The skin and bones of Jonathan Jones - Art Collector

Jonathan Jones with prototype ceramic shield on site at the Royal Botanic Garden, Sydney. Photo: Emma Pike. Courtesy: Kaldor Public Art Projects

Sydney based Wiradjuri/ Kamilaroi artist Jonathan Jones has embarked on one of the largest and most significant Kaldor Public Art Projects to date. Known for his site specific installations and interventions into space that use light, shadow and shape repetition, Kaldor Public Art Projects has this week revealed Jones’ plans for a total takeover in Sydney’s Royal Botanic Gardens in the 32nd iteration of philanthropist John Kaldor’s public art initiative. It will also be the first Kaldor Public Art Project presented with an Australian Aboriginal artist.

Ambitious in size and scale, Jones’ barrangal dyara (skin and bones) will span a whopping 20,000 square metres across the iconic Sydney landmark. Thousands upon thousands of ceramic shields will blanket the site, paying homage to the 19th-century Garden Palace building that originally stood in the gardens between 1879 and 1882 before it devastatingly burnt to the ground, taking with it countless Aboriginal objects collected along the colonial frontier. The work is Jones’s response to the immense sense of loss felt throughout Australia with the destruction of these culturally significant items and speaks to cultural tensions still present in contemporary Australia. But it is also celebration of the survival of the world’s oldest living peoples. The ceramic forms, strengthened by fire, invert the destruction of the mostly wooden and bark Aboriginal objects in the 1882 blaze.

Several cultural institutions with close ties to the Garden Palace – including Bangarra Dance Theatre; the State Library of New South Wales; Sydney Conservatorium of Music; the Museum of Arts and Applied Sciences; Art Gallery of New South Wales; Sydney Living Museums and the Australian Museum – will collaborate on a series of events running in tandem with the installation, which will include presentations of Aboriginallanguage, performances, talks, special events and workshops each day.

The project falls in line with Jones’ past practice, in which he has sought to represent both the traditional and contemporary by working with the particular site’s historical usage and current vision. At the heart of Jones’s practice is the act of collaborating. Many projects have seen him work in conjunction with other artists and communities to develop outcomes that acknowledge native knowledge systems. Jones has exhibited across Australia – at the Sherman Contemporary Art Foundation and the National Gallery of Australia, among others – and internationally at the Palazzo delle Papesse Contemporary Art Centre in Italy and Plug In Institute of Contemporary Art in Canada, among others.

Jones is represented by Tim Melville Gallery, Auckland.

barrangal dyara (skin and bones) will exhibit from 17 September to 3 October 2016 at Royal Botanic Garden, Sydney.

Camilla Wagstaff

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