Picturesque Launch

(Palm House, Royal Botanic Gardens)

Hello, everyone. I'd like firstly to acknowledge the Gadigal people of the Eora nation, the traditional custodians of this land, and I pay my respects to the Elders, both past and present.

What a wonderful setting this is for the exploration of the picturesque that's embodied in this exhibition.

Thanks to the vision of Governor Macquarie and his energetic wife, this remains a magical part of the City. No matter how jaded you might feel, these gardens, the sandstone outcrops, and the gorgeous vista of harbour never fail to refresh the spirit.

And when I have need for a soul-reviving break! I have often ducked down here from Parliament.

The preciousness of our natural environment is recognised by all the artists here today, in whatever medium they work in. And as our lives grow ever-faster paced and our neighbourhoods more densely settled, the preservation of green spaces becomes correspondingly more urgent.

The City has put a lot of effort into reviving neglected parks and creating wonderful new spaces like Paddington Reservoir Gardens and Pirrama Park on the Pyrmont foreshore for people to enjoy, Glebe Foreshore, Harmony Park, Redfern Park and Prince Alfred Park on its way - 76 parks.

But we also know that nothing is sacred, that to some political parties and vested interests like SCG, they are simply places to be exploited - as we saw last year with a renewed threat to Moore Park, another great legacy of the Macquarie era.

So it is important to be reminded - as you are doing here today - of the beauty and wonder of nature, of its necessity in our lives and the need to protect it.

We have a tradition in Australia of art inspired by nature and landscape - starting of course with Aboriginal art. Colonial artists grappled with the alien flora and fauna and eventually found ways to express the light and colour of our continent.

And throughout the 20th century there has been an extraordinary roll-call of artists in love with the Australian landscape - and more specifically, with Sydney and its harbour.

As Wendy has said, nature is "full of possibility and invention", and it continues to inspire artists like you and to give us all great joy.

I'd like to commend you all for this exhibition which I'm looking forward to exploring a bit more, and also for your enterprise and initiative in making art accessible to so many people in this wonderful venue.

It's a pleasure to be here and now, to declare the exhibition open.