Traversing The Island – Keith Lane

February 16th 2024

When Tasmanian born William Charles Piguenit Romantic painter of landscape died in 1914 his headstone bore the legend

unto the upright there ariseth light in the darkness

Which has an understandable underpinning of Christian symbolism but to those au fait with Romantic landscape painting the words are perfect for the end of a life spent painting the Australian light.

His inspiration  J W M Turner reported last words were the sun is God. Turner is spoke of as the precurser of Impressionism and the first really Modern artist. His high toned light filled canvasses spoke of a light infused perpetual dusk, tawny and glowing, the setting sun’s rays softened by smoke and mist. Not content with Lorrainesque atmosphere however, he created canvasses such as The Slave Ship documenting the tempest, both of the ocean and of a heartless society.

Another Londoner, Keith Lane, living in Deloraine some 100 years later, is also influenced by Turner. Unlike Turner, hiking into the moors with his watercolour kit on his back or Puguenit, famous for his monochrome mountain Tasmanian peaks done in situ, Lane traverses the island by vehicle and boat, collecting images of grand nature. Archival sources furnish the lighthouses often long gone. Like Turner’s Fighting Temeraire, the object is long since dismantled but the narrative of survival after the tempest remains.

These days traversing may be done by google maps, by webcam or by walking the floor of a community museum. After the land bridge across what became Bass Strait closed Tasmania’s colonists travelled by sea. The Roaring Forties brought immense loss for the original inhabitants, opportunity for the newcomers and often disaster for those wrecked against the wild shores. Towering light houses allowed a new kind of less perilous civilization, one where Nature is more navigable.

In this body of work Keith Lane takes us on a journey across our island, through tempest, ancient forest and breathtaking sunrises and helps us remember how precious this landscape is. His sublime technique renews Romantic landscape painting long after Piguegit and Turner have gone.