Brian Munn

My time at Art School (Victorian College of the Arts, Victoria) was spent as a printmaker. Drawing from a previous period of two years employment in a photographic studio I worked to produce playful, surrealistic, photo collages in screen printing and etching.

Following Art School I moved to the Western District where I worked to develop greater fluency with drawing and painting, rather than being dependent on all the equipment associated with printmaking. I recognised that the basis for image making was being able to draw. For the next few years I worked as a farm-hand, lived in an old farm-house, focusing on drawing.  I drew the landscape around me, in very detailed pencil and lived a fairly modest existence. Inevitably, poverty lost its allure and becoming a teacher seemed a better option. Following training as an Art Teacher I moved to a teaching position at Colac.

During this time a poet/artist friend, Ken Edmunds introduced me to the poetry of Ted Hughes. We were enthralled with the passion and voltage of his language, a visionary intensity which seemed to see into the very life of things …it was thrilling. In Colac Ted Hughes’ vision of the elemental world was tangibly before me; a landscape of volcanic craters, salt crusted rocks, mud and bones revealed a primaeval reality. I produced a large number of drawings during this period and an exhibition entitled These are the Stones resulted which paired my drawings with poetry written by Ken Edmunds. Local people recognised the geography intimately as the land they farmed and lived in but also responded to the strangely primal atmosphere. This exhibition was later repeated in Melbourne, and the concept expanded to include a response to the craters by a group of performance artists.

The decade at Colac was followed by 10 years living in small town near Mt Bolton, 30 kms North-West of Ballarat representing a shift from craters to mountains. Gradually my approach to landscape changed from rendering it faithfully to selectively focusing on certain objects , particularly old tree roots, rocks and stumps, and placing them into new contexts, in order to emphasise their strangely ambiguous, metamorphic quality. This has led me to a place where these objects have taken on a life of their own, like protagonists demanding to be put into situations with other objects, where they can make new connections.

Slowly, without consciously intending it, a language of metaphor and symbol has emerged which gives expression to themes such as transformation, revelation, apocalypse, sexuality and ageing. This shift to a personal language has become my primary preoccupation over recent years after relocation to a third small town in country Victoria, Ballan. My most recent exhibition in November of 2011, From Landscape to Metaphor featured many of these works.