Inner West alumni Jo Shand moved to Newcastle a number of years ago, spooling away from the city’s astronomical rents in search of “a different light” for her plein air work. Alongside the dichotomy of colour and texture of the ocean world she now captures, the artist has been driving west to this wide brown land’s arid interior, in her trusty Troop Carrier, dog in tow. There, she finds delicate beauty in the harsh reality of bone-dry earth and raggedy land.
“It started out when I drove west for a Troopie gathering near Kempsey, then inland to Bellingen, and west to Dorrigo, Ebor, Wollombombi Falls, Armidale, Tamworth, Murrurundi, Gundy. After that, well, I just kept driving. Just me and Georgia – she’s a Kelpie crossed with a pit bull, but she throws to the Kelpie, brain wise. She’s the perfect off-sider when I’m on the road. And this road kept heading west…”Jo Shand
“As a first-generation Australian – not belonging quite here but definitely not belonging over there where my family come from – I have a strong desire to get to know this country. This land fills me with a yearning to understand it better, to live it.
I want to see the colours, see the light, and feel the rhythm of movement… driving those long distances is hypnotic, particularly if you listen to iconic Australian music – it so clearly reflects the feeling of moving over vast distances. Ed Kueppers’ album Honey Steel’s Gold keeps me company on lots of these adventures.
Looking over the vastness of the Mundi Mundi plain at sunset, up on the last ridge before the dry land stretches out forever, there’s all this endless distance and you are just a small blip in time in this huge indifferent landscape. It is exhilarating to be so small, and there’s true freedom in knowing how little anything matters in the face of such enormousness.”The Artist
Shand’s work has an intensity that is absorbing, a visceral realism that draws you in. Her talent is apparent, and while much of her work includes a dark humour, this series has an innocence to it, an unvarnished take on desert landscapes and outback towns in the interior. There are glimpses of the candidness the artist is known for, particularly in and around communities, but much of the work is brutally honest, and powerful as a result.
From the vast expanse looking west from the Mundi Mundi Plains to an outcrop of remote coastal bush, from forgotten towns to fog-shrouded park-ups and momentous servo experiences, Shand’s work captures Australia’s ancestral heart, a place defined by its perspective and form, rich in colour and context, a primordial echo to our modern existence.