An image of 260 Frog poems: Overlanders, run hunters, and storm chasers. In memory of D.R.R.M.P. 1986-2016

Robert MacPherson

(Australia 1937 – )

260 Frog poems: Overlanders, run hunters, and storm chasers. In memory of D.R.R.M.P. 1986-2016

Not on display
Further information

This large drawing installation comprises sketchbook pages of drawing, text and collage under the authorship of ‘Robert Pene’, a fictional ten year old child attending St Joseph’s College, Nambour, in 1947. This character, which has autobiographical links to Robert MacPherson, is not quite an alter ego but rather a vehicle by which the artist is able to create this quasi-naif catalogue of a particular masculine type – specifically, the hardy, weatherbeaten Australian drover - in the obsessive manner of an adolescent.

The content of the work is simultaneously historical, biographical and narrative. In each drawing, the loose sketchbook pages have been artificially aged using watercolour and ink, with commercial merit stamps, such as those used by teachers to reward good schoolwork, stamped on each sheet.

Magazine collage incorporates photographic images of men’s faces taken from contemporary men’s fashion magazines and cut paper shapes resembling hats or beards. Each head is accompanied by the name of an actual ‘boss drover’ sourced from historical records; ‘boss drovers’ were horsemen who led teams of drovers taking cattle to market or pasture throughout the often inhospitable terrain of regional Australia in the 19th and early 20th centuries. Their hardy lives were the stuff of legend by the time MacPherson was a young boy in rural Queensland, the same age as ‘Robert Pene’.

The collages reference methods and imagery from the history of modern art, such as Hannah Hoch’s Dada photomontages, and cubist portraiture. They play with the idea of identity and portraiture, with the faces created having no literal connection to the authentic names of drovers written beneath. MacPherson’s deliberately ‘de-skilled’ drawing and text, and imaginative recreation of historical individuals emphasises the unreliable nature of classification and descriptive systems to accurately represent history, and the subjective and imperfect project of describing our past.

Drawing, Collage, Print, Watercolour
suite of pencil and wash drawings with collage on 274 loose sketchbook sheets (3 of which comprise title panel)
30.0 x 42.0 cm sheet each; display dimensions variable
The Gil and Shay Docking Drawing Fund and Contemporary Collection Benefactors 2019
Accession number
© Robert MacPherson