Sublime Territory
: romantic imaginings of Kakadu and beyond

  • Caroline Rannersberger

    Student thesis: Masters by Research - CDU


    My research has focused on the sublime in colonial and contemporary Australian landscape, with specific reference to the Northern Territory and the region of Kakadu National Park. I argue that post modern concepts of the sublime in contemporary landscape practice, specifically in the Northern Territory, reflect a current socio political climate of cultural difference, conflict and struggle. The basis of my argument is that we must all think together at the same time; the constant requirement to choose between two different cultural viewpoints, Indigenous and non Indigenous, is precisely what enables our society.

    My research is composed of two elements, studio practice and exegesis. In this exegesis, I examine the writings of the German philosopher Immanuel Kant, and his aesthetic philosophy of the sublime and the contemporary manifestation of the sublime, grounded in the psychoanalysis of Jacques Lacan, and the social political critique of Slovenian sociologist, Slavoj Žižek and the Australian art historian Rex Butler. I apply these philosophies to an analysis of sublime landscape representations, both colonial and contemporary. Artists I have examined in the context of the eighteenth and nineteenth century sublime include German romantic painter Caspar David Friedrich, and Australian colonial artists Eugene von Guerard and Augustus Earle. I have examined post modern concepts of the sublime from a Lacanian and Žižekian sociological perspective in the works of Imants Tillers and his critics, including urban Aboriginal artist, Gordon Bennett. In the context of the Northern Territory I explore the work of emerging digital artist and graphic designer, Therese Ritchie.

    In my studio practice I create large scale, multi panelled landscapes and figures, using a combination of printmaking, drawing and painting on paper. To create my imaginary colonial landscape, I use travelogue entries of nineteenth century German explorer Ludwig Leichhardt and a sketch by Australian colonial artist George French Angas, both of whom represent aspects of the landscape in and around what is now Kakadu National Park. I borrow techniques from Imants Tillers, notably his canvas board system and his use of images from other sources.

    To create the figures in my landscape, I draw on my German heritage and borrow images of sixteenth century German renaissance artist Albrecht Dürer and seventeenth century German author Hans Jakob Christoffel Grimmelshausen’s Simplicissimus1 to explore social issues of conscience, concepts of good and evil, beauty and terror and the futile search for redemption through travel and exploration.

    Through my landscapes and figures I aim to show that post modern concepts of the sublime, far from romanticising the artist’s connection to the land, are today seen as a type of negation which is based on a continuing critique of cultural representation.
    Date of Award2006
    Original languageEnglish
    SupervisorSylvia Kleinert (Supervisor)

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