Janis Lander

Janis Lander is a figurative artist and has been exhibiting and selling her work since her early teens. in the youth section of regional exhibitions like the Royal Easter Show. Her family and her school friends acted as her models. At fifteen she was the youngest student of the Bakery Art School in Paddington, run by John Olsen, where she was introduced to the principles of abstract figuration through the philosophy of the Tao. Her Major Work was featured in the Sydney Morning Herald coverage of Art Express in 1968.

The next four years were spent at Sydney University and painting took a back seat. Lander graduated with a Bachelor of Arts, majoring in English Literature and minoring in Art History and Theory. During that period the Power Institute was established on campus with Donald Brooke, Bernard Smith, Terry Smith, and Virginia Spate researching and lecturing. The Power Research Library (now the John Schaffer Fine Arts Library) and the Tin Sheds Gallery (run by Guy Warren) were established. With the advent of Two Decades of American Painting showing at the AGNSW and NGV in 1968 the stage was set for Australian artists to explore the many faces of Modernism—Abstract Expressionism, Pop Art, Op Art, Colour Field Painting, Action Painting. For emerging artists it was an intoxicating time.

While Lander’s work has always reflected what is going on in her life from decade to decade, there are ongoing themes and concepts. Landscape has been a recurrent subject, changing according to where she was living—coastal landscapes in the sixties; Californian beach scenes in the seventies; Sydney harbour scenes in the nineties; and from 2006 onwards, the outback. She has made annual artists’ trips to the arid zone in far western New South Wales and works from these trips have been hung in the Plein Air Parliamentary Prize in NSW Parliament House Sydney, and the Broken Hill Regional Art Prize. Her solo exhibition in 2006 showed land-based works in pastels, charcoals, oil and etchings from the arid zone; she has created a series of portraits of the other artists who work in that part of the world, which have hung in group exhibitions in Federal Parliament House, Canberra, and NSW Parliament House, Sydney, and twice in the Australian Embassy in Washington D.C. with the national organisation Portrait Artists Australia. Other portraits have hung in in the Archibald Salon, the Portia Geach Memorial Award, the Doug Moran National Portrait Prize, and The Black Swan Prize.

Lander works primarily in oil on canvas or linen, and she has produced a large body of work on paper, in pastel and charcoal, and in intaglio etching. Her landscapes and her portraits have hung in selected exhibitions in Australia and travelled overseas. Her art is represented in collections in Australia and overseas, including Germany, France, and the U.S.A. on themes around portraits, meditation practices, and landscapes.

Crow Call in The Morning Hush 

‘Fowlers Gap is located on Gondwana land, the oldest part of the early formation of Earth, in the central part of Australia, 1 ½ hours north from Broken Hill.  It is humming with subtle energies, made perceptible by the arid desert atmosphere. At night there is no pollution to block the blazing stars of the Milky Way or distant galaxies. The weight of 80,000 years of Indigenous footprints has been etched into the ochres, leaving a tangible presence. You are noticed.

Fowlers Gap is a UNSW Research Station and a destination for science students researching kangaroos, rocks, birds, and native fauna and flora. There are a few university buildings, and the property functions as a working sheep and goat station. Upon arriving I always performed a small ritual to the guardians—asking permission and giving thanks. I did the same upon leaving. I was respectful and in turn I felt welcomed. It is a profoundly spiritual place.

I made the trip to every winter from 2006-2018—to write and meditate and make art. I took long walks, stopping frequently to make alla prima studies of the property —mostly along the dry riverbeds decorated with serpentine formations of ghost gums, lustrous rocks, and fallen vegetation in every shade of green glowing against the red ochres.  I climbed the low Ranges snaking around the property to draw the flattened perspective. I walked at all times of the day—offered spectacular opportunities to create fresh impressions just by turning my stool 180 degrees.

The daytime weather is unpredictable, and I often wore 3 hats at once when trekking the property— comical but practical—a baseball cap to keep the midday sun out of my eyes,  topped by a Russian squirrel trapper hat against the bitter wind blowing from snowy mountains to cut through the heat, and a fly net covering my head to keep the fly swarms out of my eyes when the wind drops.

My hope is that viewers will become immersed in these paintings and get an idea what it’s like to ramble this beautiful place, to feel the rocky terrain underfoot, the changing weather conditions, the time of day, the shifting light, the land formations—and to feel the exhilaration that I feel when I am out there.’

Janis Lander