Sydney artist Juliana O'Dean uses the Manning Valley to inform her creative work for her next exhibition, Ancient Earth, Fresh Ground

Juliana O'Dean has chronicled research and works with photographs for her upcoming exhibition. The record itself will be part of the exhibition. Photo: Julia Driscoll
Juliana O'Dean has chronicled research and works with photographs for her upcoming exhibition. The record itself will be part of the exhibition. Photo: Julia Driscoll

Contemporary artist Juliana O'Dean has deep ties with the Manning Valley and is using those roots to inform her creative work for her upcoming exhibition project titled Ancient Earth, Fresh Ground.

Juliana's great great grandfather was Alexander Lobban, a convict who settled at Park Haugh (now Lobban Lodge) in Wingham, making her a third cousin to both well-known local Warwick Murray and to the late poet, Les Murray.

"Some of my family are buried at Gilwarra (cemetery at Glenthorne). I'm a Trotter as well as a Murray," Juliana said, when she was in the Manning Valley for Les Murray's funeral in May.

One of the pieces in her next exhibition is from that same cemetery - created from a piece of spotted gum, under which her relatives' graves are dotted around.

"I had it cast in bronze, a pair of them, and they're going to be vessels in the exhibition, with soil and mementos from that side of my family," Juliana said.

I'm fascinated by just the sheer verdant nature of the landscape, the amount of water. How I interpret that in the exhibition, I'm not sure

Juliana O'Dean

Ancient Earth, Fresh Ground represents a sweeping collection of works researched and created over many years, and representing diverse terrain and landscapes. From Fowlers Gap, an outback arid area research station, to the (usually) lush and verdant Manning Valley; from Manilla in the Northern Tablelands of NSW, to the Pyrenees mountains between France and Spain, Juliana has travelled the globe in the name of her fascination with geology.

"Having cast this bark from the tree over in Gillwarra cemetery, I'm interested in the big difference between out there (Fowlers Gap) and here with water and so on," Juliana explains.

I'm fascinated by the grey mangroves over at Croki, which are quite rare now. And the water here is a bit greyer and sandier and muddier. I've walked through the Wingham Brush extensively. The soil is quite different, the light is different - it's all different. It's a case of going into the landscape and spending time getting involved with it.

"I'm fascinated by just the sheer verdant nature of the landscape, the amount of water. How I interpret that in the exhibition, I'm not sure," she said.

Through art and literature the project documents the current state of specific landscapes in Australia. One such landscape is the Manning Valley.

Juliana O'Dean

The exhibition, which Juliana hopes will be ready in 12 months time to be shown in Sydney, marries visual art with literature.

"Through art and literature the project documents the current state of specific landscapes in Australia. One such landscape is the Manning Valley, a sub-tropical region in northern NSW," Juliana says on her website.

A major work in the exhibition is a collaborative project between herself and Les Murray - a rare hand-bound, hand typeset and printed book titled Twelve Poems. The book contains 12 of Les's poems, with 12 of Juliana's etchings.

Juliana's CV is impressive, with multiple art degrees and a Masters, multiple residencies in Paris and Australia, and many awards. For many years she was a museum planner and exhibition designer.

To learn more about Juliana O'Dean and her body of work, visit www.julianaodean.com.