Banner image: John Wolseley

A detail from “A History of Parrots, Drifting Maps and Warming Seas”, by John Wolseley (2005). Born in England just before World War II, Wolseley didn’t move to Australia until he was 38. But over the subsequent three decades, the immigrant has made the continent his own, travelling extensively through its length and breadth, and making art that captures its essence as a natural system playing out over the ages of deep history. Incorporating (at different times and in different proportions) painting, drawing, and natural processes and media — including buried paper and charcoaled trees — his work has depicted such phenomena as continental drift, the stages of a brush fire, and the denizens of the Wallace Line, which demarcates the flora and fauna of Asia from that of Australia.

The surface water has invented its own complex geographies alternating times of flow, times of rest – as it dances with the aquifers and deeper water tables. There is an ancient relationship between the waterways , creeks, billabongs and their flood plains. I have been marvelling at the lines of energy radiating from swamps and water holes, and seasonal creeks full of bird, animal and plant life.

More than ever before I found that this process of making a watercolour seemed to be analagous to the action and process by which water moves and forms the landscape itself. I’ve been laying these huge sheets of paper on to softly descending banks of sand hills, and start in a rather wild and physical way by pouring, brushing, sploshing quantities of watercolour which I have previously mixed up in large bowls. All these watery landscape elements around me are then recreated on the paper.

— John Wolseley, “Journal Notes

"A History of Parrots, Drifting Maps and Warming Seas", by John Wolseley (2005)
"A History of Parrots, Drifting Maps and Warming Seas", by John Wolseley (2005)

10 thoughts on “Banner image: John Wolseley

  1. hello, my names olivia

    i was just wondering if it was possible if you could please tell me about the structural frame in which john wolseley painted this particular artwork


  2. Hi Olivia: I’m afraid I don’t know how Wolseley framed this painting to work on it – you’re talking physically, right? – but since many of his pieces involve burying the paper or letting it be blown by the wind onto burned trees and suchlike, it’s possible he just painted it on the floor. Have you checked out his website?

  3. Ian

    Thank you for introducing me to Wolseley’s work; I have never come across the name before. His work is truly remarkable and inspiring, his writings equally so. It’s an unusual combination these days; artists generally fall into one of 2 categories – those who let the work speak for itself, and those who talk a good concept with mystifyingly obscure language but with little to back it up. I am dismayed by the prominence of the latter.


  4. hi my name is scott i live in dorset england and just today (25th january 2010) found an amazing abstact painting by john wolesley in a local carity shop for £25.00 ime amazed to find the artist to be of notible qualility and am finding it hard to contain my excitement,and am looking forward to finding out more if you have any infornmation that might be of interest please let me know thankyou 😉

  5. Re- The John Wolesley painting i bought from the charity shop is named “Green still life” and bares a label from “The mayor gallery ltd 14 brook street london W.1 on the back

  6. Hey I’m Ariane =P
    I read through your comments and saw Olivia’s comment About the strutural frame. I am currently writing an art essay for school (year 12) and have just finished writing about the strucutral frame (and wil probably have finished the other three frames when you read this). I know i am a whole year late but i could send it through if you like?

  7. Teah… I agree with yo…but can ya give me some info about why John Wolseley a important artist in Australia?thanks dude

    1. I always thought it is because of his attatchment to the Australian landscape. He revolutionised the way of thinking in art, when the land that no body wanted (because it wasnt the british ideal – lush greenery) was captured and shown in a way that dysplayes beauty and character itself. Often using the plants themselves to contribute to the artwork. He is constantly trying to understand
      “how Geology contributes to the spirit of the place” – as quoted from his journal entry on ‘Deep time, Huon Pine and a cockatoo timeline’ – 2005
      all the while, incorperating and addapting different methods of art, in order to eventually truely capture what he sees to be a “portrait” of the landscape.
      I always thought he was an important artist in Australia because of his contribution, understanding and constant searching for Answers, based around the worlds landscape.

  8. Hello John, further to our conversation sometime in 1977 around the environs of east gippsland, it was good to continue the conversation as I was passing past the bayside arts and cultural centre after I had completed some portrait studies with the brighton art society. good to catch up. I’ll listen to you on the 14th. for ever onward-shane

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