“It’s always been about sharing stories, identity loss and grief, determination , imagination , self belief, cultural integrity, hope and justice, reliance , cultural pride, and more than anything it’s about my people’s survival of spirit.” Hill
Noongar woman, Sandra Hill was a stolen Aboriginal child that was forced into foster care at the age of seven by the Australian Government due to the Assimilation Policy that was still active in 1958. Four children were removed from their mother’s house, they included her self , her two sisters and a brother. They were the 3rd generation of children removed from this family line.
‘In 1994 Hill was employed as the Aboriginal Community Cultural Officer. During this period she applied for, and was awarded, a Creative Development Fellowship from the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Arts Board of the Australia Council for the Arts. This afforded her the time to carry out research relating to her life experiences as a member of the Stolen Generations’ (extract from Design & Art Australia on-line)
Hill’s work is held in many private collections and is also represented in Major Art Galleries throughout Australia, currently her mixed media work “Beyond the Pale’ is on display at the NGV Ian Potter Gallery at Federation Square in the Australian Art Exhibition. She explores domestic labor as part of the ‘Assimilation Project’.
In the past, Domestic colleges were set up to train poor white girls and ‘half-caste’ Aboriginal children to attend to the needs of the wealthy.
‘In the early issues of Home Beautiful there was a feeling of nostalgia for the passing of an age in which almost everyone in the middle and upper classes could afford to keep a live-in maid. Even at the turn of the century , architects and designers were discussing the ‘servant problem’ and trying to come up with ways to help women face a future without servants’The Australian Home Beautiful, from Hills Hoist to High Rise.
ref: page 73, Household Help: The Servant Problem. The Australian Home Beautiful from Hills Hoist to High Rise Hardie Grant Books Oliver J.
It’s fascinating to imagine that female convicts on ships to Australia, were sewing beautiful quilts. They were leaving heavily populated cobble streets and embarking on a tour into the wild unknown.It was a place where currency was rum, women were few and some unthinkable dark terrors took place.The unfree made free and the free made unfree.
This quilt was created by the women on board the Rajah in 1841, they were taught by Elizabeth Fry, a Quaker reformer.
‘The Australian quilting tradition developed in response to a unique set of factors that sets it apart from other quilting traditions internationally.’ NGV
There was the odd sailor that picked up a needle and thread and made his own quilt.
This example is a work of Art, an intricate geometric design, with a contemporary feel. The beauty of the quilt is that it is also functional. The time poured over the work creates a meditative element that transfers an emotional or spiritual quality to the work.
During WW1 and WW2, ‘quilts were a means of rallying support’.
To this day, some churches still create quilts to place over the unwell. The quilt can also serve as an historical piece, recording the members of a congregation, club or school.
Some stitched a bit of wisdom to guide the next generation.
The charming Westbury quilt was created by a Tasmanian family, it was intended to be a raffle prize. Its a mix of British domestic influence and Australiana.
Others competed to be the ‘craziest’ of the ‘crazy quilt’ fashion, that was the sewing movement at a time, when European Art was shaking off the shackles of the past. The British settlers had no cultural roots in Australia, they could push the boundaries of traditional Arts.
Some caught the eye of the galleries to be immortalised. Mothers often sewed quilts for their children or were given to them by a loving friend or family member. Mary Jane Hannford’s ‘Goodnight Quilt’ was made for her 11 year old grandson.
‘The subject matter of Hannafords quilt includes patriotism, religious faith, the love of Australian wildlife and the marking of key family events’
Some works were sewed roughly, not for beauty or art but for warmth. The gathering of discarded clothes, recycled into a rug. The perfect art for Depression and War when materials are few and patience is limited.
‘real rag bag waggas, hessian bags or patchwork-covered army blankets, but still rich in the memories embedded in their cloth.’ Annette Gero
It’s a pictoral exploration into our past, through fabric. Mostly, but not exclusively a womens history. Sewing groups were also social and community acts. It’s an engaging exhibition.
Rapid urban development cast’s new shadows on the streets of old St Kilda, yet shreds of its artistic culture remain.
106 Barkley Street has been Tamar Dolev’s studio for 8 years, she uses ‘found’ objects to create. Each surface and shape is carefully considered before being morphed into the voice of the quietly spoken Artist.
The works are bursting with wild vitality, shes uses colour like an electric force, there is a vibrant sense of movement and emotion similar to that of Aboriginal Artist HU Wedge.
HJ Wedge 2002 Sea Rights too
Dolev also enjoys the effects of shadows.
“Whatever wall it goes on, the piece changes. if it’s a blue or black wall, it adds and evolves by the shadows it makes.”
Self Portrait 2015 is full of holes, it is a chameleon blending into its environment. It is partly her and partly the surroundings, that dictate its nature.
‘Billy’s Adventure’ 2015, is a long narrow work that invites the eye to travel through the composition as a narrative. The concept of an art piece outside the ‘eye of a camera’ explores our natural visage, a technique familiar to Chinese scrolls.
Dolev’s journeys are captured in her haunting silent photography of the place outside.
Both of her parents are Architects and her fascination with buildings seeps into her art. She is currently pre-occupied with her sculptures of dwellings made from bay-side spillage.
Artists Studio Gallery / 106 Barkly St, St Kilda; next to Mirka Mora lane.
During war years, the Melbourne art scene dragged itself away from the safe bush scenes and began making social comments through expressive art. Urban hardships were the realities of the day, and the war brought home Surreal experiences. The struggle for survival opened up a marginal void, that the new bohemia were ready to fill. Eccentric aristocrats were the lifeblood of Melbourne Artists during the new Modern Movement. There were two major camps that drew in the cream of new art. The Reeds established a shelter for artists at Heide, in Heidelberg and Meric Boyd’s ‘Open Country’, in Murrumbeena, challenged the status quo.
Both had an open door policy for emerging artists; Meric Boyd built a kiln on the property and encouraged his children to be active in the hub that gathered there. The kiln would eventually fire-up Arthur Boyd and John Perceval’s, emotive and provocative sculptures.
John Percival The Acrobat Angel
Perceval; The Acrobat Angel : Boyd; 30 Pieces of silver
Boyd’s style grew in Open Country but manifested in the South Melbourne paintings. During the dark war years, he suffered from a depression.Like Perceval he saw the depravity of urban life and drew upon motifs that would be symbols to became part of his pictorial dialogue.
‘the man in wheelchair, the cripple on crutches, the tormented naked lovers, the beast, the chimney stacks and the gargoyles.’ Sasha Grishin
Boyd, Percival and Tucker explored the moral decline brought on by the American troops stationed in Melbourne, the work is strong.
Albert Tucker Victory Girls 1943
The Reeds harboured Sidney Nolan as he avoided military duty and the Kelly series expressed his new outlaw status.Nolan was Sunday’s prize bull, she wanted Europe to embrace him, but the modern world rarely looked our way.
Joy Hester was coaxed and chastised by the wilful Sunday and she would occasionally slip over the river to the Boyd’s camp. Tucker would have a love/hate relationship with the Heide crew, as his personal involvement with Hester intensified.Their Love Child Sweeny, brought Mike Brown into the brood during the later years.
The Reeds were determined for Melbourne to be the capital of figurative art and hoped to expel the growing appeal of the American movement of Abstract Expressionism.The 1959, Antipodean Exhibition drew in artists from other camps who signed and battled over the direction of Melbourne Art. John Brack supported the figurative art stance but withdrew from the show due to the politics. He had avoided the ‘hot-bed of art groups and shared a studio with his life long friend, and fellow artist Fred Williams.
During the war years the Paris Art scene was kept in darkness. American Abstract Expressionists stole the limelight, it could have been the Australian figurative movement and for good or bad, it could have led world art into the heart of Melbourne. It was a radical and unique period in art history.
The other major art groups in early Melbourne were Dunmoochin which included Clifton Pugh and John Olsen. Montsalvat was set up by Justus Jorgensen and drew strongly from European influences, particularly in its architecture.The town was relatively young and most of the artists had studied and knew each other through the Gallery Art School.
Mirka Mora arrived in Melbourne, like many immigrants, her family was escaping the persecutions and atrocities of the war. Local artists frequented the Mirka coffee shop and Mora flirted between Heide and Open Country camps.She sewed a dress for Sunday and her children played amongst the Boyd’s kilns. She supported Joy Hester by exhibiting her on the café walls and as her families hospitality businesses grew, so did her presence as an Artist.
Mirka Cafe opening
Charles Blackman was a regular customer at Mora’s cafe, the family had a reputation for supporting and feeding local artists.Despite the energy and personal finances Art Patrons offered, the artists knew that they would have to leave Australia to further their careers. The public enjoyed modern housing,appliances and clothes but they were closed to new ideas and clung onto Colonial Art.
Open Country at Murrumbeena
‘In 1963 after having achieved a degree of recognition and financial security, Percival and his family joined the general exodus of artists and left Australia.’ Sasha Grishin
Boyd had already moved his family to England. Open Country was torn down, to make way for a block of flats.
Heide Museum of Modern art is revisiting its roots.
MAKING HISTORY: THE ANGRY PENGUINS
until Nov 6
ARTISTS AT LEISURE: ALBERT TUCKER PHOTOGRAPHS
until Aug 7
Banner Photo Athur Boyd butterfly Man 1943
John Brack NGV 2009; p156
Australian Surrealism and its Echoes NGV 2015; p70
The Heart Garden Sunday Reed and Heide Janine Burke Vintage 2004
Australian Art A History, Grishan S, The Miegunyah Press,2015; p333-347
Originally from a small town in South Australia, Joshua Fielding describes his art as a form of social connection.
Fielding is inspired by the surrealists and cites Salvador Dali as one of his major influences. His work is more stylised and controlled than the master, with balanced compositions that are evenly weighted within a psychedelic sway. The bright colours and symbolic shapes are a response to the work of the Melbourne Graffiti Artist, Beastman.
There are three series on display, which include Dark Phoenix in his early figurative work, Metamorphosis with bold kaleidoscope images, and The Pupils that are playful surrealist pieces. Each has a resolute and confidant result.
“I love eyes and the emotion” Fielding
The figurative works are portraits of people he has met through performance art. Most are oils painted with limited black and white palettes and thick strokes. They are dark, moody and emotive, coming before his colourful acrylic’s.
The Metamorphosis series dominate the show and draw the viewer into the natural mechanics of the artist’s mind
“In this series each painting is influenced by a problem I had to solve, it was inspired by law of attraction, I couldn’t finish the painting until I solved the problem.” Fielding
The watchful eyes surround the viewer. As they observe the canvas they are being observed. The artist is within his work.The magnetism of the work and the artist draws in a large crowd for his opening night, at Voltaire in Nth Melbourne.
“It’s an Aztec, Egyptian, Modern eclectic feel. It’s very interesting its complex yet simplistic.” Steph (audience)
‘Trained at the South Australia Arts Academy, he refined his own visual and conceptual vocabulary that developed through his focus on the points of intersection between movement and abstract thought.’ Lynda Buckley (Encore)
Fielding is an accomplished dancer and is heavily involved in the performing arts scene. He has also designed and painted large murals and scenery for National Theatre productions. His ‘day job’ is as the Melbourne Football Clubs mascot.
“Physically and mentally I have to be creative every day or else I feel I’ve wasted my time being here” – Fielding.
Nida trained Scott Hollingsworth,(Performance Management) a Melbourne performance artist, spoke about the show and his part in its financial support through Shhh Productions. They got behind the artist and paid costs in the philosophy of supporting local talent.
“I met Josh through a mutual friend and saw his work and thought it was brilliant”Hollingsworth
Crowds gathered around NGV International on the crisp cool Saturday night, to enjoy the White Night projections. The mood was relaxed as the audience waited for the remains of the day, to become night.
The projection used the entire space of the facade, a perfect blank canvas for award-winning artist Josh Muir. Emma Donovan and James Henry provided the haunting soundscape, it was a flawless collaboration. Still Here was a visual feast with a political edge.
It began with a bird flying peacefully across the building, followed by an eruption of circular abstract formations, representing creation. The new scene was of Aboriginal men on the beach, with a catch, as the women sat in circles, chatting.
On the horizon, crosses that symbolised the coming of a new culture, draw closer and a storm thunders down, closing the curtains on that era.
In the new scene ,the landscape is less sympathetic, however the newly clothed Aboriginal people continue on with family life. A white van drives down a road to a family sitting together. A white man comes out of the van and pulls the child away, the parents fight the intruder but they are over powered. The child is put into the van and driven off. The mother wails as the father collapses with despair.
There is a shocked murmur in the audience.
“They are taking the kids” is voiced throughout the large gathering.
In the next scene City life has taken over, trams ‘ding’ and cars roar by. It was a blatant statement. Muir was evoking the viewer through the power of Art. It was stunning.
‘I am a proud Yorta Yorta/ Gunditjmara man, born and living in Ballarat, Victoria. I hold my culture strong to my heart – it gives me a voice and a great sense of my identity. When I look around, I see empires built on aboriginal land. I cannot physically change or shift this, though I can make the most of my culture in a contemporary setting and use my art projects to address current issues of reconciliation.’ WhiteNightMelbourne
If you saw no other projection, White Night Melbourne was a great success.
Other Aboriginal Artists represented on White Night Melbourne were Reko Reno at Federation Square and Pitch Makin Fellas, a group work at The Exhibition Buildings.
“To celebrate the works that neighbours have done.”
The evolution of Art is a process that requires, curiosity, appreciation, skill and patronage. Not every person that attempts art will be apt in its curly concepts, many will find that the creative pursuit is an end, in itself. The banal and the grand begin at the same place, which is the opportunity to access it. Many regional art centres throughout Victoria are seeking a cultural voice, the most well known are Castlemaine, the Yarra Valley, Ballarat, Daylesford and Bendigo.
Local artists in Nathalia (Nth Victoria) were working in isolation before the local art centre forged an artistic hub. William Kelly a local artist had suffered violent neighbourhoods in his past and sought to unite the township together through art. It’s a functional non-for profit Art Centre and it has become the focal point of creative energy in the region. They have tried to engage every person in the community and encouraged them to participate in the workshops.
‘I hope you realise what you have achieved
Because it’s fairly plain to me,
Your introducing culture! God forbid, have you no shame!
What was wrong with up the pub, getting full as a boot?
The beer, the blood, the spit on the walls….
…………….the gardens are full of sculpture!’ (Poet, Tammy Muir)
The G.R.A.I.N store gallery and workshop, opens its doors to all in the community who are willing to explore their creativity. They do not discriminate and in this melting pot of Art and Craft, originality can rise to the surface. They invite school children and the elderly to be involved. The early involvement of local children in cultural projects ensures future growth of the Arts in the region. Locals are offered a space to explore their ability in a non-threatening, appreciative environment.
The culture has changed from being sceptical of art and its artists, to becoming active in its progress. The Regional Arts Council claims it has become a model project. Patron of the Arts, Bernie Ryan (4th generation dairy farmer) supports local artists and provides a gallery space. He commissions work from his local art pool and has enhanced the creative strength of the area. He believes that most patrons in Australia over fund sport and neglect the Arts.
Original Artists that have been nourished by the community include Linden Lancaster and Bella Angyal. They have forged a path that leads back to future artists in the area.
Linden Lancaster was applying Nathalia landscape into her quilts, creating visual pieces that few saw until she showed her work in the local G.R.A.I.N.store windows. She is now an international success. She applies 3 layers to produce multi-dimensional and textural work, through material collage. Her landscapes are reminiscent of Hockney’s later work but her palette is fabric and her brush is a needle
Bella Angyal, a self-taught artist, depicted stark realism through sculpture. His statues are erected in the town centre. His war sculpture ‘Mateship’ depicts the trauma of violence; his ‘heroes’ are local lads struggling through travesty. It’s the excessive detail that gives the work its haunting reality.
All forms of Art, Craft, Music and Poetry, are supported by the Centre. They invite international talent into the town to give talks and workshops that provide a means of access through exposure. The art seed has germinated in Nathalia, it has all the support networks necessary to allow it to develop.
“You do what you think will make the world a better place” Artist Veronica Kelly claims.
Top image: from AQC 2015 Quilt Show/The Letter by Linden Lancaster
When Sunday Baillieu walked out of Toorak and into the arms of emerging Australian Artists, she forsook society to dwell with bohemia. It’s not easy, to move from one class to another within a single generation. The artists may have regarded her as bourgeois but her old neighbours had labeled her a communist. She was an idealist, a task master, a romantic and art critic. Heide was her home and she welcomed artists to reside there.
Sunday and John Reed championed major artists such as Sidney Nolan, Charles Blackman, Mirka Mora, Joy Hester, John Perceval, Albert Tucker, Moya Dyring, Sam Atyeo and Mike Brown. They founded the Angry Penguins Literary magazine in an effort to evoke a response from the disinterested city.
The Reeds supported and bought emerging Melbourne and Australian art. They were overly possessive of the artists they supported but they took their task seriously. They flew the flag for Australian Art and they paid for it with Baillieu cash.
Today the twisted path Melbourne artists walk is barbed with opportunists and a sleepy audience.
Melbourne’s current Art culture is in crisis. Galleries charge artists to exhibit and the costs are high, few artists can afford to pay the weekly $1000 costs and then the 20-40% commission. For those that can afford to pay ,there is no guarantee of an effective marketing strategy. Most exhibitions draw other artists and few attract genuine patrons. At the end of a two-week exhibition the gallery stands to make profits even if no purchases were made. The artist is broke.
Australian artists rely on the generous support of philanthropist, collectors and galleys that do not charge their talent to exhibit.
Albert Tucker talks about his time with Sunday Reed at Hiede.