The Emu Hunt, 1949

Sidney Nolan The Emu Hunt 1949 enamel paint on composition board 91.1 x 121.4 cm

Roger Law is a British caricaturist and ceramist.

"Before 1998 the only Australian artist I was familiar with was Sidney Nolan and I was not at all sure what to make of him. During my time as a caricaturist working in London I was au fait with contemporary European and American art but while living in Australia (from the late ‘98 to 2011) I was delighted to discover a wealth of Aussie art that I had been utterly unaware of – Ian Fairweather and Rosalie Gascoigne for starters.

But I still did not know what to make of Sidney Nolan. The more of Nolan’s paintings I saw the more I realised he could be curated and presented as one of the best ever Australian artists or simply the worst. I was fascinated. Nolan was so good and so bad; so prolific and refreshingly unselective.

I began drawing and travelling around that sunburnt country, up to Arnhem Land and down to the Coorong, from coastal Broome to the red interior, and the penny finally began to drop. The Australian landscape was Nolan’s preoccupation. But looking at his paintings with a European eye they are hard to understand without the experience of that glittering, unfinished, fragile landscape that is Terra Australis.

Initially Nolan caught my attention with his myth-making and populist subject matter (the stories of Ned Kelly and shipwrecked Mrs Fraser). Being an anti-establishment artist myself he had me on side. His tabloid tales nailed down the larrikin attitude I love about Australians. The ‘Emu Hunt’ captures all of that. Jewel-like parrots perch in the scrappy Eucalypt in the centre of the picture – the remains of the Garden of Eden. The empty landscape and expansive sky are quintessentially Australian and of course the image is very funny."

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