The experience of accompanying journalist Keith Norman to western New South Wales to document the drought significantly changed the way Russell Drysdale looked at the Australian landscape. The photographs and sketches he made on the trip informed his work in the following years. Speaking about the Australian landscape in 1960 Drysdale said: ‘these curious and strange rhythms which one discovers in a vast landscape, the juxtaposition of figures, of objects, all these things are exciting.’
In Emus in a landscape Drysdale explores 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 resembles an abandoned dwelling or a shipwreck on a dried inland sea. In Emus in a landscape Drysdale has created a surreal space between reality and imagination, fact and myth, capturing the vast sense of space and the apparent timelessness of the outback.
Text © National Gallery of Australia, Canberra 2010
From: Ron Radford (ed), Collection highlights: National Gallery of Australia, National Gallery of Australia, Canberra, 2008