Inexhaustible Bounty tells a story of time and forgetting in which Tasmania’s origin as a convict settlement perpetuates a simplification of Australia’s history. Her thriving whaling industry didn’t feature in the history of colonial Australia I was taught at school. It wasn’t until undertaking novel research that I came across Andrew Darby’s Harpoon, and discovered its significance to the bigger story.
Harpoon led me to more than a lost Eden, where the sounds of whales moaning and blowing kept inhabitants awake at night. As soon as “civilisation” landed upon her shores, whalers and sealers swarmed to the island to take advantage of the inexhaustible bounty of their giant prey, forging a direct relationship between empire and capitalism.
Illustrating the brutality of colonial life, Inexhaustible Bounty combines archival maps from early Antipodean exploration with the storied landscapes found in medieval map aesthetics, to tell a story of excess. Whaling’s abrupt interruption of established ecosystems was to provide a rude awakening for our own species, alerting us to the finite nature of resources. Often characterised by a battle between embracing and resisting industrial development, Tasmania and her depleted whale populations provide a symbolic precursor to our conflicted relationship with the natural world.
2023, Highly Commended
Ink and acrylic on 46 panels of rice paper (framed as a single work)