‘You Are On Gundungurra Land!’ is a new work by Anne Zahalka, which will be exhibited in her exhibition You Are Here as part of Photo 2021. Anne Zahalka has spent her career subverting colonial ideas of an Australian pristine landscape. In commissioned work for this exhibition, Zahalka digitally intervenes into photographs of landscapes that she has a personal connection to, seeking to understand her place in this country today.
Based on an early painting by Conrad Martens depicting the Jamison Valley with a group of Aboriginal people gathering around a small fire on an unlikely outcrop, the scene has been revisited to speak of a threatened landscape. The Gully(below)was a very important spiritual site for the Gundungurra and Darug people who lived in this region for over 40,000 years. The sandstone rock formation rising out of the Gully became known as Orphan Rock in the 1830’s,ironically raising questions about its ownership. The land was acquired as part of the coal mines but later given to public ownership for Katoomba Park, which included all land on the ledge from Katoomba Falls around to, and including Orphan Rock. The Gully has since been reclaimed under the legislation of the National Parks and Wildlife Act, however Scenic World, including the Scenic(Sky)way, is privately owned.
My first encounter with the Blue Mountains was during my childhood staying with my mother at the Hydro Majestic, a European spa hotel built at the turn of last century. The Hydro overlooked deep valleys with breathtaking views framed by windows of panoramic proportions. This framing of the landscape seemed sublime and somewhat unreal. It was not a place to venture into, but rather to look at from a distance or to navigate around, along walkways with railings set on the edge of sheer cliffs to viewing platforms.
Anne Zahalka is one of Australia’s most highly regarded photo-media artists having exhibited extensively in Australia and overseas for more than thirty years. Her works are held in major public collections including National Gallery of Australia, Art Gallery of New South Wales, National Portrait Gallery, Canberra, Australian Bicentennial Collection, Parliament House, Canberra, National Gallery of Victoria, Sir Elton John Collection, Deutsche Bank Collection, International Polaroid Collection, USA, and Visart, New York. She has been included in milestone international exhibitions such as a solo show at the Australian Embassy in Washington; Three Australian Photographers: Bill Henson, Tracey Moffatt and Anne Zahalka, at GEM/Fotomuseum in The Netherlands, Supernatural Artificial at the Chulalangkorn Art Centre in Bangkok, and the Metropolitan Museum of Photography in Tokyo.