Tropical rainforest plants of Australia, unique in the world, feature strongly in a recent group exhibition, Gondwana's Garden, held at Tanks Arts Centre in Cairns, North Queensland.
The small Port Douglas Artists group of professional artists invited a variety of artists from the region, whose work met quite strict criteria, to join them in developing works for the exhibition.
They aimed to establish a balance of two and three dimensional works which explored tropical gardens, especially those that had descended from ancient plants from Gondwanaland.
A Selection of 'Gondwana's Garden' Artworks
It was difficult to select just two or three images from each artist, but I have tried to represent each. If you are interested in purchasing any of these pieces or wish to contact each artist about another matter, please use the form at the bottom of this page.
Fruits of the Rainforest
Fruits of the Rainforest 2 - oil on canvas
These delicate little, realistic, oil paintings by Claire Souter showcase beautiful brightly coloured fruits of the rainforest, which contrast with the greenery of their backgrounds.
Central detail is highlighted with a gloss glaze, then the edges blended out.
Claire chose brightly coloured flowers and fruits, similar to those on the left, to contrast with the greenery and displayed the twelve works in a 'block'.
Her research included investigations into the growth habits of species such as ... ‘Little Evodia’ evodiells muelleri (rutaceae)
‘Fibrous Satinash’ syzygium fibrosum (myrtaceae)
‘Pink Jitta or Porcelain Fruit’ (fagraea cambagei (loganiaceae)
Gondwana's Garden Porcelain Forms
"My mother was an avid researcher and collector of many
plants, including ferns, and when I recently came across her pressed fern
collection, it was an ideal starting point for the Gondwana's Garden
Investigating the heritage of Gondwana, I chose to feature some of
the plant groups surviving for more than 200 million years ago, that have close
living relatives in North Queensland...
...Investigating the heritage of Gondwana, I chose to feature some of the plant groups surviving for more than 200 million years ago, that have close living relatives in North Queensland
Moss, psilotum, locopods, ferns and cycads other ancient plants have been worked into designs to feature on my ceramics as well as handmade solar prints.
I have become passionate about the photographic process of cyanotype which results in blueprints.
This process has been used from its first discovery in 1842 as a documentary tool for small flora so it has an innate connection with my chosen subject." Mollie Bosworth
Silent Talk at Gondwana's Garden
"Life is the dynamic union with what is now and what will come. Life’s sacred spirit, the invisible heartbeat that permeates all that is, never seeks to restrain us.....
...Instead, it seeks to pull us forward, expands in all directions, and infinitely unfold into never ending vistas of more. We are given life’s questions now – to uncover life’s next answers. To look into itself. And out into its emergent future
Nature is the expression of life’s divine pulsation, this dynamic union with which we dance. It sits silently, yet stands loudly.
Its roots remain firmly in the earth, yet it continually reaches towards unknown heavens. Its language is without words, yet its speech remains soft in its enchantment.
Across the planet, nature is the tango between the forms and formless, it binds us all individually and holds all as one. And so, I bow and salute thee, this mystery force of wonder." Yoshiko Kirby
Ebb and Flow
"My intention, for this exhibition, was
to design and execute artworks which represented the concept of “Gondwana Land”,
from the super-continent, the tension as it breaks apart, then through
movement, toward the richness or nature as a fully-functioning microcosm.
this I have used natural fibres, various 'found' materials and
generally a coiling technique and stitching as construction." Joy
"A long held obsession with
native flora, I chose the ubiquitous eucalyptus as subject for the Gondwana
I love everything about the
eucalyptus buds, flowers, pods and leaves, the intricacy of all its parts
and enjoy sharing with the viewer the beauty of this ancient plant...
...Blossom Burst is a celebration of the eucalyptus flower in a fairly realistic way, whereas The Flowering
is a mandala like image, drawing the viewer in to focus on the detail
within. From the micro to the macro. Life cycles, patterns, the
continuum of life.
used the reduction linoprinting process for both images. This requires
one linoblock to create many colours through the carving and printing
process, applying layer upon layer of ink, printing by hand." Anna Curtis
"Gondwana's Garden exhibition opened my mind's eye to the very beginnings
of our lush tropical gardens and their ancestry of ancient flora; of
times before dinosaurs roamed primordial forests and eons before flowers
and birdsong illuminated the planet...
evolutionary journey 360 million years ago, and enduring landmark
extinctions, ancient ferns adapted, conquering the challenges of life on
land and surviving the rise of prolific competitors. They grew erect,
developed roots, a vascular system, and an ingenious method of
reproduction which remains unchanged today.
With all their
planetary secrets and evolutionary wisdom, there can be no greater
symbol of endurance and continuity than the unfurling frond of a
delicate Doryopteris or the monumental and ancient King Fern
(Angiopteris evecta)." Julie McEnerny
Denizens of the Zephyr
"My work was inspired by the
Gondwanan patterns of distribution of living organisms. Each work is a story of long
ago merged into the world of today.
The song birds and parrots of our world today had their origins in Gondwana. This work celebrates these magnificent creatures." Terry Johnson
"Nature has an affinity for spiral patterns which are found in galaxies,
shells, cyclones, plant tendrils and endless other natural formations.
In this work I have immersed myself in nature’s swirly patterns of the deep." Terry Johnson
Fan Palm Tangle
Ellen employs the ancient and highly skilled method of silver and copper lustre decoration on her jewel-like ceramic bowls and plates as they undergo their third firing in her gas kiln. The results are exquisite collectors' items.
"I live and work in rainforest, where many primitive plant species
still exist. To walk there always sets me dreaming of those ancient
To know that many still look today as they
appear in fossils formed millions of years ago, seems somehow quite
magical to me. A treasure trove. A testament to tenacity for survival.
I smile as I walk, and think, and look, briefly transported in time."
Kaleidoscope of Gondwana's Progenies
"I believe that the observer should be uninfluenced when viewing my
work and thus I prefer not to make a big statement, other than to say
that my allegorical garden embraces both flora and fauna and that the
vignettes are created using vitreous enamel on copper in the ancient
...Designs are outlined in fine silver fillets, creating a sea of cells
which are filled with vitreous enamel in several layers, each layer
fired separately and gold and silver leaf might be applied in between."
Fragment of Wonderland
"This series of works further uncovers my exploration with Alice in
Wonderland and her discoveries. These respond to the Botanical Gardens
and its environment including the use of personal narratives by using
woodcut techniques on rice paper." Sasi Victoire
"Life is a continuous journey with a few stops in-between;
for some metaphorically, for others literally. As an artist, I find that
journeying in both spheres presents inspiration for my art. I am at present at
“one of the stops, literally”, having relocated from 22 years in the tropics to
beautiful Childers & our new home which we named Xanadoo. Mother Nature has
been a defining rationale in my art for many years & I never tire of
portraying the endless repertoire she presents on every journey. The stunning
gardens of this new abode offer unlimited potential for portrayal in glass...
...In his later years, Claude Monet found his muse in Givenchy.
As a mature artist, I humbly follow in his esteemed footsteps visually &
contextually, in my case using glass as the medium to portray changing light,
colour & form. Age softens vision, giving a different perspective to
everyday objects. My own use of the pate de verre technique acts as a filter
that blurs, softens and renders the seemingly everyday with mystical &
Many of my
glass pieces are purposed with the addition of light that allows one to
look through them to penetrate the inner macrocosm. Stephen Procter a
great glass artist who passed away in 2001 expressed this perfectly when
provides the key both physically and metaphorically, for it is only when
the image is struck with light that it comes alive.” Ausglass conference, Canberra, 1993
are other correlations between glass and art and gardens. To build a
cohesive and productive body of work; art starts with seeds of ideas,
just like a garden. If they are sown in fertile ground and nurtured,
they grow to full potential. The labour of expression will sometimes
produce a bumper crop and at other times a paddock of weeds. The idea
needs to be fed with time, patience, trial & error. As with
gardening, the returns will not happen overnight, only in the long
term." Judith Bohm-Parr
Coastal Glimpses - Kapok Bush
"The coastal road between Port Douglas and Cairns is scenically beautiful, with tangled rainforest on one side and views to the Coral Sea on the other. As the road climbs higher it skirts rocky outcrops, to which a variety of tenacious vegetation clings...
...The kapok bush catches my eye, with its brilliant yellow splashes of
simple flowers, developing into swelling, green fruit, filled with seeds
about to be airborne as the fruit matures and splits, scattering its
progeny far and wide." Jill Booth
Rainforest Pot 5
Rainforest Pot 1
"I have played with clay and
glazes for over 40 years and during most of that time I have lived in Cairns. A
lot of my ceramic art works have been inspired by my surrounds -the reef and
...For the last few years I have been working on a series called "The Rainforest - colours, textures and forms.
have wanted to give my pots texture, flow and movement. To do that I
have been using paper clay which makes it possible to make intricate
forms related to seeds, bark, etc and after experimenting with various
glazes I have developed a mat chrome glaze with various amounts of
chrome oxide to give my shapes and forms the changing colours of the
rainforest and a certain glitter.
All the ceramic art works have been fired in oxidation at varying temperatures from 1200 to 1280 degree C." Lone White
Seed Merchants and Sticky Beaks
"Cassowaries have no tongue. Many seeds of rainforest fruit will only germinate after passing through the cassowary’s digestive track. Paradise Kingfishers incubate their eggs in termite nests in a fascinating example of symbiosis...
...Intriguing facts like these underpin the miracle of the gardens of
Gondwanaland and it is the work of these extraordinary plant propagators
- these “seed merchants” and “sticky beaks” of the forests that capture
Working in the medium of transparent watercolour is always a challenge.
But it is the vivid, light-reflecting colours and the wilfulness of
water that has kept me inspired for the past twenty five years of my
I never know,
when starting a painting, how it will resolve itself. It is this
element of surprise that continues to entice me. It’s not unlike that
moment in the forest when you suddenly glimpse the dark rump of a
cassowary in the gloom, or the opalescent underbelly of a Boyd’s forest
dragon disappearing up a tree trunk.
Each painting in this series
also pays homage to the beauty of the forest’s crystal creeks through a
central panel of fallen leaves. As leaves fall they find their way to
the creek bed and there return to the earth, as they have done for many
millions of years. This is also where dragonflies, another ancient life
I hope my paintings serve in some way to
isolate the beauty and the splendour of these ancient and mystical
“gardens”. Importantly, I hope they will work to ensure the forest’s
amazing birdlife, plants and animals are appreciated for the miracles
they are, and as such, remain respected and protected forever." Gail
"The Red Flowering Gum is surely one of Nature's 'Grand Designs' from the Gondwanan era and is to be found in most areas of Australia.
This particular example grows on the Port Douglas foreshore, where I admired the amazing structure of its buds, developing into striking flowers, then into iconically shaped seed pods." Tania Heben
"The Treehouse is an etching commenting on the differences between the minds of people; that sometimes we are consumed by our particular passions and this informs how we are able to connect or not connect with others.
It is also a reflection on how we can be, at times, blinkered by our views of life by what we limit ourselves in viewing." Leon Pericles
Other exhibitors were Mary Ann Runciman, Heather Koowatha, Glen Mackie and Daniel O'Shane. In all, there were in excess of one hundred artworks, beautifully displayed.
Our thanks to all those hard working artists and support people, including the Douglas Shire Regional Arts Development Fund Committee, Tanks Arts Centre and Douglas Shire staff for helping to make this exhibition such a successful event.
Tanks Curator, Chris Stannard's recent letter to us read, in part, "Congratulations on having organised something of both great meaning and beauty.....you, as an organising team, brought a level of generosity and commitment that made this project a joy to have been a part of."
So that's a nice note on which to end!
PS: 2018 Calendar
Well, the project didn't quite finish with the end of the exhibition.
Twelve artists decided to produce a beautiful 2018 calendar featuring their work.
Intended as promotions and gifts for the artists to use it then turned into a highly successful fundraiser, meaning that we will be able to more easily fund future arts projects.