Bendigo Art Gallery: A Selection of Works
Director Karen Quinlan introduces the Bendigo Art Gallery, while Leanne Fitzgibbon, Senior Curator, shows us some key works in the Gallery's collections.
-My name is Karen Quinlan. I'm director of Bendigo Art Gallery. Our collection spans the 19th and 20th century, and now the 21st century, with a particular focus on Australian art. And we are currently collecting contemporary art and building that aspect of our permanent collection.
In terms of Australian art, we have major works by artists such as Patricia Piccinini, Jan Nelson, Emily Floyd, Fiona Hall, Bill Henson, Tracey Moffatt, Daniel von Sturmer, and locally based artists such as Robert Jacks and John Wolseley.
A highlight of the contemporary collection at Bendigo Art Gallery is Patricia Piccinini's The Young Family. The work is constructed from leather human hair, silicon and timber. It was purchased by Bendigo Art Gallery during the Venice Biennale, at which Patricia was representing Australia.
The work depicts a mother and her young and is a comment on genetic engineering. The mother has a look of world weariness on her face, but also of love for her young. Some people find the creatures hideous, but I think upon closer examination, we can develop an empathy for these creatures and their plight.
It's a very popular work in the gallery's collection. It always raises questions for people as they come to the gallery and creates discussion. And I think for Patricia, that was the point of the work-- not to pass judgment on genetic engineering and the work of scientists, but rather to encourage us to discuss the ideas and the possibilities and the direction we might be heading in.
A favorite work on display in Bolton Court is Sandhurst from Camp Hill painted in 1886 by James Edwin Meadows. The work depicts Bendigo 30 years after settlement. Many of the iconic buildings of Bendigo are depicted in this work.
For instance, the Shamrock Hotel, the town hall, the post office, are still standing today and easily recognized in this painting. It's a favorite with visitors to our city but also for locals to come and identify local landmarks, such as the fountain in the center of town.
The interesting thing about this work is that it was painted to showcase the development of Bendigo as part of the British empire, by an artist who didn't actually visit Australia or the city of Bendigo. Instead, Meadows painted the work using sketches, diagrams, and notes and photographs supplied to him. The work was then displayed in London.
One of the great Australian painters of the last century was Emily Kame Kngwarreye. Emily's work is represented in major collections throughout Australia. And her output during her short career at the end of her life was prodigious.
Born in 1910, Emily worked for most of life on pastoral cattle stations. Emily began to paint using Western materials in the early 1980's as part of the batik making project that was introduced to the community. But it wasn't until 1989 that she first used acrylic on canvas.
This was the medium that would allow Emily to most fully explore and develop her artistic voice. The confident and expressive brushstrokes that cover the surface of this work, Kame Colour II, are concentrated in certain areas. This particular work tells the story of the yam flower as it grows and flourishes.
This painting, Girl with Cigarette, is by Agnes Goodsir. Agnes was deeply committed to her art practice. And it was this commitment which brought her to Bendigo to study with the renowned scholar Arthur T. Woodward at the Bendigo School of Mines.
Arthur Woodward was known to encourage his students not only to participate in outdoor classes and life drawing, but to study overseas and travel and experience the world. After studying with Arthur Woodward, Agnes Goodsir moved on to London to continue her training. She then moved to Paris where she remained based for the rest of her life.
The interesting thing about Agnes Goodsir is that, although she was renowned overseas, she remained largely unknown in her own country. The work behind me, Girl with Cigarette, is an important work in the gallery's collection. This work was the inspiration for a retrospective of Agnes Goodsir's work, which Bendigo Art Gallery travelled around Australia.
The work depicts a young woman, in 1920's style head dress, with a fan. She's wearing a decorative shawl. And she seems very confident. She's directly looking at the viewer. And she's quite forthright. Agnes has managed to capture the character of the sitter, who's a free spirited and earthly woman of the 1920's.
This painting depicts an actual event. The successful transportation of a primrose all the way from England to Australia in a specially designed case called a Wardian case. And as recorded in the painting, a large crowd gathered to witness the event. Edward Hopley recorded this in a painting and also in a lithograph so that it could be conveyed to the public at home in England.
Although the work is about an actual event, it also has underlying themes about immigration, encouraging young women, in particular, to consider immigrating to Australia. The young women at the center of the painting are highlighted by the light shining in through the open doorway. And it's almost a religious scene, the reverence given towards the primrose in the center.
Darker figures are hiding in the shadows, because the artist has chosen to highlight the kind of society that was being encouraged to come to Australia at that time. Through the door way we can catch a glimpse of the ship that transported the Wardian case, and also curious onlookers crowding in.
In 1958, Arthur Boyd was one of eleven artists commissioned to paint directly onto a Kelvinator Magic Cycle refrigerator. The project was inspired by a similar exhibition initiated in Paris and was a fundraiser exhibition that traveled throughout Australia raising funds for legacy.
The work references the Greek myth, Leda and the Swan, but was also inspired by Arthur Boyd's visit to Alice Springs in 1951, where he witnessed the wedding of an indigenous Australian couple. The woman was wearing a full white gown. And he was struck by this imagery but also the plight of indigenous Australians being caught between two cultures and began a series of sketches that lead on to major paintings. The series is known as the Bride series.