oil on canvas
105 x 85 cm
â€œâ€¦I knew I wanted to focus on the Arboretum. It's the most obvious example of the tension between Aboriginal and western ideas of land management I see daily where I liveâ€. Helen S Tiernan
The National Arboretum is a landscape that bears the history of fire. It was managed for thousands of years with cool fire by Aboriginal custodians. After the Second World War professional foresters replanted the hills with a mono-cultural pine plantation and that forest was destroyed by hot fires of the 2003 Canberra bush fires. In the aftermath of that devastation the area was selected as the site of the National Arboretum, with a patchwork of 104 forests. While exhibiting a beauty and balance of its own, it is one that is alien to the land and to Indigenous ideas of balance and beauty. A traditional system of foresting would have created a productively beautiful ecosystem in contrast to what some might see as a tyranny of straight lines and imported species.
Tiernan's paintings highlight this friction brilliantly between its history and its future, the pink seedling shade boxes that all Canberrans recognize are juxtaposed with the fire lines and Aboriginal tools of Indigenous topography. The ancient eco-mosaic is paired with an arboreal kaleidoscope from around the globe. Tension between the latent and the imposed.