Janet Laurence’s practice is embedded in an aesthetics of care and is keenly aware of our interconnection with the elemental aspects of nature. Her works offer a slow and immersive engagement with natural ecologies through materials as diverse as glass, living plant matter, video, pigments, museum archives, and taxidermy specimens. Laurence’s work is dependent upon decades of research, which helps her construct poetic encounters with biophilia that reflect on science, wonder, and environmental loss.
Laurence’s work addresses our relationship to nature through both site specific and gallery works. Her practice often incorporates organic qualities and a sense of transience, vividly communicating the importance and urgency of caring for threatened environments. In her recent work, Laurence observes the fast-falling avalanche of disasters being actioned by man upon the planet on top of accelerating climate change.
Janet Laurence lives and works in Sydney, and was the Australian representative at United Nation’s Artists 4 Paris Climate 2015, in which Laurence brought international attention to the fragility of Australia’s World Heritage Great Barrier Reef through her multi-media work ‘Deep Breathing (Resuscitation for the Reef)’. Through her multi-layered vitrine, which encloses photo and video works, sculptural objects, and natural materials, Laurence comments on the deteriorative effects of climate change on the natural planet and of aquatic life in particular. As Laurence explains, the aim of the work is ‘to create the imaginative possibility for healing our marine world’.
A recipient of both a Rockefeller and Churchill Fellowship, the Alumni Award for the Arts, UNSW, and the John Clover Art Prize, Laurence was a Trustee of the Art Gallery of NSW, on the VAB Board of the Australia Council, and is currently Visiting Fellow at COFA NSW University.
Laurence exhibits both locally and internationally and has been represented in major curated and survey exhibitions including: Deep Breathing: Resuscitation for the Reef, Muséum National D’Histories Naturelle, Paris, France (2015), After Eden, Sherman Contemporary Art Foundation, Sydney (2012); Negotiating This World (2012) NGV, Melbourne; 17th Biennale of Sydney (2010) and 9th Biennale of Sydney (1992); In The Balance; Art for a Changing World, MCA Sydney (2010); Clemenger Contemporary Art Award, NGV Melbourne (2009); The Adelaide Biennale (2008), Echigo-Tsumari Art Triennial, Japan (2003,) Australian Perspecta (1985, 1991, 1997). Her major survey show ‘Janet Laurence: After Nature’ at the Museum of Contemporary Art, Sydney, is accompanied by Chief Curator Rachel Kent’s in-depth essay on her practice so far.
Major commissioned works include: The Australian War Memorial (in collaboration with TZG Architects), Hyde Park, London; Tarkine for a World in Need of Wilderness Macquarie Bank London, In the Shadow, Sydney 2000 Olympic Park; Waterveil, CH2 Building for Melbourne City Council, Elixir, Echigo-Tsumari Art Triennial, Japan; and Memory of Lived Spaces, T3 Terminal Changi Singapore. Key collections include: NGA, Canberra; AGNSW, Sydney; NGV, Melbourne; QAG, Brisbane; AGSA, Adelaide; Artbank Australia Macquarie Bank Collection, Kunstwerk Summlung Klein, Germany as well as numerous university, corporate and private collections nationally and internationally. In 2012 the AGNSW acquired a major installation work ‘The Memory of Nature’, as part of the permanent collection.
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