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Old Land New Forms. Catalogue. Greg Johns. 2004

Over the last decade, the Australian landscape has become a major influence on my sculpture. It is not however the only influence; over the last 29 years of practice, a layering of ideas has gradually unfolded and evolved. These conceptual notions are now well rooted in this landscape.

The sculpture still, consciously, reaches out to "big picture" themes, but the viewing platform has been constructed amongst the Australian flora and fauna.

I still find strongly that most culturally valuable art work (including music) has a significant local characteristic; rather than adopting, without questioning, international influences alone. The local, rather than the global alone, provide the unique spices, flavouring which can create a different, significant vision, which can then reach out to the global.

As a sculptor living in Adelaide, the "local" context for me is important. Within 2 hours I can be in the Flinders Ranges, a wonderful backyard playground. In December 2002, I bought 403 acres at Palmer in the Adelaide Hills; rain shadow country, similar to the Flinders, with monolithic standing stones, and a rock escarpment populated with the sleeping giants of the Australian landscape, Xanthoria (Yacca's). This place is important to me. It is where I can walk, get away, dream - when I am not involved with the large scale environmental restoration of the property. Palmer has impacted on several works in this show. 'Seaing the Land, Feeling the Land (metamorphic)' and 'Head in the Clouds, Feet on the Ground' to name two. It is big sky country under which sits an archetypal Australian landscape. A great place to put sculpture in - I have now erected 5 major permanent works out there. They sing in this environment!

Although I live in the suburbs, my sculpture is not entirely urban in feel; there is a roughness, toughness, vulnerability about the work which is different in feel to the painted, highly finished work of the urban based sculptures in Sydney. This is not to question the validity of either approach, but to simply point out the difference.

There is also finally a twist in my story as an Adelaide based artist is that the recognition and acceptance of my sculpture has come from outside my home town. I personally feel far more connected in my concerns as a sculptor to the object matters of Melbourne than to the 'Conceptual' non-makers of Adelaide.

I find myself then in an interesting space, feeling closely connected in terms of the landscape surrounding me, but largely disconnected from the concerns of the local Adelaide Art practice. As an object maker, I am connected to the Eastern States, but the resultant sculpture is different in feel - I believe because it is from another region.

I sense in Australian sculpture at present a variety of regional approaches arising. I believe this is worth embracing, we can all learn from each other, rather than defending a singular "right" approach. There is also room perhaps for a hybridizing to occur between the regions, while simultaneously maintaining a particular local flavour.

Greg Johns. July 2004


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