Jennifer Taylor grew up in Aotearoa/New Zealand and moved to Australia in 1974.
She studied art at the Canberra School of Art, ANU, and completed her PhD in Creative Arts, through Charles Darwin University in 2014. Her thesis was titled Portraits of country: a plein air painter in Arrernte country and is available online: https://espace.cdu.edu.au/view/cdu:44885
Jennifer lives in Alice Springs, working on-site in Arrernte country and in the studio.
Jennifer Taylor: Paintings from Arrernte country and Aotearoa
M16 Art Space, October 2015
The paintings in this exhibition are grounded in the practice of painting on-site, ‘en plein air’. Included are small-scale works, direct and immediate, completed on the spot, and larger ones derived from them, completed in the studio. Most were made at Inteye-Arrkwe (Ross River) and Mpulungkinya (Palm Valley), with the kind permission and support of traditional owners Agnes Abbott and Conrad Ratara.
Other works are based on sketches, photographs, and memories of mountains and waterways in Aotearoa. I grew up in Aotearoa, where one’s turangawaewae—place to stand—is the basis for identity, self-respect, and being able to meet others ‘eye to eye’. You need to know the mountain, the waterway, and the people you belong to. I am pakeha (non-Indigenous) but these values and the centrality of land, or country, nevertheless shape how I think and see.
I arrived in Central Australia in 1994. I live with, on one hand, the acknowledgment of Indigenous ownership and history, and on the other, my own sense of belonging and commitment to place and people. Plein air painting is at the heart of my practice because it provides a place to stand, and a way to ask what it is to live in Arrernte country, now.
The sensory immersion and physical engagement inherent in plein air painting make it a vehicle for ‘eye-to-eye’ embodied encounters with country. Country in its fullest sense includes all forms of life, from underground through to the high atmosphere, and cultural expressions such as language and art. To these encounters with Arrernte country I bring my own cultural background, including painting approaches that reference the European landscape tradition, and memories of the land, language and waters of Aotearoa.
Painting on-site has shown me how little I really know country that seems so familiar. Painting practice is the ground where elements come together: layered histories of place; the desire to connect, and the vivid sensations, pleasures and sadness of being in country. So much has been damaged and lost: still the country is alive, and our lives are bound to it.