This is one of Helen T’s best pieces ever, a fantastic five-panel interpretation of the bizarre and conflicted history of Australia. Engrossing and brilliant. Below is what I wrote for the catalogue.
…“There is a story, almost certainly apocryphal, that Gustave Flaubert found the rigors of travelling so exhausting that he claimed he preferred to see the world from a couch while paintings of scenery were unfurled before him. Flaubert would have delighted by a genre of wallpaper that seems to fulfill his taste for a luxurious, passive form of tourism.” Joanne Kosuda-Warner.
Flaubert would have reveled in Tiernan’s scenic rendering of Australia because here we have a truly luxurious, passive interpretation of the continent. Luxurious in its use of colour and detail in every panel; from Marion Mahoney’s drawings of Canberra the organic city, revisited by Tiernan as a toy town, to the blazing almost blinding, gold’s and reds of the outback. Sydney and Melbourne represented only by their architectural icons – geometric models dropped onto the green hide of the land. Here is Aussie humour, George Stubbs kangaroo riding the mighty merinos back and Ned Kelly riding – where? – nowhere in particular. It is iconic and sarcastic. It peddles in our dreams and symbols, recodes our giants of art – Nolan, Lycett, Glover, Pareroultja of the Hermannsburg School. It is passive in the extreme because every Australian can identify with it but no one can enter it. Like all of Tiernan’s paintings in this series it is an unpopulated landscape, it is the earth that shines through, the main character in the drama. We place ourselves here, we leave our images and inclinations but it is the land that perseveres and stands the test of time, remaining the eternal constant.