Evaluation of artists experiences as participants in the Field Studies, art and environment program

The artwork

For about four years I have been photographing box-gum grassy woodlands. Once common through NSW and Victoria, these ecosystems have been reduced to small pockets amongst farmed land, along roadsides, reserves and in little tucked away cemeteries. I return to the same sites and photograph seasonally. I respond to ecologists and the landholders – their knowledge forms a collective story and shows me what I need to photograph. Some places are healthy intact box-gum grassy woodlands, others are fertilised for sheep pasture, and others are ‘the lucerne paddock’. Fertilised box-gum grassy woodlands, left alone and unmanaged, support a different biodiversity, one dominated by exotics. My aim in applying repetitive still life and landscape form in my photographs is to show something of these woodlands – past, present and possible future.


The dissertation

Many artists are profoundly motivated to make art that expresses their concerns about the environment. I am interested in the experiences of artists interacting with the environment, and how artists can learn about the environment and develop art with an environmental agenda. Established visual artists have developed a work practice that enables them to combine their passions for art and the environment. For emerging artists and visual art students with similar passions, what guidance is available? Through his work at The Australian National University (ANU), Reid (Reid et al. 2010) realised that many visual art students seek a field-based approach to their art practice but are unsure how to go about it effectively. And within this group of students, there are those who wish to make art that deals with sustainability problems. In my dissertation I explore, record, analyse and evaluate the experiences of the artists who participated in four Field Study programs held at ANU (School of Art) during the Engaging Visions Research Project (2007 to 2010). I consider how well the visual artists feel that the Field Studies program does or does not enhance both their art training and knowledge on environmental issues. The research goal goes beyond evaluating a specific program; my aim is to provide a better understanding of the art and environment phenomenon, with a focus on education for visual art students at the tertiary level.


Other members of this project

  • Dr Martyn Reid (Chair)
  • Mr John Reid (Advisor)
  • Mr Nigel Lendon (Advisor)