Current Issue #488

Jane Skeer's precious cargo

Jane Skeer, Horizon series

Across two exhibitions Jane Skeer is using natural and found objects to pick apart her fascination with the Australian landscape.

Sculptural and installation artist Jane Skeer is preoccupied with the Australian landscape, creating works in response to her observations of people, objects and materiality. Skeer has two exhibitions running during SALA both of which reflect her fascination with materials found in the landscape.

“Everything I do tends to be a landscape even if I don’t want it to be. I’m a landscape painter through and through,” says Skeer.

On the Horizon at the Hotel Metropolitan features Skeer’s artworks made from rachet tie-downs collected whilst travelling around Australia last year. “I travelled around the Western Australian coast and down the centre for five weeks last year and I couldn’t get over the sunrises and sunsets,” she says. “The whole time I was thinking about how lucky we are to be in Australia.”

Skeer doesn’t clean the straps, preferring to leave the landscape embedded in them. They are often covered in red dirt and grease, their past histories evident. She then arranges them so they tell a story of what she is seeing – in this instance until they remind her of sunrises and sunsets she has seen on her travels.

“The straps are one material that has got me, there is something very Australian about them and the fact we need them to eat, we need them to clothe ourselves. If we don’t have them tying the loads down then we don’t have anything, we don’t have the supplies,” explains Skeer.

Also on display during SALA, at Fabrik in the Onkaparinga Woollen Mill, are Skeer’s works created by smashing xanthorrhoea (grass tree) leaves. These works are a result of her recent Country Arts SA artist residency at the Kangaroo Island “Palace of Production”. Skeer, a former Kangaroo Island resident, used the time to immerse herself in island culture and explore the impact of the bushfires that devastated the community.

While she was there Skeer collected xanthorrhoea leaves, which she was originally planning to use to create a sculpture . However, she soon discovered that if you bang them, red, yellow and orange sparks fly out – emulating the relighting of the fire. The drawings created using this process are beautiful but also reflect the damage to the flora and fauna caused by the fires.

Skeer filmed the process of banging the xanthorrhoea leaves. This video will be on display along with burnt tree stumps that look like busts and a diary she kept every day while on the island. Each day is an A4 page that includes her thoughts and watercolour drawings, giving audiences an insight into the artist’s mind.

Skeer is drawn to the Australian landscape, searching for objects steeped in history which become the basis of her works. She often assembles them en masse to represent landscapes she has seen and to embody what it means to be Australian. Skeer’s works are an emotional response to her experience of the landscape as well as an investigation into materiality, and it’s this reappropriation of materials that makes Skeer’s practice unique.

Jane Skeer: On The Horizon
The Hotel Metropolitan
Until 20 September

Jane Skeer: Embedded Landscape
Fabrik, Onkaparinga Woollen Mill
1–31 August

Jane Llewellyn

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