Robert MacPherson Boss Drovers

19 Jan 2019 – 7 Nov 2021
ON TOUR | Regional Queensland | Free

Uncover the stories of 200 faces as weathered as the stock routes but as vibrant as the country they walked.

Like the pages of a book brought to life, ‘Boss Drovers’ weaves rich tales of places and people across the Australian Outback.

This touring installation of 200 drawings is only a fragment of the 2400 individual sheets Robert MacPherson made over two decades that together form the single huge work ‘BOSS DROVERS’ 1996–2014.

‘BOSS DROVERS’ demonstrates several aspects of MacPherson’s practice, especially the way he plays with ‘traditional’ aspects of art, such as landscape, portraiture and the authority of an artist’s signature. Each sheet includes the portrait and name of a boss drover responsible for moving livestock and teams of stockmen along the great pastoral stock routes of Australia.

MacPherson’s collected pages reveal poetic markers of places and people whose identities and life in the country are in danger of fading from view. The droving occupation itself is now almost a relic, as generations of horseriding ringers are replaced by trucks on our highways, and families move off the land.

The full title of this work is 1000 FROG POEMS: 1000 BOSS DROVERS (“YELLOW LEAF FALLING”) FOR H.S. 1996–2014. MacPherson made these drawings in the guise of his alter ego, Robert Pene, a Year 4 student at St Joseph’s Convent in Nambour, Queensland. By inventing an alter ego who grew up in a country town and was encouraged to draw by an unnamed teacher, MacPherson wryly plays with the viewer’s point of view and interpretation of the drawings, as well as with the apparent authority of a signed work of art.

In drought-affected country, where much-needed soaking rains bring the chitter of frogs and sudden autumnal colours, the full title also reveals the artist’s astute research, lived experience and empathy for the bush, providing viewers with another way to connect with the work. Viewers might also identify with Pene’s rudimentary education in drawing, which itself is an art form seen to be under threat.


Room Brochure

An accompanying room brochure is available to download.

Tour Venues

Dogwood Crossing, Miles | 19 January – 2 March 2019
Logan Art Gallery | 9 March – 27 April 2019
Artspace Mackay | 4 May – 7 July 2019
Perc Tucker Regional Gallery, Townsville | 13 July – 1 September 2019
Toowoomba Regional Art Gallery | 19 October – 1 December 2019
Redland Art Gallery | 8 December 2019 – 26 January 2020
Caboolture Regional Art Gallery | 13 June – 12 September 2020
Warwick Art Gallery | 3 June – 10 July 2021
Outback at Isa Regional Art Gallery | 24 July – 12 September 2021
Outback Regional Gallery, Winton | 18 September – 7 November 2021