The ubiquitous gum tree gets the artistic celebration it truly deserves with a new exhibition at the Powerhouse Museum. Drawing on over 400 objects from the museum's vast collection, Eucalyptusdom explores our changing relationship to the local hardwood, and artists’ many creative uses of the material. The exhibition is free to visit with general museum entry.
Running until August 2022, the exhibition takes its title from a 1930s text by Edward F Swain, one of Australia’s earliest conservationists. The show highlights the relationship between eucalypts and First Nations Australians, the trees’ important role in the Federation arts and crafts movement, plus the Powerhouse Museum’s unique and longstanding relationship with the eucalypt. Rarely seen items you’ll be able to have a gander at include over 100 timber specimens dating from the 1800s, botanical illustrations and early glass-plate photographs.
It also showcases 17 new commissions, including from Trawlwoolway multidisciplinary artist Julie Gough. She documents eucalypt trees situated in the vicinity of sites of conflict and violence between Tasmanian Aboriginal people and colonists from the late 1700s to early 1800s. There’s also a work by Wiradjuri/Kamilaroi artist Jonathan Jones, working with Wiradjuri Elder Dr Uncle Stan Grant Sr AM, that considers the connection to the guardian ancestor Dharramalin, central to men’s initiation ceremonies. Nicholas Mangan’s new work analyses the complex history of objects in the Powerhouse collection through film and large-scale sculptural installation. Newly established organisation First Nations Fashion and Design presents a collection of nine wearable garments by First Nations Designers.
A program of performances, talks and masterclasses will help unpack the exhibition. Powerhouse chief executive Lisa Havilah says, “Beginning with the burning of the Garden Palace exhibition building in 1882, Eucalyptusdom explores the interwoven histories of the Powerhouse and the eucalypt. This exhibition invites us to consider how our changing relationship to eucalypt reflects our ever-shifting comprehension of Country and place.”