War and gardens: The unexpected art of Charles Green and Lyndell Brown

Artists Lyndell Brown and Charles Green, who have worked collaboratively since 1989, have a special connection to turbulence. In early 2007, they were appointed as Australia's official war artists. This was a groundbreaking appointment, as Lyndell Brown was the first Australian woman to visit a battleground as an official war artist. 

The pair visited military installations and bases throughout the Middle East, Afghanistan and the Persian Gulf, and photographed in great detail their experience of Australian troops and the environments in which they operated.

Working with Paul Gough and Jon Cattapan, Charles and Lyndell have harnessed their experiences as war artists to create remarkable works for the exhibition, Turbulence, Conflict and the Garden of Remediation, now on show at Melbourne Gardens. 

The exhibition traverses fundamental metaphors that convey the turbulence of the present in gardens and plants, by exploring how gardens and plants have unexpected relationships with times of turbulence. 

Across the last one hundred years of wars and humanitarian disasters, gardens have figured as refuges, as places for rehabilitation and healing and as ceremonial backdrops; a wide variety of landscapes, from desolate wastes to Australian bush valleys, have in turn been re-imagined as gardens. Plants have figured as talismans of home, as memory-triggers, as souvenirs, as medicines and, now, as harbingers of conflict-driven climate change. 

Charles and Lyndell's connection to war is palpably evident in Turbulence, Conflict and the Garden of Remediation. Their work juxtaposes the verdant beauty of the natural world with the human violence that crashes against it by placing gardens and plants within the long, panoramic perspective of a century of war and conflict that has inevitably led towards the turbulent present.

As well as conflict, their extensive practice has also long been informed by the nature of memory and an investigation of how events intersect with the legacy of the past and with art history to inform our experience of identity, place, and landscape. 

Their art involves the re-creation and layering of images from different contexts and timeframes to create new composite realities. Working across mixed media on paper, oil on linen, photography and transparent digital prints overpainted in oil. A more recent dimension to Brown and Green’s artistic process has been to photograph their paintings, which are then printed from high-resolution scans onto film. These reinventions are magical, reminiscent of giant lantern slides, equal parts luminous and ghostly with an entrancing other-worldly quality.

Through their art, Brown and Green have built a unique vocabulary that speaks to the aftermath of conflict and of the contemporary condition, which is a continuous war across the globe. Don't miss the chance to see their works and the other remarkable pieces from artists Paul Gough and Jon Cattapan in Turbulence, Conflict and the Garden of Remediation. 

Published on