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Australian art

Contemporary art

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Colonial Grab



Joan Ross

Australia, Scotland

1961 -


This video animation references a painting in the AGNSW collection, John Glover’s Natives on the Ouse River, Van Diemen’s Land (1838). In this work Joan Ross utilises the device of a poker machine - the Colonial Grab - to access various scenarios, including a central Australian landscape buzzed by a dystopian surveillance-camera/insect, and an antique table upon which a lady in hi-vis coloured Regency costume arranges ikebana using John Glover’s Tasmanian trees. This she eventually places in a denuded Glover landscape, oblivious to the Indigenous people and mid-century suburban house to the side, as the vases shatter and her carefully arranged trees fall to the ground. Fusing the historical and contemporary, Ross locates the symbols and desires of Australia’s colonial history firmly in the present in order to remind us of colonialism’s ongoing presence and effects.
I have a love/hate relationship with Glover. Some people say he can’t paint trees but I love them. I based my video Colonial grab on this work. In the video a colonial woman takes his trees and makes ikebana out of them. Aboriginal people are still in the trees, so it’s an act of total disrespect and disregard, which is how I see the impact of colonialism. One of the reasons that I make the work that I do is that I’m very aware, and I don’t think you can be anywhere in Australia and not be aware, that we’re on Indigenous land. And I’m constantly aware of the colonial influence, and the disjunction between that and nature” - Joan Ross ‘The Art that made me’ Look, March – April 2018 p.22




Media category

Time-based art

Materials used

single channel digital animation, colour, sound


edition 4/10


duration: 00:07:38min, aspect ratio: 16:9

Signature & date

Signed Certificate of authenticity l.l., black ink "Toby Meagher/Joan Ross". Dated u.l. corner, black printed ink "10 December 2019".


Gift of the artist 2019. Donated through the Australian Government's Cultural Gifts Program


Not on display

Accession number


Artist information

Joan Ross

Works in the collection


Shown in 3 exhibitions

Exhibition history