Art on maps project begets Beyond the Boundaries Exhibition

Kempton by Grant Lennox

Kempton by Grant Lennox

An art project using historic old maps that were destined for disposal by Land Tasmania has become an Art Society of Tasmania Feature Artist Exhibition entitled “Beyond the Boundaries", scheduled for the Lady Franklin Gallery in Lenah Valley from September 4 until October 3.​

The project was enthusiastically embraced by artists all around Tasmania, who used a treasure trove of historic plans as an art medium, with more than 100 of the old documents handed out State-wide.

Lichen on the rocks of the East Coast by Lucy Murfett

Lichen on the rocks of the East Coast by Lucy Murfett

​Copies of the original manuscripts of the Proclaimed Town Index Charts and Proclaimed Land District Index Charts, which documented the then current status of Crown dealings with Crown land and ranged from 1885 to 1948,  were already archived sufficiently so Land Tasmania was required to dispose of the originals.  

This gave Julian Gill, Land Tasmania's Manager Spatial Data and Products, an idea, which he took to his next door neighbour, Grant Lennox, a successful artist and member of the Art Society of Tasmania.

“With such amazing old plans, destruction would have been such a waste, so I asked Grant if they could be painted on as he had done some other artwork on vintage printed pages," Julian said. “Once Grant saw the maps and researched what some international artists had painted onto maps he was convinced that fellow artists would jump at the chance.  Members of the Art Society of Tasmania were very interested in utilising them as an art project."

Chinese dragon at abandoned mine Magnet-now a mountain bike trail

Chinese dragon at abandoned mine Magnet by Grant Lennox

​Grant immediately embraced the concept, and proceeded to research the history of art on maps. He discovered the tradition goes back to the time of cave paintings, and was particularly impressive during the age of exploration, when artists, often monks, worked with explorers to create maps. They illustrated them with fabulous embellishments such as dragons and sea monsters to warn of dangers over the horizon, drawings of the explorer's vessels, and stories of animals seen during explorers' travels. Edges of maps often included angels among the clouds blowing the prevailing winds or other religious figures. Sculptors were also involved with the first known town plan of Rome sculpted onto 26 marble tablets which fitted together. Today, tourist maps often contain artists' illustrations highlighting local features or buildings.

Aerial survey-Wedge tailed eagle over north west Tasmania

Aerial survey-Wedge tailed eagle over north west  by Grant Lennox

Grant proposed the idea to the Art Society of Tasmania, the oldest art society in Australia having formed in 1884, and also to the Launceston Art Society, which is almost as old, formed in 1892.  Artists from both societies were keen to be involved, and thanks to Julian, Grant has delivered more than 100 documents to them, with the demand for more still great.

Grant explained that the old maps present both an exciting opportunity and an enjoyable challenge for an artist. Although they vary in size from A3 to A1, many of the maps are big, up to 90cm by 60cm, so while there is a lot of space to work on, considerable imagination is also needed.

Grant's imagination has proven up to the task, with works for the exhibition including a map of Kempton as a quilt with an old sewing machine, and a map of the west coast town of Magnet, a small settlement by a silver mine, painted as a Chinese dragon in honour of the Chinese miners who came to Tasmania in previous centuries.

Bicheno by Mel Hills

Bicheno by Mel Hills

An exhibition of the art on maps by members of the Art Society of Tasmania is scheduled for September at its headquarters, the splendid Lady Franklin Gallery in Lenah Valley, a grand sandstone building designed like a Greek Temple which opened in 1843. Ironically the former Lieutenant Governor Sir John Franklin, whose wife championed the arts in colonial times perished along with his crew on a voyage of discovery to find and then make a map of a Northwest passage through the Canadian artic.

Plans for an exhibition by members of the Launceston Art Society are also in motion.

Davids map

The Queens Domain by Carolynne Rumble