b. About the Palmer Project

In 2001 Adelaide sculptor Greg Johns purchased a former sheep grazing property at Palmer, in the rain shadow of the Mount Lofty Ranges, about 70 km east of Adelaide, South Australia. Greg has two main aims for the place:  the display of a collection of his own works and a range of other contemporary sculpture, and ecological rehabilitation. Now known as the Palmer Project it is evolving as a microcosm of the broad range of issues pertinent to the relationship between art and both ecological and cultural sustainability, part of the challenge facing all humanity. It is also a microcosm of broader topographical and cultural landscapes. Adelaide artist Gavin Malone jointly coordinated the exhibition program and sustainability discourse with Greg for its first eleven years. He is now spending more time on his own work, and the administrative aspects of the project have been taken up by Community Project Management Consultant Bill Clifford.

The small township of Palmer sits at the base of the foothills of the eastern escarpment, from where the land slopes towards the River Murray, about 18km to the east. This is the edge of the mallee country, the rainfall being 400 mm (16 in.) per annum. The area is used for mixed farming, cropping and grazing and the indigenous flora of the area has been almost entirely cleared since European settlement. The Indigenous people and traditional custodians of country are the Peramangk and the area has a rich Indigenous history.

Greg’s place is 3.5 km north of the township on the eastern side of Davenport Road. The locale is known as Rathjen Hill which peaks at a few hundred metres. The 163 hectare (403 acre) property is hilly to undulating with a spectacular rock escarpment and three small creek lines, part of the Reedy Creek Catchment which flows to the River Murray. There is scattered remnant vegetation, the main species being the Rock Grass Tree (Xanthorrhorea quadrangulata), Drooping Sheoak (Allocasuarina verticillata), Golden Wattle (Acacia pycnantha) and River Redgum (Eucalyptus camaldulensis) and numerous native grasses and bulbs.

Sculptural and Cultural Intent
Greg has now placed several of his own works on the property, including new works developed in response to the place. The range of work includes a symbolic reading of the landscape, responding not only to the physical but also the mythical and the spiritual senses of the Australian landscape. He is also developing a collection of other artist’s work; David Kerr, Ian Hamilton, Gavin Malone, Deb Sleeman and Evette Sunset represented to date.

Sculptures are placed in relationship to the whole landscape; it is not a ‘sculpture park’ as such. An exhibition and open day program has commenced and one intent of particular importance is the visitor’s exposure to not only the sculpture but also the ecological landscape, they are symbiotic and interconnected.

Palmer Sculpture Biennial

A biennial exhibition was established in 2004 which includes emerging, mid career and established artists, with diverse styles of practice represented. A distinguished artist is also invited to participate. The exhibitions are organised on the basis of artist goodwill and involvement. Artists visit the site and respond to that experience, enabling a range of contemporary sculptural expression with works somehow complementing rather than competing with the enigmatic landscape.

Friends of Palmer
A Friends group has been established to assist the ecological restoration and other activities. Planting days had been held with assistance of people involved with Palmer (mainly artists) but this is being broadened. Contact Greg or Bill to be involved.

Palmer Project Updates
An email newsletter is sent out about four times a year to keep supporters of Palmer up to date with what’s going on. Contact Bill at jandbclifford@internode.on.net to be included in the distribution.


 
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