The high-visibility palate of Joan Ross’ works beg attention, it’s one which highlights the historical and the complexity of its resonance today. The impact of colonisation on Australian society is a lesser known story, and disrupting the idealistic ‘Australian image’ is undoubtedly confronting. As Ross collages scenes of colonial iconography, landscapes and paintings by John Glover and Joseph Lycett, she brings different narratives within Australian history to the fore, enabling ideologies and perceptions to be reimagined.
These recent works, all hand painted pigment on cotton rag paper, reference ownership and connection to place. In Marking their territory like cats (with Watkin Tench) (2013) a fluorescent fence and tags of graffiti distinguish the foreign – the implementation of boundaries and their inclusion/exclusion dichotomy.
Further to the proclamation of ownership, Ross questions its ramifications. I have your cake and now I’m eating it too (2014), and We love your sunburnt country (2014) from the series titled Colonial Grab, not only illustrate fascination with, but capitalisation upon Australia’s unique flora and fauna. Simultaneous to colonial pride and the ideology of progress associated with modernity, came disregard for Indigenous philosophy, sensing and connection to place. It’s a sensitive open wound, one Ross marks fluoro.
As Rilke Oakley has commented on her practice, Ross “transforms static landscapes into modern day satires on our way of life… These are stories that expose the cruelty and self-centred, destructive nature of colonisation” (1).
(1) Oakley, R. (2016). Joan Ross: 20-50% off all plants & animals. Blue Mountains City Art Gallery.