Voyage and Landfall: The Art of Jan Senbergs
Miegunyah Press, $59.95 hb, 246 pp
Jan Senbergs’ art is not easy to like. Sombre, brutal, austere in colour, it nevertheless represents one of the most sustained meditations on the industrial landscape in Australian art. Patrick McCaughey, well-known gallery director, academic and critic, has written about the artist and his work in a way that deliberately blurs biography, autobiography and visual critique. The result is an engaging and unusually meticulous account of the evolution of an artistic career, documenting the emergence of ‘Senbergs country’ as a force in the Australian aesthetic imagination.
This handsome, bountifully illustrated book is strictly chronological in structure, a sober and unexpected approach in this age of theorisation. The reader is taken through Senbergs’ life’s work in two- to nine-year portions, each chapter driven on by a new artistic project, life as a series of art events. The book fits into a neglected tradition of writing the art and life of the artist as one, a genre in which art and life give meaning to each other, interwoven as aspects of the one journey (or ‘voyage’ to use McCaughey’s metaphor in the book’s title). McCaughey is upfront about his biographical intentions to ‘uncover the remarkable self that animates and broods’ within these works, and his conviction that art springs directly from the artist’s experience.