Eucalyptusdom explores our connection to the gum-tree

Eucalyptusdom is an upcoming exhibition in Sydney that contemplates our relationship with the gum-tree, from its cultural history to science, connections between eucalypts and Indigenous Australians, its resonance in the arts and crafts movement in post-Federation Australia and how we relate to the trees today. The exhibition title is derived from a text by one of Australia’s earliest conservationists Edward F Swain, c.1830.

Timber Courts at the Technological Museum Sydney, now known as the Powerhouse Museum, in the late nineteenth century. Powerhouse Collection.

That tree has sacred names: Wanambi, Binykurrngu, Mawulul. It is a person of my clan, the Marrakulu. This group of trees is me and my family

The quote above comes from Yolngu artist Wukun Wanambi who will be in conversation at the gallery on the opening day.

The exhibition considers the spiritual, intellectual and emotional importance of the eucalypt for people, as well as exposes its exploitation and value in the economy. Viewers can engage with over 100 timber specimens dating from the 1800s; botanical illustrations from the mid-1880s; early glass-plate photographs from the 1890s and 80 unique eucalyptus oil specimens documenting the Museum’s early 20th century research into the phytochemical properties of eucalyptus oil.

Botanical drawing, ‘Angophora lanceolata (AppleTree. Red-Gum)’, by Agard Hagman, Sydney, 1887, Powerhouse Collection. Image: Sotha Bourn

These 400 objects from the collection have been curated together with 17 commissions from artists working in the fields of design, architecture, film, applied arts and performance, including to name a few, the Rohingya Women’s Development Organisation, Dean Cross, Jonathan Jones and Dr Uncle Stan Grant Snr AM, Nicholas Mangan, Anna May Kirk, Sera Waters, and Justine Youssef.

In company of the incredible new works on show from Australia’s leading contemporary artists the museum presents an accompanying soundscape composed by Jane Sheldon and lighting design by Nick Schlieper. In addition to this, in lieu of traditional wall texts, the museum has engaged a poetic writing commission from Ashley Hay, the author of Gum: The Story of Eucalypts and their Champions. Hay will present writing to the exhibition themes Burning of the Garden Palace, The Eucalyptographers, Applications and Demonstrations, Spectres and Sentinels, and Alchemy.

Eucalyptusdom is on view at the Powerhouse Museum in Ultimo from 1 July 2021 until 1 May 2022. Visit the website here to learn more about the show and its array of public programs.