Central Australia, 1950

Sidney Nolan, Central Australia, 1950, oil on canvas, 121 x 90cm, University of York, © Sidney Nolan Trust.

Chris Drury is an environmental artist, making site specific nature based sculpture, often referred to as Land Art or Art in Nature.

"I am not a painter and have never been influenced by Nolan’s work as such but have found many parallels in the central Australian landscape works, of which I admit to only having seen a few, but the works which strike a chord are the ones with all that red ochre in them. As I sit here writing, I have a glass bottle filled with red earth taken from those same central Australian landscapes and I too have flown over them and stared down at those same mysterious landscapes. Then later I was lucky enough to have been taken out into these landscapes with Kado Muir, an aboriginal elder with Scottish/Native Australian ancestry and to spend a night out under the stars, with him and a handful of relatives discussing landscape, stars, art, animals and the effects of uranium mining. The next day we were shown animal tracks, waterholes, special sites and rock drawings – just the sort of things that would have interested Sidney.

While I was in Canberra researching a sculpture to be made at ANU I was taken out to the Nilgiri hills by an aboriginal man who showed us more rock paintings there and the crazy markings of the scribbley bark beetle, all of which had parallels to Nolan's paintings, but to see the real difference in world view you have to go to the collection of Aboriginal works in the National Art Gallery, or indeed speak to an aboriginal person who will ask you to waft the smoke from a eucalypt fire over yourself, so that the land may know you.

So I would say my connection is with landscape, soil, culture and people – both at The Rodd and in Australia: rural green green England and harsh deep red Australia – something which got deep into Nolan’s soul."

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