Mt Roland |’Ta Neem Er Ra’ | Kentish |Tasmania|Australia

Between Paradise and Promised Land
Scott Bennett| 2016 | Blackboard polymer, chalk, charcoal & collage on canvas |
95 cm x 115 cm | Private collection

Click here to view a zoomable image of the drawing.

Artist statement

“Place names or toponyms comprise a distinct semantic domain in the lexicons of all known languages” – Keith H. Basso

“But remember that words are signals, counters. They are not immortal. And it can happen – to use an image you’ll understand – it can happen that a civilization can be imprisoned in a linguistic contour which no longer matches the landscape…of fact.” – 
Brian Friel

The mountain I’d first seen many years earlier in the painting Farm, Mount Roland, Tasmania by Tom Roberts – in the book Great Australian Paintings – left a lasting impression on me and I had determined to see it.

I was surprised to learn that the adjoining peaks of the Roland¹ massif are named after the seventeenth-century painters, Anthony Vandyke and Claude Lorrain. Mount Claude is visible in Roberts’ painting and it has been suggested that he might have been intrigued by the presence of the mountains named after the old european masters.

Traveling along Claude Road beneath Mount Roland – halfway between two declaratively named Kentish places – between Paradise³ and Promised Land, I glanced back over my shoulder and was again struck by a scene I’d glimpsed the day before. The strong feeling I had experienced on both occasions, occurred in that very brief moment when something sighted hasn’t yet fully formed in the mind’s eye. The void is yet to be structured and its ‘shapes’ vibrate with potential.

Ta Neem Er Ra (Open grassy plain) is the English transcription of the place-name given to the mountain by the Six Rivers aboriginal community. The Maxicode symbol² on the bottom left of my artwork, encodes this toponym. The ‘bullseye’ is used by machines to locate the symbol, enabling scanning of postal information on rapidly moving parcels.

1. The name Roland (Orlando Spanish) means “famous land” from the Germanic elements hrod “fame” and land. Roland was a semi-legendary French hero whose story is told in the medieval epic ‘La Chanson de Roland’.

2. MaxiCode is a machine-readable symbol system for tracking and managing the shipment of packages, it resembles a barcode, but uses hexagonal dots arranged in a honeycomb grid instead of bars. Wikipedia, Maxicode

3. As the story goes: “Paradise was named by a land-prospecting farmer who came through dense undergrowth cover, emerging to find a magnificent view of Mt. Roland. Sitting down at the base of a large gum tree, he was said to exclaim ‘This is truly paradise.'”

“Yes, it is a rich language, Lieutenant, full of the mythologies of fantasy and hope and self-deception – a syntax opulent with tomorrows.”  – Brian FrielTranslations

‘From the perspective of critical landscape study, place names are more than passive artefacts. …Emphasis is placed less on the name itself and more on the cultural practice of naming, that is how people seek to control and contest the naming process as they engage in wider economic, social, and political struggles.’ – Derek H. Alderman

“I feel a renewed energy and the need to test my technical facility to bring all of the ‘classical’ compositional elements of the landscape into my paintings; to see if there is any meaning left to this old language of sky and earth; of fore, middle and back GROUND.”   – Philip Wolfhagen


Farm, Mount Roland, Tasmania
Tom Roberts

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