Drawing on the Past: a visual time capsule
I had the privilege of meeting Joceline during the time she was undertaking her artist residency at Museum Victoria’s Vertebrate Palaeontology collection store. After walking down what felt like an endless corridor, I came across Joceline and her mentor hard at work, sitting at a very long table located in an area between an imposing rank of floor-to-ceiling storage cabinets. The table was covered with a number of articulated specimens that had been chosen as “life models” for Joceline’s drawing program.
Art and science have long shared a direct association. Well before photography, artists were essential to science. They provided an empirical eye and the capacity to accurately record images of the natural world. By the mid 19th Century, scientists and naturalists actively employed artists to draw the unique and diagnostic features of new species. These images enabled scientists to publish their findings in texts that could be shared with colleagues around the world.
Scientists and artists also share a wide variety of methods to examine specimens. Even in the age of digital technologies, scientists continue to value drawing over other means of image capture to describe their specimens The most critical of these methods is careful observation. Watching Joceline’s work epitomises this technique. Viewing with the naked eye, Joceline’s methodical rendering of lines slowly but surely build into the skeletal structure of the prehistoric creature she is observing in front of her.
On first impressions, I found myself watching the apparent unpredictability about where Joceline would make her next mark. But as I watched, I began to notice her exceptional precision working in the style of a museum Preparator who is in the process of articulating a series of apparently unrelated bones that eventually form a recognisable whole. Joceline’s observations take on an X-ray quality as she examines into and around each element of the specimen, and her lines begin to capture the 3D form and energy of the skeletal structure.
Deep in concentration, first looking for an extended period at the specimen on the table in front of her then casting her gaze onto the drawing paper she then renders her observation in a most confident line. Observing Joceline’s exceptionally quiet, deeply considered process gave me time to ponder how we so readily pass over details and therefore miss so much that is extraordinary in our world. From time to time, Joceline is gently guided by her mentor Rob, who sits next to her, also drawing and occasionally providing a gesture towards an element of the specimen to facilitate further focused attention.
Although dinosaurs lived on earth over 65 million years ago, it is only in the early 19th Century that their fossil remains began to be accurately named and identified. For centuries before, the fossilised tangible evidence of these extinct creatures were thought to be ancient monsters, flying dragons, devils toenails and serpent stones. Joceline’s drawing far exceeds the illustrating of a past life; her keen observation and beautiful renderings lead us towards illuminating less quantifiable aspects of ourselves and we are asked to reflect on the wonder that exists in the world around us.
– Rhian Hinkley, Lead Artist, Satellite