Scrutiny by Joan Ross - 2019 | Michael Reid Gallery

Joan Ross
Scrutiny, 2019

pigment print on cotton rag paper
96 x 139 cm, framed
edition of 8 + 2AP

Related Object:
Portrait, miniature, Governor Lachlan Macquarie,
paint on ivory / wood / fabric / brass,
possibly made in England, United Kingdom, 1810-1825
112mm x 89mm
Collection of the Museum of Applied Arts & Sciences, Australia

N. D. McLachlan, Macquarie, Lachlan (1762-1824), Australian Dictionary of Biography.

The artist Joan Ross has sampled a significant early portrait miniature of the fifth and last autocratic Governor of New South Wales, Lachlan Macquarie (1761/62-1824), as a then Lieutenant-Colonel Macquarie.

Macquarie is depicted front and centre, wearing the double breasted, [red] military jacket of the British Army with [gold] buttons and stand up collar bearing the gold embroidered insignia of the 73rd Regiment.

Macquarie had been appointed Lieutenant-Colonelcy of the 73rd Regiment of the British Army in 1805 and ordered to New South Wales with the 73rd Regiment in 1808, arriving in Sydney in December 1809. Macquarie was sworn in as Governor in Chief of New South Wales on New Year’s Day 1810. He remained in the position until 1 December 1821, returning to England in 1822. He died in 1824. Macquarie is considered by historians to have had a crucial influence on the transition of New South Wales from a penal colony to a free settlement and therefore to have played a major role in the shaping of Australian society in the early nineteenth century.

In the immediacy of Ross’s large work, the viewer will note a surveillance camera discreetly positioned in the top right-hand side of the work. Although, under Macquarie the New South Wales Office Corp had lost much of its monopolistic power, Macquarie the man maintained a watchful eye and firm grip on all the levers of government. Macquarie was widely considered to be impatient and his arbitrary autocratic style won him many enemies, some who were powerful.

The green moss like vertical wall garden, behind Macquarie, alludes to Ross’s video, I give you a mountain [Video], 2018 in which moss represents a primordial foreboding. Macquarie was a great man, a flawed man, a man that allowed great good and bad to occur under his watchful eye. The viewer is asked to apply Macquarie’s own scrutiny, albeit reflected back on Macquarie himself.

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