Joan Grounds My Undergrad Lecturer Introduced me to Multi-Medium Art Forms

Essay by Luke Foster

“Joan Grounds’ work….engages with nature, with the placement of women, with the body of women, with memory and with ways of exploring all of these.”

(Julie Ewington, 2001)

In the decades since finishing art school where I got my Bachelor of Fine Arts and then my Masters in Sculpture, I have tried to stay in contact with my former lecturers sending mainly Bonita Ely, Martin Sims, Joan Grounds and Allen Giddy, drawings and art cards.

Early photo of Joan

I remember when I had Joan in second-year she said to our whole sculpture class its not necessary to have a big ego but it’s good to have some self-confidence with your art.

Joan recommended me to go study at Chang Mai University in northern Thailand for a semester of my masters, degree but my mental health wasn’t good so my doctor talked me out of it. Joan had been a visiting lecturer at the university.

I was making very meditative art and Joan really encouraged me.

Joan is a great performance, installation, sculpture and ceramic artist.

The best installation I have seen by Joan was at the Art Gallery of NSW but I googled it and couldn’t find images or the title or a rationale. I can’t remember how long since I saw it but it was at least five years ago. It involved hand drawings on the walls with henna tattoo designs on them and in the middle of the room was a small interactive drum that if you moved the drum stick then the sound would change. It was a very meditative work.

Joan Grounds has also collaborated with Aleks Danko, David Lourie and David Stewart with the film: We Should Call it a Living Room 1975

We should call it a living room

“Joan had a ten-year collaboration with Sherre Delys, producing sound sculpture and public art installation.”


“Sherre collaborated with sculptor Joan Grounds for a decade, combining objects and sounds that enter into call and response with the environments they inhabit. DeLys & Grounds created sound sculptures for hospitals, botanical glasshouses, and museums, including the 6-metre ‘Gargalesis’ for the front lawn of Museum of Contemporary Art, Sydney for Sydney Biennale 2004, and ‘Terra Mirabilus’ for the Centre for Visual Arts, Cardiff.”

From Sherre Delys website

Delys and Grounds collaboration

Joan has had numerous artist residencies around the world.

“Columbus visits the cave of Guadalupe 1995 is drawn from the Mexican myth of the Virgin of Guadalupe. This powerful female figure is a fusion of elements of ancient pre-Columbian mother-goddess cults with the Catholic Virgin Mary. The Virgin of Guadalupe is the patron protector of the American continent and is traditionally depicted in a cave, which equally represents a refuge, shrine and birth canal.”

RPT website

“Columbus visits the cave of Guadalupe 1995
 Detail shot of Columbus visits the Cave of Guadalupe 1995
The Package 1972

I was also taught about using ceramics in sculpture and the early ceramic artwork by Joan called the Package 1972 is a fantastic example of her early ceramics. I am not sure what the ideas about it are but I feel it’s about the intimacy of exchanging packages by mail.

I have a similar art practise as I literally send drawings and installation ideas by mail to galleries and people I don’t know or people who I have lost contact with.

This is an early work of mine made at Bilgola Beach Sydney when Joan was my lecturer in 1993 and it was partly inspired by Joan’s deep meditative practise in her art

“Stone circle is perhaps reminiscent of the interventions in nature by the artist Richard Long. It is also inspired by the spiritual stone and pigment sculptures and installations of Indian born British artist Anish Kapoor.” 

This is the explanation of Stone Circle on my website.

I am not sure if I subconsciously imitated Joan with my artist books as I have seen her handmade 42 artist books at the MCA and I have also made over thirty artist books.

Forty-Two Artist books With One Page 1995

This artwork is about 42 species of threatened bird species in Thailand and made from sea paper sheets hand made in Thailand from mulberry trees and are held closely with pearl dipped gold pens. I saw this installation at the Museum of Contemporary Art Sydney and it looked amazing.

In conclusion Joan Grounds isn’t just a remarkable artist but an amazing tutor and mentor to me. I still think of advice she gave me at art school about my art practise. All her students at COFA loved her.