In 1770, James Cook sailed along the east coast of Australia, and claimed New South Wales for Britain. Only 8 years later, the British Crown Colony of New South Wales was established, which resulted in the foundation of Sydney and the settlement of other parts of the continent.
Back in England, the Prince of Wales started building the Brighton Pavilion as a seaside retreat at around the same time, in 1787, while living in Carlton House overlooking St James’ Park in London, which was demolished and developed between 1827 and 1832 as Carlton House Terrace to designs by John Nash along with architects such as Decimus Burton. Britain was busy fighting the French and the Spanish, with the Battle of Trafalgar taking place in 1805.
Part of Carlton House Terrace is now occupied by the Institute of Contemporary Arts whose current exhibition of work by Australian artist Helen Johnson takes us back through the history of Australia to its foundation in the 1770′s.
Using a zig-zag pattern which was the artificial planning layout imposed on the natural landscape when Canberra was established, Johnson’s work is full of imagaery of colonisation and of the natural environment, fauna and flora of Australia which were destroyed in the process. Colonisation had mixed blessings for the indigenous population; it may have brought British culture, education and economy, but it also brought imposed rule, destruction of natural habitats and historic cultures and urbanisation, along with disease that the immune systems of the native population could not cope with.