Tideline by Elizabeth Truswell

Tideline by Elizabeth Truswell


A recent exhibition by geologist-artist Elizabeth Truswell shows the clear intersection of geology and outback art.

Photo license Fiona Rothchilds 2015

Tideline by Elizabeth Truswell 2014-15.

In the Tideline exhibition held in Canberra this month, Elizabeth Truswell shows the public on the eastern seaboard the ruggedness and beauty of Western Australia’s remote coast line.

The exhibition of 40 drawings and paintings shows the ochre, charcoal and white line art in natural rock formations. The subject’s geography is the north-west coastline of Australia, near the Kimberley region. The artist has a trained eye for beauty in nature especially in harsh, remote landscapes. Her natural environment is outback Australia.

Photo License Fiona Rothchilds 2015 Elizabeth Truswell

Artist Elizabeth Truswell with colleague.

Dr Elizabeth Truswell (nee Marchant) was born in Kalgoorlie in Western Australia in the 1940s. She is an only child and the grand-daughter of an English miner. She spent her primary school years in Boulder, WA near Kalgoorlie and her secondary school years in Perth, WA.

She has a science honours degree from the University of Western Australia. She later earned a Ph.D. from Cambridge University and then embarked on a post-doctoral study fellowship in the USA.

Elizabeth has spent much of her science career as a geologist in Australia. Her palaeontologist and environmental geoscience work led her to positions with the Australian Geological Survey Organisation (AGSO). This government entity was previously known as the Bureau of Mineral Resources (BMR), then AGSO, and now Geoscience Australia (GA). From 1992-96 she was a Chief Research Scientist with AGSO based in Canberra.

In 1985 Elizabeth was elected a Fellow of the Australian Academy of Science. Her more than 80 scientific papers deal with geological timescales, the reconstruction of past vegetation and environments in Australia and Antarctica and the evolution of the Australian flora.

Now as a Visiting Fellow at the Research School of Earth Sciences at the Australian National University (ANU), she divides her time between ongoing scientific research and her visual art making. Since childhood Elizabeth has drawn and painted. She says she is fascinated with the relationship between art and the sciences. Her love of art history includes the art of early voyages of discovery to Antarctica.

In response to her long-held interest in drawing and painting, in 1997 Elizabeth enrolled in Visual Arts at the ANU. She graduated with 1st class honours in painting in 2000. Her artworks are held in a number of art collections in Australia, Europe and the USA as well as with the ANU and at Geoscience Australia.

Photo license Fiona Rothchilds 2015 Elizabeth Truswell

Artist Elizabeth Truswell in 2015.

Elizabeth’s first solo exhibition Drawing on the Past was held in February 2005 at the ANCA Gallery in Canberra for the Australian National Capital Artists Incorporated in Dickson, Canberra. In 2001 she exhibited in Reflecting on Sullivans Creek at the ANU Foyer Gallery. Her most recent exhibition is Tideline, held in the Foyer of the Belconnen Arts Centre, Belconnen in Canberra  September-October 2015.

The exhibition was launched at 5.30pm on Friday 25 September by Max Bourke AM, former General Manager of the Australia Council for the Arts.  On Sunday 11 October at 2pm Elizabeth took part in ‘Meet the Artist’ event and gave a free gallery floor talk about her art works. She is professionally trained artist with a keen sense of colour.

Elizabeth says she tries to keep the material she uses for her artwork “as close to nature as possible, hence the use of natural ochres and charcoal.” For example, white chalk is used to mark the tideline (plimsoll line) in the larger drawings.

The ochres come from clay at sites around Canberra. The darker hues come from the Atherton Tableland in north Queensland. The redder colours come from the Pindan soil formation around Broome in WA.

“Much of my work as an artist is informed by her geologist field research. She says the changeable nature of the physical world provides the backdrop with which to observe how patterns and process interact with each other to shape the modern world,” she said.

In quickly discussing her visit to the Kimberley of Western Australia in 2012 she outlined how she came to see the Plimsoll line in nature. Via a small boat she approached cliff sections of the ancient sandstones of the Kimberley Group. She says the sandstone were laid down about 1,800 million years ago by major river systems that flowed north to south across what is now known as the Kimberley region.

Photo license Fiona Rothchilds 2015 Elizabeth Truswell

Dr Elizabeth Truswell with colleagues.

Elizabeth briefly talked about the Plimsoll line in her drawings. She says the Plimsoll line, as a broad white line, is present right around the Kimberley coast. It separates a zone of dark rocks below from paler sandstones above.

In this area of Western Australia, extremes of tidal range between the lowest and highest tide lines are about 14 metres. Elizabeth asserts the zone of white salt which appears splashed on the rocks indicates ‘the tideline’. It was this trip to the Kimberley region as part of her field research which inspired Elizabeth’s latest artwork.

The List of Works for the Tideline exhibition include titles such as ‘Steep Island (diptych)’, ‘Gorge 1’, ‘Pindan 1’, ‘Koolan 1’, ‘Cathedral’, ‘Bay and Bluff’, ‘Cave forms’, ‘Mirage (diptych)’, ‘Horizontal Falls’, ‘Bigge Island’, ‘Columnar 1’, ‘Talbot Bay’ and ‘Sea cliff (triptych)’.

Thank you to the Belconnen Arts Centre and to Elizabeth Truswell for the written details in the Tideline exhibition programme which provided part content for this weblog article.

Further information on the geology career of Dr Elizabeth Truswell is available as part of the History of Australian Geosciences oral history project. The interviews were recorded in September 2014 at University House, Australian National. The interviews were conducted by Dr Fiona Rothchilds and can be found at https://beta.worldcat.org/archivegrid/collection/data/891680296

Copyright of text Fiona Rothchilds 2015 other than acknowledged sources.
Photos and images copyright Fiona Rothchilds 2015 other than those copyrighted by Elizabeth Truswell.
Uploaded 18 October 2015.

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