Jill Sampson is a visual artist. She is also the coordinator of the Bimblebox Art Project and curator of Bimblebox 153 Birds.
Sampson completed a Fine Arts degree at Queensland College of Art in 2019 extending her previous study at the Sydney Gallery School. She was awarded the 2001 Pata Paris residency (France), by Daniel and Anne Pata with the Sydney Gallery School. Sampson was also selected as the inaugural artist-in-residence at the Stewart House Preventorium, where she engaged with the students and created a body of artwork inspired by the beach environment of Curl Curl.
Sampson was a keynote speaker at the Eco Arts Australis 3rd National Conference, Wollongong. She values communication and is a dynamic speaker who has given numerous talks, presentations, interviews and opening speeches. Sampson has also participated in panel discussions, written for publications, and has organised public programs, artist camps and developed two touring exhibitions. Her work has been selected for the Fishers Ghost and JADA art prizes and has toured nationally with JADA and Bimblebox: art – science – nature. Sampson’s work has been featured in newspaper and digital articles as well as Imprint, Artlink and Textile fibre forum magazines.
Jill Sampson wrote the chapter Bimblebox 153 Birds – flying under the radar, for the book Using the visual and performing arts to encourage pro-environmental behaviour, edited by David Curtis. This chapter explores the development of the Bimblebox Art Project while focusing in on Bimblebox 153 Birds. You can find this publication here.
Jill’s Bimblebox Art Project story:
During 2012 I was living back on my Parent’s farm with my husband and young children. I became concerned about the Resource Companies land grab with the rise and rise of coal and gas, occurring throughout Australia. This was during a time when most Australians understood that we needed to immediately phase out of fossil fuels.
Asking myself what can I do, I thought that a creative response would be the best way to engage with this cultural, environmental and community issue. One of the catalysts was discovering that my own family’s farm was one of thousands of Qld farms that at that time had a mining exploration lease hanging over it, subsequently I became acutely aware of the tenuous nature of land ownership and the uncertainty of intergeneration custodianship.
I turned my attention to the Bimblebox Nature Refuge, 1000km away from my home, where Conservation for indigenous flora and fauna, meets sustainable agriculture and scientific research. While protected in perpetuity by a Nature Refuge Agreement with the Queensland State Government, Bimblebox NR is not protected from mining and continues to be threatened by a massive thermal coal mine.
In April 2012 I contacted the Bimblebox Nature Refuge with the idea of developing an art project around that particular threatened environment. This became the Bimblebox Art Project. Over several months the inaugural artists camp at the Bimblebox Nature Refuge was developed, coordinated and realised. The first group of artists were in residence at Bimblebox for 10 days during September 2012. These art, science and nature camps continued annually until the 2018 camp had to be cancelled due to the deepening drought of that time.
I worked with many different people to develop the artist camps and these three exhibitions Document://Bimblebox, Bimblebox: art – science – nature and Bimblebox 153 Birds that are all part of the Bimblebox Art Project. Many of the participants in the art, science and nature camps have developed their Bimblebox experience into artwork, publications, exhibitions, writing, poetry and more. Beyond the Bimblebox Art Project exhibitions, their work has fuelled their own solo and group exhibitions, a digital presence, writing, published articles and a book, has toured with selected competitive exhibitions, and more.
The Bimblebox Art Project has facilitated and produced a large body of cultural material, creative responses and artworks that have extended beyond the fence-line of the Bimblebox Nature Refuge. The Bimblebox Art Project has brought a remote vibrant wildlife refuge alive for audiences, has touched the lives of people across Australia and, via participation and digital media, the world.
Ephemera from the Bimblebox Art Project has been collected by the State Library of Queensland, while this website has been included in the Pandora archive.
Vanishing Food Bowls – Artwork statement
Mixed media installation: wire, silk, thread, paper, wool, wood, plastic, steel, insulation
600 x 1530 x 1060mm
With open cut mining the land is changed completely and forever. It’s history, stories, meaning, ability to re-grow and to heal its self, to provide food, nurture and create life are all utterly destroyed. No more can we read the patterns of thousands of years of evolution, lived lives, water memories or layers of earth history.
In Vanishing Food Bowls I am exploring an intricate web of life between Bimblebox Nature Refuge in the Galilee Basin with its watershed into the Belyando then Burdekin River and its connection with The Great Barrier Reef. This is a connection that is thousands of years in the making.
On Bimblebox Nature Refuge there are trees dated at over 300 years and on the Great Barrier Reef coral dated over 400 years old, growing on a reef bed thousands of years old. Every flood year silt is washed from the land into the ocean waters and these flood events are recorded in coral. In long living corals these bands of growth, called coral luminescence, give us a weather record which pre-dates written records in Australia. The luminescence bands made by silt from long ago floods tell us what the pattern of La Nina and El Nino have been. These traces of time can also help to date trees on Bimblebox because the coral and the trees experience, benefit and suffer through the same patterns of drought and flood.
The Great Barrier Reef and Bimblebox Nature Refuge (in fact the whole Galilee Basin) are bound together. A future for one is bound to the ability to survive and to have a possible future for the other.
Mending the Future – artwork statement
Mixed media installation: wool, silk, cotton, native grasses, spear grass, bone
2190 x 2320 x 1350mm
These blankets that create the skin or surface of this piece had been discarded. Their history is unknown. However each blanket started out as wool on an Australian sheep in a time when we valued Australian agriculture and manufacture.
I have taken these blankets back out to the bush and imprinted Bimblebox into them. I have stitched and mended these threadbare blankets into another skin, an ancient cloak, a landscape. While the grass figures are messengers, strange birds or whirly whirlys. They are our conscience, our biological and cultural memory.
This is my attempt to mend and heal the land we have changed and continue to change. Bimblebox would still be recognisable to the First Australians, however coal mining wants to rip away the skin of this land, take its memory and destroy its future. If this skin is ripped away nothing can live here.
“As I grow older my desire to be on the land physically drove my decision to take my children ‘home’ to the farm and is now driving my art. In 2012 my beloved family farm had a coal mining exploration lease hanging over it. This was a great shock. But I thought no one would care about this little farm that I loved so much. Instead my mind turned to the Bimblebox Nature Refuge as I knew that it was also threatened by coal mining.
In Australia we have a culture of forgetting. We have a colonial history and mindset that sees ancient forests and woodlands as expendable, where mining is king and we let it destroy the land and all its memory; where culturally we have erased, tried to forget and ignore history; and where science becomes an uncomfortable opinion or belief system. I work to challenge this culture with my art.
My time on Bimblebox has been a precious gift where I was able to experience a place rare and endangered while attempting to capture something of its nature in my artwork.
Through making work that incorporates elements of Bimblebox Nature Refuge and considering its possible fate, I explored historical references to the land and what is offered or received for a piece of land. The ability of one person to see the land as providing everything that is needed to survive physically, culturally, and emotionally, to another who sees the land as expendable – for profit at any cost. Through my art I was looking for a way to understand where the past fits into the present and how history contains stories and lessons that few are listening to.”
In 2012 I began to develop the concept for Bimblebox 153 Birds, beginning in 2013 to call for contributions from artists and writers. While musician and sound artist Boyd, called for contributions from musicians for he and Alison Clouston’s installation Coalface. The musicians bird calls have also been brought into Bimblebox 153 Birds and mixed by Boyd with the writers audio to create the unique music, words and poetry soundscape of this exhibition.
Bimblebox 153 Birds is a unique installation of artist prints, poetry, prose and musician’s birdcalls. Inspired by the birdlife of the Bimblebox Nature Refuge in Queensland’s Galilee Basin this exhibition brings together the creative contributions of over 450 artists, writers and musicians worldwide. Curated by Jill Sampson, audio compilation and mixing by Boyd. Currently touring and available to Galleries.