The aim is not to shock or amuse in the spirit of Dada, but to avoid stereotyped associational evocations in making an art from ‘anti-art’ materials; if art is concerned with the symbolic expression of feelings and not mere visual appearance, these works may realise emotions unattainable in other media.
From the 1970s, Elwyn Lynn made collages and assemblages out of everyday objects. He took advantage of the associated overtones of the various items within the collage to create suggestive images and juxtaposed unlikely objects in an ironic fashion. He did so in see-through pieces in which he squeezed a patchwork of fragments together between two sheets of perspex, in lithographic prints like Chums, in his heavily textured paintings, and in paper constructions such as Dundoo Hills.
In Dundoo Hills, the photograph of the tin shed and large tank looks recognisable; it could be at Dundoo Station in northern Queensland, but it could also be found at many other places in Australia. The manuscripts also seem to resemble things we know — but do they? One is in English, but folded so that it is only possible to read snatches of sentences; while the other is in a foreign script. The outline drawing of trees, house and hills that runs across the bottom of the image provides a kind of echo of the scene in the photo – and yet in the simple, childlike way in which it is drawn it recalls the landscape of our childhood imaginings.
Lynn is known for his expressive and evocative treatment of surface and texture. He played a major role in fostering contemporary art in Australia as Curator of the Power Collection of the Sydney University — often introducing the new trends in international art to Australia through his enlightened acquisitions. In the 1970s, when collage began to be widely used in Australia, Lynn turned to this medium, creating images such as Chums and Dundoo Hills. He believed that ‘life is a collage, and tailor it as we will, it will not come out a whole, well-fitting suit, because the materials of this collage-view of reality are diverse and distinct’.2
1Elwyn Lynn, quoted in Elwyn Lynn and Carl Plate Melbourne: Museum of Modern Art of Australia 1960.
2Elwyn Lynn and Sidney Nolan Sidney Nolan — Australia Sydney: Bay Books 1979 p.12.
Text © National Gallery of Australia, Canberra 2010
From: Anne Gray (ed), Australian art in the National Gallery of Australia, National Gallery of Australia, Canberra, 2002