Evergreen continues Jane Guthleben’s research into the remnant scrub along the east cost of New South Wales and how to reimagine it through Dutch Still Life painting. Guthleben has long been fascinated with early European encounters of Australian flora, and their interpretation by explorers and botanists such as Joseph Banks and Sydney Parkinson. Her exhibition of 29 oil paintings at Edwina Corlette straddles the logic of close botanical observation and the expressive possibilities of oil paint.
Evergreen focuses on 67 species of flora in the coastal scrub that once proliferated on the shores up and down the coast of New South Wales. Alarmingly there is just 1 percent of the original (Eastern Suburbs Banksia Scrub) scrubland intact. Guthleben highlights individual flora in studies and includes as many as possible in elaborate flowerpieces styled in a European manner. Tapping into vanitas symbolism in Dutch Golden Age painting, Guthleben’s showy arrangements of endangered species act as morality tales, as signals for the transience of life and to give a voice to these disappearing environments. Conversely, they demonstrate the conspicuous consumption required for such flower picking (she does not pick from these landscapes).
Guthleben also creates what she terms as floralscapes, composing the area’s species, into idealised landscapes. The use of a pastel palette lends an innocence to these dreamlike scenes that sit between what she observes in the bush, an idealised past or a hopeful future. Collage elements cut from vintage books on Australian “wildflowers” are included in several works.
Guthleben has been selected for numerous art prizes including the Archibald Prize (2020), Salon des Refuses (2019, 2021, 2023) Portia Geach Memorial Prize (2018, 2019, 2020, 2021), Mosman Art Prize (2012, 2019) and Ravenswood Prize. It is her fifth solo exhibition with the Gallery.
Through still life paintings of indigenous flowers, birds, and insects, Guthleben uses the traditions of vanitas and its messages of the transience of life to present a painted vernacular that spans humour, kitsch, and historical and environmental themes.
She reinterprets the delicate floral masterpieces of Dutch Golden Age painting by amping up the colour and light in response to the Australian environment and emphasising the texture and diversity of indigenous flora in brushy impasto.
Jane Guthleben studied a Bachelor or Fine Arts with honours at the University of New South Wales in 2015. Guthleben has been a finalist in the Mosman Art Prize (2019,2012), the Portia Geach Memorial Portrait Prize (2018), Eutick Memorial Still Life Award (2018), Ravenswood Women's Art Prize (2019, 2017) and the Fisher's Ghost Art Prize (2015) among others.
26 June 2019 – 17 July 2019
THE NEW GALLERY SHOW — A Group Exhibition