Lynne Roberts-Goodwin has devoted her artistic life to exploring different environments to identify what it is about a place that she doesn’t understand. “You don’t really become an expert in anything other than ‘the knowns’ and ‘the givens’ unless you travel”, she says. Her photographic works display signs of human interaction with the natural world, with past pieces documenting endangered species and illuminating the link between historic human migration and the flight of birds, often in their high altitude habitats.
Drawn as she is to the high points of the Earth, it is not surprising that, as the first recipient of the inaugural ‘Mordant Family/Australia Council Affiliated Fellowship’, Roberts-Goodwin is headed this September, to the highest point of Rome, the Janiculum Hill on which Galileo first set up his telescope and where now the American Academy in Rome, a prestigious centre for independent study in the arts and humanities, sits.
On site she will work on a new project titled ‘Tempo Squisito’, which recalls the mythological story of Romulus and Remus on two of the Seven Hills of Rome, the Aventine and the Palentine. According to the myth, the brothers made a wager, based on “the first sighting of the largest number of auspicious birds in the air”, says the artist who will study the aerial history above those two hills.
The new fellowship worth $40,000 enables an Australian artist to spend several months living and working at the Academy each year. It’s the first opportunity for an Australian to take part in the program, and Roberts-Goodwin will join more than 100 artists, writers and scholars from around the world who are also taking part in residencies in this unique and historic city. Mark Robbins, President of the Academy has a vision to further extend the Academy’s global reach well beyond the Aurelian wall that surrounds it, ensuring that it is not an American enclave. “I think artists and scholars are far less daunted by national distinctions and boundaries than our political leaders seem to be”, says Robbins. And it’s not just national distinctions; disciplinary distinctions are blurred at the Academy too. This approach resonated with Sydney-based arts philanthropist Simon Mordant and the timing was right when he heard that the Australia Council was no longer able to fund a studio for an Australian artist at the British Council in Rome due to governmental funding cuts. His reasoning to support the program at the Academy was straightforward, “You are backing a management team, it’s an investment. You are backing a cause and the people who are trying to make a place better.”
Over the years Roberts-Goodwin has participated in a number of art residencies and as a result she has not felt pressure to move overseas to achieve international recognition – sharing that, “residencies are comforting… It is the only time as an artist I get to be in a studio in a complex working with other artists. For me, it’s a reminder and an endorsement that this is my world and it is important.”
Sarah Hender is a freelance writer based in Adelaide.