The Transplanted Bush 2004-08


The selected works below form the visual component of Sally Clarke's PhD thesis, The Transplanted Bush: Dislocation, Desire and the Domestic, which was completed in 2008. Works from this collection (not all represented here) were exhibited at Bathurst Regional Gallery (Out on a Limb: 2004), University of Wollongong (Out on a Limb 2: 2005), Helen Maxwell Gallery Canberra (In Part: 2006) and Ivan Dougherty Gallery (The Transplanted Bush: 2008).


The Transplanted Bush: Dislocation, Desire and the Domestic, takes as its theme the idea of the Australian bush as Clarke seeks new ways to represent it within the traditions of Australian figurative landscape painting. The research identifies ways to disrupt the bush brand, a paradigm that has played a significant and romantic role in the construction of Australian national identity, as a rallying point for nationalist sentiment and to sell Australia to the world as a unique tourist destination. The bush, as a space that is anti-city, an idea that generally relies on a British genealogy, and one that is constructed according to hetero-normative strategies, is significant in the creation of Australian identity because it is widely regarded as the real Australia. Real in this context has somehow become distorted to mean those parts of our nation that make us distinct from the rest of the world, while continuing to reflect the values and aspirations of a dominant culture and its heroically presented history of colonising and domesticating a strange land.


The overriding focus of this investigation has been to determine to what extent it is possible to reconceptualise the bush brand so that it can accommodate new themes of identity, particularly in relation to gender and sexuality. Clarke’s research adopts the position that the bush is an idea that has relied heavily upon myths, legends and mono-cultural perspectives for its construction and, as a result, is open to negotiation.  Consequently, this investigation takes place at the very heart of the bush paradigm, within its grand master narratives, by engaging with its symbols and signifiers. It reviews the ideological and representational role played by the traditional model of Australian figurative landscape painting, and considered how it can be reinvested with new signs, symbols, motifs, materials, colours and ideas. By developing and introducing a new vocabulary of signs and symbols that erodes the distinctions between the bush, the urban and the domestic, Clarke disrupts the internal logic and coherence of the bush brand.