Proteaceae: A Chapbook Curated by Peter Minter

By | 1 December 2013

In January 2013 I visited the inaugural exhibition of the new Blue Mountains City Art Gallery, an eclectic and compelling collection of works curated by Gavin Wilson and entitled ‘Picturing the Great Divide: Visions from Australia’s Blue Mountains’.

I stood for what seemed like an hour before John Wolseley’s wonderful ‘The Proteaceae of NSW and Argentina 1996’ – a water colour and pencil work that is part of his ongoing creative enquiry into geological and biological temporalities, and one which advances an intensely felt and thought aesthetic of deep trans-historical and trans-biological emergence. Wolseley writes that ‘the painting shows the waratahs flowering at Blackheath, and on the far right, a ciruelillo (Embothrium coccineum) I found high in the Andes near Glacier Piedras Blancas in Argentina. The form of the flowers of this ancient plant family had only changed a little during their millions of years travelling on the two continents as they moved apart.’

Satan’s Riders by Jim Everett
Nightwork by Bonny Cassidy
Nether by Bonny Cassidy
The Vanishing by Michelle Cahill
Ode to PolesApart – Tracking by Natalie Harkin
Harts Mill Projections by Natalie Harkin
At Knowth by Ali Cobby Eckermann
At Giants Causeway Northern Ireland by Ali Cobby Eckermann
At Glendalough Ireland by Ali Cobby Eckermann
Magpie by Stuart Cooke
Remnants by Louise Crisp
Milk and Honey by Martin Harrison

A great epochal tectonic arc takes us toward and through Gondwanaland. Wolseley’s artwork shows how plant species such as the beautiful red waratah (and in other works, mosses and birds and other creatures) have archaic affinities with similar species around the planet. This profound geo-aesthetical encounter reminds us of an embedded planetary and genetic inheritance that, despite the complexities of our technologies and linguistic apparatuses, is always and unescapably experienced ‘in common.’ Indeed, it is the deepest of the commons, the shared information – geological, biological, cosmological, cybernetic – that is central to our core relations to the earth and each other.

Gondwanaland is a temporally opaque but profound precursor to our core existential relationship with the cosmos. It inflects a human commons and a politics of speciation, the deep unfurling and substantiation of organic and cultural form.

The poets gathered here are sisters and brothers of Gondwanaland and its temporary emergence among human actors – spanning time, politics and cultures. I thank each of them for being here, and hope you enjoy their poetry as much as I do.

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