Janet Laurence

Glass of Ash - Landscape and Residue Series, 2006-2007
Duraclear, oil and acrylic
100.0 x 150.0 cm

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Private collection, Sydney

Janet Laurence's art explores our relationship with the environment and is often produced in response to specific sites or natural systems. The work 'Glass of Ash' (2006-07) is part of the artist's 'Landscape and Residue Series' which evolved from her observations of the Australian landscape's resilience following bushfire devastation. She has said of this series, "I am thinking about the preciousness of regenerating growth and attempting to resuscitate and offer a life support system to our ailing environment".

Laurence's work often inhabits 'in between spaces'. It seeks to dissolve boundaries between the gallery and the urban and natural landscape, between ephemeral and permanent states. 'Glass of Ash' is an excellent example of this transience: it captures a state of flux and a poetics of space and materiality. Using a combination of Duraclear (which resembles a sheet of acetate), oil and acrylic, the artist imbues the layered work with a translucent quality. It is a commanding and permanent art piece, and yet seems to hang weightlessly on the wall.

  • Glass of Ash - Landscape and Residue Series

Image courtesy of the artist

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For over three decades, Janet Laurence has created artworks and installations grounded in delicate balances that hold the natural world together. Her works synthesise a scientific understanding of nature into immersive, reverential installations that record the effects of climate change, deforestation, species extinction and the degradation of the Great Barrier Reef.

Born in Sydney in 1947, Laurence studied in Italy and the United States, where she encountered Land and Earth Art, including the works of Alan Sonfist, and saw a retrospective of Joseph Bueys at the Guggenheim Museum (1979) which she has described as formative. Her work draws on literary influences like W.G. Sebald as well as unusual sources like Piet Mondrian, whose theosophical writings and geometric compositions find a place in some of Laurence's series. A pervading interest across Laurence's work has been to challenge the boundaries of the museum space and create immersive works that mirror the feeling of being in nature - in many cases literally using glass and mirrors in her installations.

In 2019, Laurence received a major survey, After Nature, Museum of Contemporary Art, Sydney. In 2017, coinciding with the loan of works from the Rijksmuseum to the Art Gallery of New South Wales for the exhibition Rembrandt and the Dutch Golden Age, Laurence exhibited the installation Matter of the Masters (2017-18). Her installation Deep Breathing: Resuscitation for the Reef was exhibited at the Musée National D'Histoire Naturelle, Paris, France (2015) and at the Australian Museum, Sydney (2016). She has exhibited at Biennales in Cuenca, Ecuador (2016), Sydney (2010), Adelaide (2008), and at the 11th Venice Achitecture Biennale, Venice, Italy (2008). Laurence was a trustee of the Art Gallery of New South Wale from 1995-2005 and was the subject of John Beard's winning portrait in the 2007 Archibald Prize.