Grant has triple impact
On-ground reveg, creating a venue for environmental discussion and making waves in the cultural world are all part of what this Adelaide artist does.
'The Return of the Whispering Wanderers', Greg Johns sculpture at Palmer; photo Ashley Starkey
Purchased 20 years ago as a location for Greg John’s sculptures, the Palmer Project in the Murraylands, 70 km east of Adelaide, is now a 400 acre biodiversity sanctuary.
Although the conservation potential of the former grazing property was not Greg’s primary reason for the purchase, he soon met natural resource manager Andrew Allanson, and they began on the long journey to regenerate the landscape.
“Andrew has a slow approach to reveg: after destocking, waiting to see what comes back on its own while you take care of the weeds,” says Greg.
Greg and Andrew’s patience has been rewarded by natural regeneration of rock grass trees (Xanthorrhoea quadrangulata), drooping sheoaks (Allocasuarina verticillata), golden wattles (Acacia pycnantha) and river redgums (Eucalyptus camaldulensis).
But there are areas where little regeneration has occurred, and a Revitalising Private Conservation in South Australia grant will assist with planting of tubestock this season.
This will further increase the property’s biodiversity where 120 species have been recorded, including locally rare hairy tails (Ptilotus erubescens) and pale flax lily (Daniella longifolia).
Greg’s plans for the cultural aspect of the property are also thriving with forty artworks on permanent display, including some of his and some by other artists.
“I wanted an archetypical dry Australian landscape to engage my sculpture with,” says Greg.
“There’s a mutual conversation between the artwork and the landscape, like the Four Storytellers at the entrance which feel like guardian spirits, protecting the landscape.”
Greg is also a co-founder of the Palmer Sculpture Biennial which is an opportunity for artists to visit and respond to the property, creating sculptural works located in and complementing the landscape.
He is also making things happen on the broader environmental front. Together with Andrew Allanson he has held two environmental education days to engage others in conservation and environmental issues. Recently, research from an archaeological survey of the property, both First Nations and European history, was presented at the first Palmer Conversations. Greg will present a paper on climate change at the second event later in the year.
“For environmental problems like climate change to be solved, the keyword is action. But it goes beyond the individual. The interconnection between likeminded people is important. That’s what I’m hoping to address with the Palmer Conversations.
“The long term vision for the property is that it becomes 400 acres of scrub in very good condition, a sanctuary for biodiversity, and a place for likeminded people to connect.”