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Zali, As Flora, 2021, oil on linen, 178cmx122cm

Jane Guthleben is a finalist, Portia Geach Memorial Award. Congratulations Jane!

Zali Steggall OAM, the Federal Member for Warringah, is depicted as the Roman goddess Flora. Zali is adorned by an arrangement of Australia’s most endangered floral and bird species, whose survival is being threatened by climate change and habitat loss.

Flora was the Roman goddess of flora and Spring, and was a symbol for nature. She has been depicted many times throughout art history in paintings by artists including Rembrandt and Botticelli, and in sculpture, mosaics and music. In this work, Zali stands about life sized – she is tall – and so too are each of the endangered species. The overall arrangement with its dark background also suggests a Dutch still life floral arrangement, which Guthleben regularly paints using Australian flowers and birds.

Guthleben wanted to depict Zali as Flora because of her well-known stand on climate change and the environment. As the climate warms our precious flora and fauna are at immediate risk. Earlier this year Zali introduced a Private Members Bill on climate change to legislate for net zero carbon emissions by 2050. At the time of writing it does not have government support.

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