Janet Laurence was born in 1947 in Sydney, New South Wales and currently lives in Sydney. Laurence’s work echoes architecture while retaining organic qualities and a sense of instability and transience. Her work occupies the liminal zones or meeting places of art, science, imagination and memory. Profoundly aware of the interconnection of all life forms, Laurence often produces work in response to specific sites or environments using a diverse range of materials. Alchemical transformation, history and perception are underlying themes. Laurence exhibits widely and has an impressive record of solo and group exhibitions in Australia and overseas. She has completed significant national and international public commissions including The Edge of the Trees 1994 (with Fiona Foley), Museum of Sydney; 49 Veils 1999 (with Jisuk Han), Central Synagogue, Sydney; In the Shadow 1998–2000, Sydney 2000 Olympic Games, Homebush Bay; The Australian War Memorial (with Tonkin Zulaikha Greer architects), Hyde Park, London; and Ghost for Lake Macquarie City Art Gallery in 2009. From 1996–2005 Laurence was a Trustee of the Art Gallery of New South Wales, Sydney and in 2006 was awarded a Churchill Fellowship. Her work is represented in Australian and international public, corporate and private collections. In 2012 she was commissioned to create a major exhibition, After EDEN, for Sherman Contemporary Art Foundation, Sydney.
In her book Wild dog dreaming: love and extinction, Deborah Bird Rose developed the idea of ecological existentialism concerned with how we, as people, operate in a changing environment: ‘Love in the time of extinctions, therefore, calls forth another set of questions. Who are we, as a species? How to find our way into the Earth system? What ethics call to us? How to find our way into new stories to guide us, now that so much is changing? How to invigorate love and action in ways that are generous, knowledgeable, and life-affirming?… extinctions are casualties of production for consumption … Species, ecosystems, habitats, relationships, and connections that sustain the web of life on Earth become “collateral casualties” in the rush for consumption.’ Rose’s ideas of uncertainty and connectivity resonated strongly with Janet Laurence.
At the same time as this unmaking of the world is occurring, there is a calling need being answered and reciprocated by a growing number of people dedicating their lives and love to the conservation and care of threatened species. My work STRANDED looks at the marine turtle as a great ancient species that has survived eras and is now under threat from direct human action and climate change. Turtles, like dugong, are mega fauna that have been embedded in the human imagination through myths and stories since man evolved. They are a major part of our marine world. They are loved creatures and their loss and fragility is of great concern to local people. I think, I want to believe, that art can bring one into this intimacy and this, hopefully, can generate empathy and thus continue the necessary care. Janet Laurence 2012
With the support of staff from the Perc Tucker Regional Gallery, Laurence travelled to Townsville and met with marine scientists, including those from the Australian institute of Marine Science at James Cook University and the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority. Assisted by their knowledge of the reef, Laurence gathered the necessary information to create STRANDED.