… it is continually exciting, these curious and strange rhythms which one discovers in a vast landscape, the juxtaposition of figures, of objects, all these things are exciting. Add to that again the peculiarity of the particular land in which we live here, and you get a quality of strangeness that you do not find, I think, anywhere else.
Russell Drysdale 19601
In 1944 Russell Drysdale was commissioned by the Sydney Morning Herald to accompany journalist Keith Newman to western New South Wales to document the effects of the drought. This experience significantly changed the way Drysdale looked at the Australian landscape. The photographs and sketches he made on the trip informed much of his work in the following years.
In Emus in a landscape Drysdale has explored the strange and surreal qualities of the Australian outback. The native birds move quietly through the landscape, passing a precariously arranged structure of wood and corrugated iron. This sculptured mass of refuse represents the remains of a previous settlement. It could be an abandoned dwelling or a wrecked ship on a dried inland sea. In Emus in a landscape Drysdale has created a sliding space between reality and imagination, fact and myth, and has captured the vast space and timelessness of the Outback.
1 Russell Drysdale, interview by Hazel de Berg, 1960, Canberra: National Library of Australia [deB 27].