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Forced Archive: Wollemi Pine
Amanda Johnson

oil and acrylic on canvas
56 x 56cm

This painting takes as its subject the critically endangered Wollemi Pine (Wollemia nobilis) a jurassic conifer thought to have been extinct and known only through fossil records.

It was famously rediscovered by Parks field worker and hiker David Noble in 1994 inside a protected sandstone gorge inside the Wollemi National Park in NSW. This sensational botanical discovery saw global science communities come together to propagate and disseminate grafts from the stand of pines, as an insurance policy for the species’ survival.

This picture de-centralises the Wollemi landscape. The ‘remaindered’ vista atop the picture evokes the gorge, but the heightened pop-toned sunset also evokes the recent experience of 2019 bushfires in the Blue Mountains, adjacent to the Wollemi Park and where a massive logistical operation was recently undertaken to protect the trees from fire.

The main part of the picture is given over to mimicry of fragile, deteriorated colonial botanical drawing, replete with stains, watermarks and foxing mould. Early colonial botanical documentation assumed that species exist in perpetuity, but here, the parodic archival image of the Wollemi pine points to the limits and limitations of colonial knowledge systems and to urgent challenges around environmental stewardship. This tree is ‘here’ but only just.

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