Born in Glasgow, Scotland, in 1961, Joan Ross is a Sydney-based artist whose primary theme is the investigation and revision of Australia’s colonial history. In paintings, drawings, sculptures, films and installations, Ross’s highly experimental practice subverts the traditional presentation of iconic Australian figures, landscapes and fauna.
Often appropriating British or colonial artists like Gainsborough or Glover, Ross then overlays the original images of explorers or aristocrats with garishly bright colour, especially chartreuse, in order to accentuate the disruptive impact that European colonialism had on indigenous culture and the Australian landscape. Describing the prime importance of this to her work, Ross has said: “One of the reasons that I make the work that I do is that I’m very aware, and I don’t think you can be anywhere in Australia and not be aware, that we’re on Indigenous land. And I’m constantly aware of the colonial influence, and the disjunction between that and nature.” (Joan Ross, ‘The art that made me', Art Gallery of New South Wales, Sydney, 18 October 2019
, quoted in Emma Kindred, “Joan Ross: Colonial Grab
,” Know My Name
exh. cat., National Gallery of Australia, 2020.)
Ross has exhibited since the late-1980s in Australia and overseas, including major public commissions, projections and installations. In 2021, Ross was commissioned as part of Know My Name to produce an outdoor projected animation - Collector's Paradise - for the National Gallery of Australia
. Her debut virtual reality work Did you ask the river?
was shown at the Australian Centre for the Moving Image (ACMI), Melbourne (2019) as part of the ACMI/Mordant Family VR Commission (2018).
In 2017, Ross was awarded the Sulman Prize, Art Gallery of New South Wales, Sydney, for her critique of Australian colonisation in a work on paper entitled Oh history, you lied to me
(2017). She was also the recipient of the 2015 Glennfiddich Artists Residency Prize, and was the winner of the Viewer’s Choice Award, Redlands Westpac Art Prize (2012) and the Hazelhurst Art on Paper Award (2005). Her work is held in the National Gallery of Australia, the Museum of Conemporary Art, Sydney, as well as regional, corporate and private collections across Australia and overseas.
Ross is represented by N.Smith Gallery, Sydney, and Bett Gallery, Hobart.