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Unknown Land - Mapping and Imagining WA


Mon 26 Dec 2016, 10:00am–5:00pm
Wed 28 Dec 2016, 10:00am–5:00pm
Thu 29 Dec 2016, 10:00am–5:00pm
Fri 30 Dec 2016, 10:00am–5:00pm
Sat 31 Dec 2016, 10:00am–5:00pm

Where: Art Gallery of Western Australia, Perth Cultural Centre, Perth CBD, Western Australia

Restrictions: All Ages

Ticket Information:

  • Adult: $12.00
  • Concession: $8.00
  • Child (5-17 years): $5.00
  • Additional fees may apply

Listed by: Art Gallery of WA

Traversing the west coast of Australia, this exhibition maps WA as seen through the eyes of those arriving from Europe in the early 1800s including professional artists, illustrators, surveyors, and explorers.

Over 150 works drawn from the State Art Collection, supplemented by key national and local loans, depict coastal views, landscapes, and detailed sketches of the flora and fauna as encountered by European colonists.

The exhibition includes primarily works on paper – drawings, prints and watercolours – alongside a focused selection of paintings. A highlight of the exhibition is the display of AGWA’s entire collection of colonial watercolours – the first time since 1979. These detailed works deliver surprisingly intimate and personal views of early European life in Western Australia.

Early WA encounters came in the form of images made by explorers – the Dutch, the French and the British who travelled past the WA coastline over the centuries. Topographical artists recorded, in a seemingly empirical manner, the look of the land, its peoples, plants and animals. Later settlers made more intimate views of the new places they called home, while political cartoonists back in England lampooned the Swan River Colony enterprise.

The exhibition explores the purpose of these early visual depictions, inviting visitors to reconsider the narrative conveyed, and it is a timely review of the early exploration of WA through the critical lens of today.

A counterpoint to the European impressions of WA is provided by Aboriginal artists Julie Dowling, Chris Pease and Shane Pickett. Their works interrupt and remind visitors that while the land was 'unknown' to European colonists it has been home to the traditional owners of the land, the Aboriginal People, for thousands of years.

Image credit - Frederick Garling
Mount Eliza, 15 miles from the entrance of Swan River, Western Australia 1827 (detail)
watercolour, ink and pencil on paper
21.7 x 33 cm
State Art Collection,
Art Gallery of Western Australia
Purchased with funds from the Geoffrey
William Robinson Bequest fund, 1990