Artist Robert Ingpen working on the mural at the CSIRO Black Mountain campus circa 1963.
Mr Robert Ingpen: artist of the Land Research Mural
Robert Ingpen was employed by CSIRO in the early 1960s in the then novel field of science communication.
6 August 2008 | Updated 14 May 2012
Fresh from Royal Melbourne Institute of Technology (RMIT), the young artist was asked personally to join the staff by Sir Ian Clunies Ross and use his skills at illustration to help communicate complex scientific ideas visually.
During his tenure at CSIRO, Mr Ingpen created the beautiful Land Research Mural at Canberra's Black Mountain laboratories.
The mural illustrates procedures used by scientists to observe, understand, and modify our natural surroundings to meet increasing demands for adequate food, and was designed and painted by the artist in 1963, when the building was constructed.
The core elements of the mural flow from right to left across the work as shown and described below.
1. Man and his natural surroundings:
Scientists make systematic records of physical, chemical, and biological phenomena, such as climate, topography, soils, water, plants, and animals. The interpretations they make as a result of these observations take the form of special maps and reports (1 a) which enable agricultural scientists to begin to modify natural habitats.
The mural illustrates procedures used by scientists to observe, understand, and modify our natural surroundings to meet increasing demands for adequate food.
2. Agricultural research:
It can take many years from the first experimental trials on natural habitats to highly developed and managed farms. Apart from fitting innovations and technologies to natural conditions, the habits and economics of society must be taken into account and included in any evaluation of the efficiency of the modified natural habitat as a food producer for humans.
3. The plant as a basic study:
Often the advance of agricultural science is halted by lack of basic information about details of the system under study. Specialist research in the plant sciences, begun as a result of applied problems or by nothing more than human curiosity, supplies applied researchers with solutions to fundamental problems.
4. Man and his self-made surroundings:
Man has the gift of fashioning new habitats, new ideas, and technologies, but he has not yet invented a substitute for his natural surroundings and until he does he must ensure that he exists in balance with his natural world and the modified world he has fashioned.
The mural depicts this balance.
About Robert Ingpen
From 1968, Mr Ingpen worked as a freelance designer, illustrator and author. He was also a member of a United Nations team in Mexico and Peru until 1975, and was later and he was one of the founding members of the Australian Conservation Foundation.
Mr Ingpen has written and/or illustrated more than 100 published books, including illustrations for the children's books Storm Boy and River Murray Mary.
Mr Ingpen has designed many postage stamps for Australia, and he designed the flag and coat of arms for the Northern Territory.
Mr Ingpen has created a number of public murals in Geelong, Melbourne and the Gold Coast, and cricket fans may recognise his bronze doors to the Melbourne Cricket Club, as well as a tapestry, which was woven by The Victorian Tapestry Workshop, to celebrate the 150 years of the Melbourne Cricket Ground.
[About Robert Ingpen section based on text from Wikipedia]
Read about the Canberra: Black Mountain laboratories (ACT).