1982-83 Underground Carpark Drawings
Backlash – The Australian Drawing Revival 1976 – 1986 Ted Gott
Janenne Eaton describes herself as a ’drawer by default’, recalling that in reaction to a conservative curriculum at the Caulfield Institute of Technology she consistently failed drawing classes. Eaton left art school convinced she could not draw. ….In 1982 she commenced a series of drawings analysing aerial maps of cities. Subsequent drawings dived down from this aerial exploration into the very basements of Eaton’s cities, opening out in technique and graphic invention even as they zeroed in thematically. The ‘Canberra’ and ‘Sydney’ works emerged, large canvases collaged with sections of paper cut to organize a tightly designed drawing surface.
Canberra II (cat. 18) looks back to the linear perspective of Massacio and Ucello for inspiration, a reverence for Renaissance visual reason implicit in its cut and pasted receding orthogonals. Allied to this elegance of appropriation Janenne Eaton presents a monumental apotheosis of the underground carpark, the tedious transcended and the claustrophobic crowned. Sensitive and precise collage forges a girder to bridge the gap between canvas and paper; and sets up a cohesive internal construction to reinforce the drawing technique, a layered assemblage of minimalist graphite strokes. The edges of each paper section retain structure as forcefully as Eaton’s scratching linear markings, establishing too a taut and unyielding substratum beneath transient, moodily abstracted plays of light and dark. Shafts of light lead inwards to a velvety black centre, where the application of pure matt photocopy toner converts the effect of totally lightless shadow. The works collaged building blocks move inexorably towards this black pit of nothingness. The epitome of the subterranean banal, Canberra II is yet wreathed vaguely in hope. Tinged intentionally with atomic overtones, Eaton’s ominous space proffers nuclear shelter for a chosen few – and the drawing’s cavernous gloom thus seems more inviting on reflection. ‘People have found my black drawings repelling – but I find that asphalt and oil stains are, to me, beautiful’.* A morbid irony lurks in the fact that Eaton should use such modern materials – photocopy paper, photocopy toner – for a drawing that looks to the oppressive enclosure of a post-holocaust survival centre; for total destruction, after all, is the ultimate purificatory libation of the ‘progressive’ modern technological push. Eat, draw and be merry, for tomorrow we live in Canberra II – and already its door is closing on us. Size, needless to say, is essential to the seriousness of Eaton’s prophesy.
* Interview with Janenne Eaton, 22 May 1986.
Gott, T., ‘Backlash – The Australian Drawing Revival 1976 – 1986 (catalogue), National Gallery of Victoria, 1986
Lindsay, R., The Myer Baillieu Collection of the 80’s, Vol II, Collections in the Museum of Modern Art at Heide, Melbourne, 1994
McIntyre, A., ‘Australian Contemporary Drawing’, Boolarong Publications, Brisbane 1988
McKenzie, J., ‘New Drawing in Australia: The Work of Lynne Boyd, Marion Borghelt & Janenne Eaton’, Studio International Vol 199,
No 1015, Dec 1986-Feb 1987
McKenzie, J., ‘Drawing in Australia’ Macmillan, Sydney 1986
Morrell, T., ‘Monumental Drawings’ Contemporary Art Space, Adelaide, Catalogue 1986
Morrell, T., ‘Big Drawings’ Art and Australia Vol 23 No 3 Autumn 1986