Janet Laurence: the significance of art and the environment

June 6th 2017

Janet Laurence, Deep Breathing, 2016

  • Janet Laurence :: Canvas: Art & Ideas

Listen to the Canvas: Art & Ideas interview with Janet Laurence.

Over the past three decades, Janet Laurence has been creating art in response to environments, infusing it with alchemical transformation, history and perception.

The prominent Australian artist, Janet Laurence, exhibits work all over the world. She shared insights into her international career in a Canvas: Art & Ideas Interview with Abdul Abdullah and Nat Randall.

Laurence says she had a very fragmented early period of study as an artist.  Studying first in Italy, then Australia and then New York, she says she never felt she had “finished being a student.”  When asked what drives her to make art, Laurence noted the very personal nature of art-making.

“It’s just always been a very internal thing that happens, and suddenly there’s nothing else for it but to fit into the category of art—even though I sometimes think a lot of my work doesn’t necessarily look like art.”

Laurence, who’s work retains organic qualities, occupying “the liminal zones or meeting places of art, science, imagination and memory,” was the Australian representative for the COP21/FIAC, Artists 4 Paris Climate 2015 Exhibition.  At which, she exhibited a major work at the Muséum National D’Historie Naturelle, in Paris, titled Deep Breathing: Resuscitation for the Reef.

Implementing a hospital motif, Laurence’s work highlights the state of emergency the Great Barrier Reef is in—demonstrative of the profound awareness of interconnectivity of all life within her work.

Much of the artist’s work focuses on our collective relationship with the environment within Australia, where she believes, art sadly does not have enough of a role.

“The language of art is so powerful as a communicator—like poetry it can reach people in more emotive ways than just information does,” the Balmain-based artist remarks. “No amount of information can create the emotional experience you have when you confront an artwork…artists should be on decision making boards and connected more to politics.”

As a recipient of Rockefeller, Churchill and Australia Council Fellowships, former Trustee of the Art Gallery of NSW and the subject of Archibald Prize-winning portrait, it can be seen that Laurence’s works are of significant influence upon Australian art culture; and their messages radiate the importance and power of art, itself.

“Somehow art is a space that can embrace all things that come from within the individual, as a way of experiencing and expressing our experience of the world.”


Read more from Jessica Lynch