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Burnt landscape no. 1 (After the fire) was the first work Jon Molvig painted in Brisbane. Based on his memory of the view seen from the train window on his journey north from Sydney, the painting was Molvig’s first attempt to work directly from the Australian landscape. It also marked a significant shift in his colour palette towards the dry, muted colours of the bush. Betty Churcher noted that:
While watching the countryside slip past . . . Molvig had noticed that the most salient feature in the Australian landscape was not mass but interval. The white trunks of the gum trees, spotted with charred patches from previous bushfires, seemed to punctuate with dots and dashes a landscape that had no discernible substance save light.1
1 Betty Churcher, Molvig: The Lost Antipodean, Allen Lane, Ringwood, Vic., 1984, p.37.
Jon Molvig was born in Newcastle, Australia, in 1923. After serving in New Guinea and the Philippines during World War Two, Molvig studied art for three years in Sydney, then went on to travel throughout Europe, where he encountered the German and Norwegian expressionists who would significantly influence his work.
From 1955 until his death in 1970, Molvig was based in Brisbane. A complex man, his career was characterised by radical shifts in style. Molvig was also known for his highly considered exploration of technique and the power of his symbolism.
It’s a matter of inventing symbols for what you want to say and putting the symbols down in paint . . . I believe that for every subject you tackle you must invent a new set of symbols and sometimes a new technique to say what you want to say.1 — Jon Molvig
1 Jon Molvig Interviewed by Hazel de Berg in the Hazel de Berg Collection [sound recording], Hazel de Berg Collection, National Library of Australia, Canberra; DeB 15, June 1961, <http://nla.gov.au/nla.obj-214255022>, accessed July 2019.
1. Discuss the symbolism of the bush in Australian landscape painting.
2. Research a news story about a recent bushfire in Australia. Print out a copy of the article and an image of Molvig’s Burnt Landscape no.1 (After the fire) ― compare the representations of a bushfire.
3. Discuss Molvig’s use of negative space in representing the landscape.
1. Photograph a landscape (this could be your school grounds) and print out a copy. Transfer the photo onto a piece of timber using Mod Podge glue. Using a restricted colour palette, work over the surface of the image to create a scarred and burnt representation of the landscape.
2. Re-create the composition of Burnt Landscape no.1 (After the fire) as a three-dimensional sculpture using found materials, cardboard and paint.