Described as a nomad, John Wolseley might be more rightly characterised as a 19th-century gentleman naturalist. His journeys are in the vein of the great scientific voyages of discovery, where the study and recording of the terrain and its local fauna and flora were paramount. But for the English-born Wolseley, intimate vignettes of the landscape are his fascination rather than the wide vistas.
The 38-year-old artist arrived in Australia in 1976, purportedly for a 6-month stay. He had worked and travelled extensively, spending two years with S.W. Hayter at Atelier 17 in Paris.
Since 1976 he has made countless journeys in Australia, attempting to understand 'how the geology contributes to the spirit of the place'.
The Australian desert intrigues him and, in 1991, he received an Australia Council Fellowship which enabled him to spend eight months in the Simpson Desert following his passion as a cartographer of sand dunes. Mapping the sedimentary histories of the dunes reminds Wolseley of his own history, where, instead of fossils, experiences and memories are layered like the dunes.
In 1992, in collaboration with Kim Westcott and Martin King at the Australian Print Workshop
in Melbourne, Wolseley commenced The Simpson Desert Survey.
His field journals, full of notations, were the reference points from which the prints evolved. The Simpson Desert is faithfully portrayed with a myriad of details, and the deserted dunes are interspersed with jottings from his journal.
|Edge of the desert, Rodinga Range
from The Simpson Desert survey
1992-3 Australian Print Workshop, Melbourne
lithograph printed in colour on paper
Gordon Darling Fund 1994