Australia Day 2014: Celebrating Australian wonder in New South Wales

From Sydney to Roma, from Canberra to the Kimberley we can look through the eyes of the 12 artists represented on this page and share what it means to be Australian. In choosing this year's theme, 'Australian Wonder' we hoped to encapsulate the spirit of this nation as a place but also allow each artist the freedom to express their individual response to this country's astonishing diversity. Australian Wonder is a collection of our artists' very distinct visions and of how they understand and picture our national character.

The Sydney Morning Herald is proud to be able to feature the work of Tim Storrier, regarded by many as one of this country's most renowned landscape artists. Since winning the Sulman Prize in 1968 at the age of 19, Storrier has gone on to forge a highly successful career by pursuing his unique vision of this country's landscape. Storrier's trademark, big skies hovering above endless horizons set the stage to project the artists preoccupation with the four elements, earth, air, fire and water. These are evident in the beautiful Storrier image especially commissioned and painted for this years' exhibition.

We also feature a work by artist John Peart, who earlier last year had kindly agreed to participate in the Australia Day project. Sadly, on October 10 John died at the age of 67. By way of honouring his passing and as a way of paying tribute to his life and art, I felt it fitting to reproduce a picture that John painted just before his death. He was a dear friend, a teacher and mentor to numerous artists and in the opinion of many, one of Australia's finest and certainly most inventive abstract painters.

Again, this year we feature one of our regular favourites, the irreverent, some may even say iconic, Chris O'Doherty (aka Reg Mombassa) whose typically surreal vision, Gumscape with Creatures and Spacecraft, depicts a metamorphic scene of Sydney and gum trees with eyes. It is hard to know what Colonial artist John Glover, often attributed with being the first European artist to 'truly capture the gum' would make of Mr Mombassa's art but I am sure I could be safe in saying, that now, we have a different vision of this country from when Glover sailed into the mouth the Tamar River in 1831.

We hope you enjoy this year's selection of artists' work. A signed fine art limited reproduction of these artworks and more can be purchased from smhshop.com.au/australia 

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Evening Blaze Line, 2014 by Tim Storrier

'Australia Day should be treated with some kind of reverence ... it means different things to different people. As a nation a lot has been achieved ... not all positive, having said that it's a celebration worth taking seriously' - Tim Storrier, artist.

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Beyond the hills (cricket and dry grass singing), 2004, oil on carved wood and canvas, by Colin Lanceley. Courtesy of Australian Galleries, Melbourne and Sydney

"All these objects we have are imbued with . . . It's hard to explain. When you go to a new country, you're like a shipwrecked sailor. You have to start all over again, so these things are part of your biography. Without them, there'd be a sense of . . . loss. We couldn't live without them."

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Gumscapes with Animals and Spacecraft, 2013, coloured pencil on paper by Chris O'Doherty (aka Reg Mombassa). Courtesy of Watters Gallery, Sydney

"A stand of genetically modified ghost gums keeps a watchful eye out for any hunters or loggers that may pose a threat to the creatures and the trees of the forest. The spacecraft are strictly inter-dimensional."

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Splitting Posts no 14, 2012, oil on plantation hoop pine, by Jenny Bell. Courtesy of Australian Galleries, Melbourne and Sydney

"Australia Day is heat and tennis and often just another day on the farm watching the horizon for smoke. But it is also the day we remember how irrevocably we have altered this continent and amidst the triumphs there are the scars. It is a day to be mindful of both."

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Amphilucent, 2014, oil on linen, by Martine Emdur. Courtesy of Olsen Irwin, Sydney

"Plunging into the ocean can signify surrender, fluidity and calm. The sea embraces and engulfs. All is washed away in that moment."

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Aurora Australis, 2013, oil on linen, by Michael Johnson. Courtesy of Olsen Irwin, Sydney

"Geographically we sit at the centre of Oceania, it is a zone of deep contrasts. On Australia Day, I celebrate the ancient innovations of Koori astronomy, their understanding of weather patterns and unity for the earth. Let's hope we can all share that respect within the diversity of our perpetually transforming culture."

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Kingfishers of Northern Australia, 2013, ink and watercolour on paper, by Angus Fisher. Courtesy of Australian Galleries Melbourne and Sydney

"My recent work focuses on the natural world and celebrates the diversity each subject presents."

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View from the Garden, Stuart's Creek Station (Rain Coming), 2014, by Leo Robba. Courtesy of King Street Gallery on William, Sydney 

"This painting holds my memories of the most wonderful trip to Roma in central Queensland. Great family, great friends, great place ... sharing campfires, Campari and camellias ... and not to forget, several slow cooked shoulders of lamb."

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Rose Bay wharf, 2013, enamel and acrylic on plywood by Jasper Knight. Courtesy of Australian Galleries, Sydney

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Hill City 2013, oil on board, by John Peart. Courtesy of Watters Gallery, Sydney

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Orchid with lucky dragon, oil on linen on board, by Pam Tippett. Courtesy of Australian Galleries

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Turon, 2013, acrylic on paper, by Joanna Logue. Courtesy of King Street Gallery on William, Sydney

"Turon came about after completing a residency last year at Hill End. I can't think of Hill End without being transported back to the Turon River and nearby bridle track."

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CELEBRATORY EXHIBITION

An exhibition of these works and other works by these artist will be on view at Australian Galleries, 15 Roylston Street, Paddington. Open 7 days 10am to 6pm, (tel) 02 9360 5177. Current until Sunday 15 February 2014.

The story Australia Day 2014: Celebrating Australian wonder in New South Wales first appeared on The Sydney Morning Herald.

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