This year marks the 250th anniversary of Joseph Banks and Captain James Cook’s arrival on the shores of Botany Bay in New South Wales, a place named for the diversity and ‘otherness’ of the flora found here. In just eight days, Banks and his entourage collected, sketched and painted more than 130 unique specimens to feed Europe’s growing hunger for botany from the New World. It was eight days that changed this country’s history, and the flora that bore witness is part of the inspiration for BUSH CHORUS.
A number of works in particular refer to the 1770 anniversary. Eight Days is a composition of some of the flora recorded by Banks from the shores and woodlands around Botany Bay during the profound visit. Sydney Heads also marks this anniversary, and birds look to the audience from bare branches to assert their place in the landscape.
This series of paintings continues Guthleben’s fascination with Dutch still life painting (as it coincided with European expansionism, colonisation and contact with First Australians), and how to reimagine it in an Australian context. Through floral arrangements, studies of birds and flowers, and groupings of ornaments, she aims to build on Dutch traditions with Antipodean subject matter. Her painting style is a tension between realism and a desire to ‘touch’ meaning through the texture, gesture and colour of the painted mark.
Guthleben’s large arrangements are works of fiction, designed on a computer where she can construct elaborate formal compositions. These would be almost impossible to create in the studio due to scarcity and longevity of cut flowers, difficulty in obtaining them and constructing the arrangements. Birds come to roost, as if to claim the foliage. Some of Guthleben’s arrangements are region specific, including flora endemic to certain geographic areas.
Guthleben has a Bachelor of Fine Arts (Honours) from the University of New South Wales. She has been a finalist in numerous prizes including recently the Portia Geach, Mosman Art Prize, Archibald Prize Salon des Refuses and the Ravenswood Art Prize. This is her fourth solo exhibition with M Contemporary.