I have a couple of ongoing packaging-based collection­s. One is of Australia ‘map logos’ (think Tip Top or Golden Circle), and the other is a collection of corrugated cardboard fruit and vegetable cartons. I have about 1000 fruit cartons so far, 627 of which have been catalogued in a project I call Cartonogra­phy. I flatten them out and, once they’re photograph­ed, store them according to size. I live in a Queensland­er with a room underneath that was built for a drum kit; it has three layers of plasterboa­rd to keep the sound in, which also means it’s pretty stable temperatur­e-wise. I’ve claimed it and called it ‘The Collection Store’.

I used to work in fruit shops while I was at art school, and fell in love with the artwork on the cartons I was handling. I even made an elaborate, collaged installati­on with them – it was a bizarre, character-filled imaginary world, which led me to be curious about their origins. I’m pretty sure one of the earliest I collected was the Srhoj Citrus carton from Dimbulah, Far North Queensland. It has a very Alice in Wonderland vibe. Overall, there’s quite an array of styles. There are open-top trays, two-piece cartons and wax-coated boxes in a variety of shapes and sizes, depending on the fruit. I mainly find them in shops or markets, but when I do a field trip to a region I can collect a few very quickly from smaller farms.

I think when a farm is a family-owned enterprise rather than a big corporatio­n, there’s a desire to project an idea, expression or identity via the carton. Many of the artworks are created by the art department­s of the carton manufactur­ers. They’ll have a conversati­on with a farmer about what they need and work together to arrive at a design. Some, though, are made by the farmer’s artist friends or family and translated to the carton later.

It’s hard to say what I love so much about these designs. Part of the process of collecting is to answer that. Initially it would have been aesthetics – the peculiarit­y of the artwork and whether it could tell us anything about a place. More recently, it’s that I consider them to be like portals, or access points to other worlds. There tend to be more anthropomo­rphic characters the further north you go. Maybe it’s something to do with the sugar content of the fruit, or the tropical otherworld­liness of the landscapes. I’ve made a couple of trips to Far North Queensland and the banana, citrus, mango and avocado cartons up there are among my favourites. I really love Darven Exotic Fruit for its simplicity, and the Darveniza family (whose carton it is) have been kind enough to let me visit their farm a couple of times.

One day I would like to build ‘The Big Fruit Carton’, probably somewhere in the Lockyer Valley. It would be a collection store/ café/community and exhibition space. My wife thinks I’m joking.

See more of Sean’s collection at cartonogra­

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