Reframing Darwin: evolution and art in Australia - Ian Potter Museum of Art

Reframing Darwin: evolution and art in Australia

11 Aug 2009 — 31 Oct 2009

Artists include: Anita Barley, Thomas Bock, Tony Clark, Syms Covington, Chantale Delrue, Augustus Earle, John Gould, Conrad Martens, Louisa Anne Meredith, John Pastoriza-Piñol, Patricia Piccinini, Lisa Roet, Julie Rrap, Ricky Swallow, John Wolseley

Guest curator: Jeanette Hoorn

Reframing Darwin: evolution and art in Australia is a major exhibition of more than 120 items dedicated to exploring the lasting legacy of Charles Darwin in art, science, and culture in Australia. This exhibition offers an artistic, cultural, and philosophic review of the ramifications of Darwin’s 1831–36 encounters with Australian shores.

This exhibition traces Darwin’s impact from the voyage of HMS Beagle to contemporary engagements with ideas of the post-Darwinian body. Through the artworks of Conrad Martens, Augustus Earle and Syms Covington—Darwin’s friends and companions aboard the Beagle—the exhibition, offers a tangible vision of Sydney and Bathurst as Darwin encountered it on his arrival. It also explores the impact of Darwin’s theory on nineteenth-century artists. With the publication of On the origin of species (1859), Darwin was revealed to a global community as the century’s foremost scientific mind. Following in the historical wake of the revolutionary implications of the book, the exhibition brings together rare and never before seen works of art from more than twenty-five institutions and private collectors across Australia and unites them with the local histories and stories of this great thinker’s impact on nineteenth-century Australian artistic, scientific and intellectual life.

The exhibition concludes by linking historical and contemporary artworks to this shared thematic tradition. Through the work of contemporary Australian artists, the exhibition extends the legacy of Darwinian thinking to a consideration of pressing contemporary questions on the nature of genome technology, paradise engineering, the continuing significance of natural selection, and our contemporary relationship to notions of a ‘natural’ body. Offering a means of generating dialogue between different times and places, artists, and artworks, this exhibition seeks to challenge and reveal the changing nature of artistic engagements with Darwin’s work in Australia.