Songlines for a Sunburnt Country #2 (2017)

To Large Works  To Details
Arrow left
Arrow down

John Webb: Songlines for a Sunburnt Country #2 (2017)

Songlines for a Sunburnt Country #2 (2017)
1,22 x 1.22m

Image details:

John Webb: Songlines for a Sunburnt Country #2 (2017) Detail

John Webb: Songlines for a Sunburnt Country #2 (2017) Detail

John Webb: Songlines for a Sunburnt Country #2 (2017) Detail

Songlines for a
Sunburnt Country #2 (2017)  

(Detail 1) 
Songlines for a
Sunburnt Country #2 (2017)  

(Detail 2) 
Songlines for a
Sunburnt Country #2 (2017)  

(Detail 3) 

Australia Red Map icon


This work:

Like Songlines for a Sunburnt Country #1 (2017), this is another of Webb's more cryptic works. This image also has a blurred background of maps, book pages and newspaper articles about Australian issues, partly covering portions of a musical score, but the images and words are gentler here.

Images from other works also appear here - especially the sun and moon icons from the Triptych series - such as Interior Sun (2015) and Bungle Bungle moon (2015).

As well as the moon, fish now appear and wavy (song)lines wend their way down the page - like water (or tears). We are reminded, graphically, of the "rhythm of the rocks" - perhaps those same Botany Bay Rocks where James Cook first stepped ashore (and first used weapons against the people he found here). See Captain Cook and Mr Banks go ashore (2011).


Australian context:

One of the most iconic Australian books of the twentieth century - not written by an Australian at all - was Bruce Chatwin's 1987 Songlines.

From Wikipedia:

In the book Chatwin develops his thesis about the primordial nature of Aboriginal song. The writing does not shy away from the actual condition of life for present day indigenous Australians, it does not present the songlines as a new-age fad but from an appreciation of the art and culture of the people for whom they are the keystone of the Real. While the book's first half chronicles the main character's travels through Outback Australia and his various encounters, the second half is dedicated to his musings on the nature of man as nomad and city builder.

Sometimes defined as a travelogue, the text has been criticised for being masculist, colonialist, simplistic and unreliable as both a source on European Australians and Aboriginal culture. Other critics have praised it, and Chatwin in the book is vehemently opposed to the image of the inferiority of the Aboriginals; others also see the author as a proponent of postmodern writing, challenging traditional forms of linear narrative.

This work juxtaposes the fluid songlines of Aboriginal peoples and the rigid musical staves ('songlines' that look like fences) of the colonial peoples in further comment on the wide gap between the cultural and land use philosophies of these very different groups.
Although clearly a homage to Chatwin's Songlines, Webb's Songlines for a Sunburnt Country #2 (and #1) - through its links to others in the series - suggests that Webb's whole Australia Series may be his own contribution to the conversation that Chatwin's book began within the non-Aboriginal Australian community about the history and significance of the land that makes up the Big Red Country.

The other part of the title of this work was inspired by  Dorothea Mackellar (1885–1968) and her much loved ode to her homeland, written when she was far away. In My Country she writes:

I love a sunburnt country,
A land of sweeping plains,
Of ragged mountain ranges,
Of droughts and flooding rains,
I love her far horizons,
I love her jewel sea,
Her beauty and her terror -
The wide brown land for me!

(Dorothea MacKellar reads this poem 

Bruce Chatwin's 1987 Songlines

Creative journeys abound in  Aboriginal Mythology.
 Bruce Chatwin's 1987 Songlines
Photo: Wikipedia
Creative journeys abound in  Aboriginal Mythology. 

Starting point for Fairy Emu Dreaming

Starting point for Fairy Emu Dreaming
Image: Stella Wheildon