Giant mice like creatures hopping through unfamiliar forests echoing eerie animal calls, furred creatures with peculiar pouches and tails…sibilant whispers of things strange and new…in his 1789 journal, John Hunter describes the Australian creatures he saw as coming about through ‘a promiscuous intercourse between the different sexes of all these different animals’.
Shoalhaven Regional Gallery has commissioned Australian contemporary artist, Anna Glynn to create Promiscuous Provenance, a major touring exhibition of new work for 2018 – 2020 which will interrogate the early colonial artists’ first encounter with the Australian flora, fauna and landscape. The series explores the artwork of artists, such as John Hunter, the Port Jackson Painter, George Raper and George Stubbs whose depictions of unfamiliar fauna were often strange and curious. Glynn is intrigued by this time of natural history exploration and discovery where new creatures existed just beyond the horizon. Invoking the strangeness of these first European encounters Glynn will respond to historical collections creating alien tableaus that reawakens that sense of puzzlement and wonderment. Through an amalgamation of historical imagery both real and reimagined she will elaborate on Hunter’s idea of “promiscuous intercourse” to create her own antipodean world populated by creatures, hybrid manifestations of colonial fauna illustration and surviving costumery, animated and rendered bringing them to life in the 21st century as artefacts of the imagination, objects of wonder and curiosity.
In Promiscuous Provenance Glynn seeks to create an almost naive playful engagement accessible to all ages to reawaken our sense of wonder with of our surrounding environment. By re-interpreting images of the colonial painters, and showing the strangeness of these works, as well as highlighting the inability of the colonial artists to see the Australian landscape as it was, and instead trying to interpret it using known forms and animal shapes from Europe, Glynn asks the audience to reconsider our own provenance. Is our identity as Australian’s built on a strange history, a ‘Promiscuous Provenance?’ How is it that our identity which is still based in our colonial history continues to be interpreted through a European lens, and rarely takes into consideration the way in which this lens warps our understanding of the true provenance of Australia? This new body of work on a deeper level questions the notions of our ‘alien’ beginnings, demonstrating that our hybrid Australian identity has a ‘promiscuous provenance’ that should be re-examined at regular intervals and reflected upon.