Janet Laurence

One of Australia’s most celebrated visual artists, Janet Laurence has established a poetic practice that engages with the concerns of our denuded and fragile planet. Her evocatively layered works can be found in the public realm, private domestic spaces and the white cube of the gallery.

Natural History (Landscape and Residues Series), 2008
Glass vials, botanical specimens, wood, steel, polished aluminium mirror

Working at the nexus of art and science, Laurence sees art as a means to reveal the wonder and mysteries of the natural world, while also asking her audiences to consider the difficult and often fraught relationship we have with it. Long before climate change and environmental degradation became the focus of mainstream discussion, Laurence looked to the environment for inspiration, and drew upon its deep interconnectedness with all of life in her work.

Laurence studied in Italy, the USA and Australia, receiving a Masters of Fine Art in 1993 from the University of New South Wales. In 1986 and 1992 she was awarded Australia Council Fellowships. She is the recipient of both a Rockefeller and Churchill Fellowship. Laurence was a Trustee of the Art Gallery of NSW (1996–2005), and part of the Visual Arts Board of the Australia Council, and she is currently a Visiting Fellow with the University New South Wales Art and Design. Her works have been presented in leading exhibitions — including the 9th and 17th Biennales of Sydney (1992 and 2010), Echigo-Tsumari Art Triennale (2003, 2006) and the Australian Perspecta (1985, 1991, 1997) — and are found in major collections both nationally and internationally.

Part of the Landscape and Residue series, Natural History, 2008, presents a scorched lab-like table pierced through with large scientific glass vials. Each vial contains burnt plant forms, delicately threaded through by Laurence to create a vertical carbonated forest.