Janet Laurence, ‘Theatre of Trees’, 2018–2019, Installation view, Janet Laurence: After Nature, Museum of Contemporary Art Australia, Sydney, 2019, four circular structures, mesh, silk, duraclear, audio, video projections, books, scientific glass, plant specimens, botanical models and substances, photographed by Jacquie Manning
This exhibition marked the first major survey of one of Australia’s leading contemporary artists, Janet Laurence. Encompassing key works and themes from the artist’s practice, the exhibition features sculpture, installation, photography and video.
For over 30 years, Laurence has explored the interconnection of all living things – animal, plant, mineral – through a multi-disciplinary approach. She has employed diverse materials to explore the natural world in all its beauty and complexity, and to highlight the environmental challenges it faces today: the era of the Anthropocene.
Janet Laurence: After Nature includes key works from the artist’s career, with loans from public institutions around Australia and the MCA Collection work Cellular Gardens (where breathing begins) (2005). They encompass her alchemical works of the early 1990s that use metal plates, minerals, organic substances and lightboxes, through to her installations of the 2000s and beyond, incorporating plant and animal specimens within transparent vitrines and ‘wunderkammer’ environments. Laurence’s works reflect on the fragility of the natural world, its plight and potential restoration.
Central to the exhibition is a major new MCA commission, entitled Theatre of Trees, which brings together the last decade of Laurence’s research into plants, their medicinal and healing powers, and trees.
This exhibition has evolved from two decades of collaboration between Janet Laurence and MCA Chief Curator Rachel Kent, who curated Laurence’s exhibition Muses at the Ian Potter Museum of Art, the University of Melbourne in 2000.
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