Anna Glynn

A travelling solo exhibition by Shoalhaven-based artist Anna Glynn explores the fraught nature of colonial art, approaching the antipodean landscape as a stage for reflection and the reimagination of historical narratives.

Currently showing at Jervis Bay Maritime Museum, ‘Promiscuous Provenance’ combines over thirty watercolour and ink works, 3D printed sculptures, a sound work and installation pieces, to examine our colonial past by re-imagining the early settlers’ depictions of the flora and fauna they encountered. Surreal scenes populated by hybrid manifestations of colonial illustrations and surviving costumery reincarnate the wonder and curiosity dominating the European ‘discovery’ – or more aptly put, invasion – of Australia. About the show, Glynn comments, ‘I indulge my perpetual curiosity to lead me back in time to an intersection of worlds … This is a world of fantasia, a place on the cusp of reality and imagination, populated by bizarre reimagined hybrid characters and featuring strange natural history tableaux.’

Early colonial artists such as John Hunter, the Port Jackson Painter, and George Raper, present visions of a new world of flora and fauna seen for the very first time. Their works illustrate the strangeness of these encounters; in his 1789 journal, John Hunter describes the creatures he sees as coming about through ‘a promiscuous intercourse between the different sexes of all these different animals’. Of course, this is a very White British-centric viewpoint, of which Glynn makes clear. The inability of these artists to see the Australian landscape as it was, but rather to represent their alien surroundings using known forms and animal shapes from Europe, is both beguiling and symbolic of a ‘promiscuous provenance’.

By re-interpreting images of the Australian colonial painters, Glynn’s ‘fantasy world’ prompts us to contemplate the reality of this period of history whilst expressing nostalgia for an antipodean wonderland before the footprint of colonisation was stamped over the landscape and its inhabitants. Anthropomorphic animals wearing colonial dress are reminders of the ways in which the Australian landscape and its native life were approached through European eyes. This sense of imbalance is further imaged in strange upside-down scenes, evincing the sense of this mystical and magical land at the bottom of the earth.

During the latter part of the exhibition development process, Glynn worked closely with Indigenous Elder, Anthropologist and Archaeologist Les Bursill OAM. Bursill provided context for some of the images, offered a new layer of interpretation and helped to identify local places Glynn discovered in colonial documentation.


Promiscuous Provenance
12 December 2020 – 1 March 2021
Jervis Bay Maritime Museum NSW

16 April – 13 June 2021
Hawkesbury Regional Gallery NSW

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