the artists, as well as what happened when the artists returned to their respective studios after the tour. The issue strives to give you, the readers, an insight into the artists’ experience of the landscape, how they approached their respective art-making processes and, finally, what they created as a result of this tour. The final stage of this journey will be a public exhibition at Sydney’s S.H. Ervin Gallery, premiering on 24 May this year.

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