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T h e M a r t i n G a l l e r y

PERC TUCKER REGIONAL GALLERY

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Published on the occasion of

Publisher Gallery Services Gallery Services, Townsville City Council PO Box 1268 Townsville Queensland, 4810 Australia ptrg@townsville.qld.gov.au ©Gallery Services, Townsville City Council and the authors 2016 ISBN: 978-0-949461-14-8 Organised by Gallery Services Shane Fitzgerald Eric Nash Erwin Cruz Louise Cummins Rob Donaldson Jo Stacey Holly Grech-Fitzgerald Carly Sheil Dianne Purnell Leonardo Valero Rurik Henry Sarah Welch Jess Cuddihy Sarah Reddington Danielle Berry Wendy Bainbridge Ruth Hughes Jillian Macfie Damian Cumner Nicole Richardson Samuel Smith Jo Lankester

J U LY 1 5 - A U G U S T 1 4 2 0 1 6 PERC TUCKER REGIONAL GALLERY

Conceived and Project Managed by Shane Fitzgerald Manager Gallery Services Curator Exhibitions and Collection Coordinator Education and Programs Coordinator Digital Media and Exhibition Design Coordinator Team Leader Administration Gallery Services Collections Management Officer Digital Media and Exhibition Design Officer Digital Media and Exhibition Design Fellow Exhibitions Officer Exhibitions Officer Public Art Officer Education and Programs Officer Education and Programs Assistant Arts Officer Administration Officer Administration Officer Gallery Assistant Gallery Assistant Gallery Assistant Gallery Assistant Gallery Assistant

Guest Curator Dr Anneke Silver Contributing Authors Shane Fitzgerald / Ralph Martin Co-Curator Holly Grech-Fitzgerald Publication Design and Development Rob Donaldson Acknowledgements This project would not have been possible without the help of many, who contributed with comments, factual information, who gave me access to their personal archives and encouragement in general. I would like to thank all. Special mention for major assistance goes to Shane Fitzgerald and Holly Grech-Fitzgerald, co-curators of this project; to Bronwyn McBurnie and Marg Naylor and other staff at Special Collections at James Cook University, who had organised and tabulated the Ralph Martin Archive; Ralph Martin and family; Paul and June Tonnoir; private lenders to the exhibition; Mary Gallagher for proofreading; all the wonderful staff at the Perc Tucker Regional Gallery. A heartfelt thanks to all. It would not have happened without you! Gallery Services would like to acknowledge the generosity and support of Ralph Martin and his family, The project’s Guest Curator Dr Anneke Silver, contributing lenders to the exhibition, CityLibraries Townsville (Local History Collection), James Cook University (JCU Library Special Collections) and Townsville City Council in the realisation of this project.

Image Front Cover

James BROWN

Born 1953 Townsville, Queensland, Australia

Single fall [detail] 1982 Oil on canvas mounted on board 104 x 90 cm 1982.15 Purchased, 1982 City of Townsville Art Collection Photo: Holly Grech-Fitzgerald © James Brown

Contact: Perc Tucker Regional Gallery Cnr. Denham and Flinders St Townsville QLD 4810 Mon - Fri: 10am - 5pm Sat - Sun: 10am - 2pm

Image Inside Front Cover

Robert PRESTON Chao Phya River [detail] 1977/78 Synthetic polymer paint on canvas 122.9 x 152.2 cm 1989.22 Purchased, 1989. Funded from the Perc Tucker Memorial Collection Appeal Fund. City of Townsville Art Collection Photo: Holly Grech-Fitzgerald © Robert Preston

(07) 4727 9011 ptrg@townsville.qld.gov.au www.townsville.qld.gov.au @TCC_PercTucker PercTuckerTCC

Image Inside Back Cover

John COBURN

Born 1925 Ingham, Queensland, Australia Died 2006 Sydney, New South Wales, Australia

Desert ceremony [detail] 1984 Oil on canvas 176 x 244 cm

1985.17 Gift of John Coburn (the Artist), 1985. City of Townsville Art Collection Photo: Holly Grech-Fitzgerald © John Coburn/Licensed by Viscopy, 2016.


CONTENTS

O U R P A S T D E F I N I N G O U R P R E S E N T 8 SHANE FITZGERALD

P R E F A C E

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R A L P H M A RT I N

THE MARTIN GALLERY: I M A G E S O F A N E R A M E M O R I E S O F A G E N E S I S DR ANNEKE SILVER

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OUR PAST DEFINING OUR PRESENT

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In 2001 I was very excited at the prospect of developing a major survey exhibition that would showcase the vision and influence of respected Rockhampton based art aficionado, Lal Lanyon.

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In the early seventies Lal singlehandedly opened for business what would become the well respected and highly regarded Gallery Up Top. Situated in the heart of Rockhampton’s Central Business District, in East Street, Gallery Up Top would develop a reputation and appeal that would extend far beyond the regional idiom in which it was based and showcase some of Australia’s leading artists such as Arthur Boyd, Gordon Shepherdson, Fred Williams and, local boy made good, Ben Wickham - to name a few. Gallery Up Top pre-dated any formalised arts infrastructure in the Rockhampton region and was a catalytic project that influenced highly regarded Mayor, Mr Rex Pilbeam, to support and establish a public gallery space within City Hall and ultimately acquire works by some of the country’s finest living artists at that time, thus the Rockhampton Art Gallery Collection was born.

Unfortunately my desire to document and highlight the significance of Lal Lanyon and the role she played in the development of the arts on the Rockhampton region was not shared and the project was shelved at that time. Only a few years later Lal passed away and with my departure from the Rockhampton region the story of Lal’s vision and influence remains untold to this very day. More than a decade later, after having taken up the post at Perc Tucker Regional Gallery, I was surprised to hear a similar story being discussed within the Townsville region. On many occasions a reference to The Martin Gallery was forthcoming, always affectionate and presented in a manner that reflected striking similarities to that of Lal Lanyon - a visionary concept, the establishment of a gallery, situated in the heart of the city, highly regarded and ultimately influential in the development and support of the arts. Further inquiries revealed the full story of Ralph Martin and The Martin Gallery and I was determined that such an important historical account not be left untold a second time. Whilst the similarities are obvious The Martin Gallery not only obtained a national reputation - particularly in metropolitan Australia - despite being in a climate whereby the arts in regional Australia in the seventies was considered foreign, it also provided a platform for the region’s aspiring artists of the era to showcase their work, develop their careers, collectively support each other and ultimately become some of the country’s leading regionallybased artists practicing today.


This outcome cannot be overstated. Without the steadfast vision and support of Ralph Martin I believe that the visual arts landscape we enjoy today in the Townsville region would be vastly different.

M A N AG E R G A L L E RY S E R V I C E S P E R C T U C K E R R EG I O N A L G A L L E RY P I N N AC L E S G A L L E RY

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Sincerest gratitude is extended to Dr Anneke Silver, whom has undertaken the development of this project through Gallery Services’ Guest Curator initiative. It has been a pleasure working beside you in the development of this project and I congratulate you on an outstanding outcome - one that I am sure has provided you with renewed fondness of days gone by in addition to an appreciation of the inner workings of project delivery within the gallery environment.

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First and foremost I would like to congratulate Ralph Martin on his extraordinary achievement in the visual arts - yours is a legacy of which to be proud and I deeply thank you for the opportunity to showcase the contribution that you have made to the Townsville region. The experience has been both rewarding and enlightening and I am sincerely grateful for this.

Finally, I would like to extend my deepest appreciation to the team at Gallery Services, particularly Co-Curator of Images of an Era: The Martin Gallery, Holly Grech-Fitzgerald and publication designer, Rob Donaldson.

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The development of Images of an Era: The Martin Gallery forms part of Perc Tucker Regional Gallery’s ongoing commitment to showcasing and developing the visual arts in the Townsville region and has been supported by the contribution of many individuals, organisations and private collectors whom I wish to acknowledge.

My appreciation and thanks are extended to Ralph’s family, participating lenders whom have loaned works to the exhibition, and Townsville City Council in the realisation of this project. This continuing support and commitment to the arts within our region is highly regarded and appreciated.

" T H E M A RT I N G A L L E RY HAS DEFINED OUR P R E S E N T D I S CO U R S E , S U P P O RT E D O U R PA S T, AND NOW - PERHAPS M O S T I M P O RTA N T LY -W I L L BE REMEMBERED IN OUR F U T U R E ." S H A N E F I T ZG E R A L D

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PREFACE

Back home in Townsville and in my own pharmacy, it was suggested that I put a painting or an Oriental rug in the window to get people interested to come in for a chat, which worked very well and I met some wonderful people very interested in art.

It already had two fanlights giving the room great natural light. Two carpenters, in town to help with post-cyclone repairs, were able to transform the space for me and see all my ideas become reality. As well, they made a wonderful divan and a hanging fixture from the high ceiling to carry long neon tubes to flood each wall with good light; and so the Martin Gallery was born.

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While in Brisbane for my final year of pharmacy studies I had the opportunity to see the Queensland Art Gallery and spent quite a lot of my spare time visiting and revisiting it and several commercial galleries operating then.

The optometrist moved out because his roof was still leaking - I had the key to the property and was soon pacing and measuring, seeing whether I could fit the pharmacy into the front space and use the large back room for a gallery.

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At home from school I looked at all the magazines I could find showing art and framed several for my bedroom - I was fascinated by Australian Surrealism.

Then came Cyclone Althea, which lifted the roof off two premises – my pharmacy, and the optometrist next door – both part of a row of long thin Victorian shops.

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My interest in art started at boarding school in Charters Towers. One of the school’s benefactors had donated bound copies of an art magazine to the library, covering from early prehistoric to the present art and architecture. This was in the 1940s. I spent a lot of time in the library reading and these books were so full of interest to me.

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Ralph Martin in the Martin Gallery Image Overleaf:

Ralph Martin in the Martin Gallery

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THE MARTIN GALLERY: IMAGES OF AN ERA MEMORIES OF A GENESIS

It was a time when Flinders Street was still the main centre of activity for a much smaller Townsville; when buildings with curvy and sculpted facades lined the street, either side of a row of tall palms, standing in explosions of their own stripy shadows.

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There were department stores like McKimmin’s (which became David Jones), and Carroll’s, and local drapers Inglis Smith’s, a few cafes and one whole block taken up by the Municipal Buildings housing specialty shops, the Town Hall, a pub and the Theatre Royal. Its upper floor was embraced by a seemingly endless lacy veranda only interrupted by several stately arched entrances. Sadly this was all demolished in the late 1970s to make way for the Holiday Inn and Northtown.

The Wintergarden Theatre CityLibraries Townsville, Local History Collection

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The General Post Office was on the corner; it became The Brewery, while the real brewery, along Flinders Street West, became The Venue. The Courthouse indeed housed the Magistrate’s Court.

It was also a time when The Strand was only just a road between the beach and buildings, long before 100,000 trees were planted, with most of Townsville a dry and dusty place — but by no means a cultural desert. As early as the 1870s Townsville had a strong cultural community in which the present has its roots. In terms of infrastructure it had the combined School of Arts and Her Majesty’s Theatre—now, with much alteration, the Anne Roberts Auditorium, the main venue for Dancenorth. Dame Nellie Melba and Anna Pavlova performed there, the latter inspiring Anne Roberts to a life dedicated to dance (a passion taken up in equal measure by her daughter Jane Pirani). Among others Anne started the NQ Ballet and Dance Company which morphed into Dancenorth; full circle, you could say! The Theatre Royal and the Wintergarden were added in the early 1900s. The latter featured early cinema with live performances during reel changes. These two and earlier open air theatres were demolished.


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Townsville saw performances of diverse local groups from the 1870s onwards. There were dramatic societies, minstrels, and a philharmonics society. The showings ranged from grand opera, plays and variety shows to musical comedy.

In the 1950s a group of artists welcomed Russel Drysdale. They had come together to have exhibitions which for lack of premises were held outside, under the ‘Tree of Knowledge’, which was “Quite Parisienne”, Dr. Petherbridge commented at the time. The tree stood on the corner diagonally opposite where the Perc Tucker Regional Gallery is now. Another full circle!!

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There was great collaboration between the visual and performing arts; I remember designing catalogues and logos, and painting sets with colleagues and students.

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One local troupe toured the world. Visiting companies performed Shakespeare, classical concerts, even a Chinese opera. Closer to the present several earlier amateur companies combined to form the Townsville Little Theatre; the Matchbox Theatre became the Stage Door Theatre; the New Moon began in the 1980’s. Jean Pierre Voos’s Tropic Line merged with the University’s Hard Sun to become Tropic Sun, which in turn became Full Throttle and inspired TheatreiNQ.

Townsville in the past was clearly well serviced with performing arts spaces, but not with permanent facilities for the visual arts, despite its being the first town in Queensland to start an Art Society (1886), its holding regular eisteddfods from the 1890s onwards, and its hosting of famous visitors such as Tom Roberts and Julian Ashton, who painted Castle Hill around 1885 - now in the City of Townsville Art Tucker Collection.

Indeed there were no permanent facilities, despite urgings to the Townsville City Council: “... as Townsville increases in size and popularity ...we find it regrettable that our city lacks an Art Gallery...” the secretary of the earlier Art Society wrote in 1956.

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The Cutting down of the Tree of Knowledge CityLibraries Townsville, Local History Collection Image Left:

Building of the Teachers College CityLibraries Townsville, Local History Collection

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Anne Willis from the UK, staff member at the CAE, was a highly contemporary inspiration to us all; and Gay Woodworth was an energetic modernist painter.

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Bette Hays had trained at East Sydney Technical College; Paddy Marlton from Melbourne ran a studio in West End; Betty Pugh’s husband, as manager of Walpamur paints, supplied us with pots of sample pigments (art materials came by mail order); Alison Annesley, who had lived in the USA with her JCU lecturer husband, was a watercolour enthusiast, Seppo HAUTANIEMI organising ‘clothes line’ exhibitions Post [detail] 1976 outdoors. Mixed media on composition

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People from all over the world came to Townsville, from the main centres of Australia, from the UK and various countries in Europe, to take up positions at these institutions. Accustomed to visual arts and galleries as part of daily life, and expecting as much, they contributed greatly to the development of a visual arts culture. Significant numbers of artists as well as prominent and influential figures in business and politics joined the earlier Art Society to form the Townsville Art Society in 1962. This Society became the main lobbying body for visual arts infrastructure in Townsville.

I first met this remarkable group of people when I joined in 1962. I will name some among them who contributed most vitally to visual arts culture in Townsville. Barbara Douglas, originally from Adelaide, was a great natural painter, a fibre artist and a collector of art; Michael Dulics from Eastern Europe, who published a book of exquisite and quirky drawings of Townsville buildings; Eddie Mabo (yes ‘the’ Eddie Koiki Mabo) was a watercolourist and June Power was a painter.

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In the early 1960s, Townsville was going through a growth spurt. This influx was due to general economic expansion, growth in the mining industry and the building of Lavarack army base. Especially relevant to the field of culture was the establishment in 1961 of the Townsville University College, and in 1969 of the Townsville Teachers College (which became the Townsville College of Advanced Education(CAE)). In 1970, the University College became James Cook University of North Queensland. The University and the College of Advanced Education amalgamated in 1982.

board 124.4 x 103 cm

1976.20 Purchased from the Townsville Pacific Festival, 1976. City of Townsville Art Collection Photo: Holly Grech-Fitzgerald © Seppo Hautaniemi

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Cyril Beale, a more traditional painter, opened Townsville Art & Framing, making access to art supplies a lot easier; and Berris Morelli successfully lobbied for TAFE to have an art course.

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Most importantly–there was Ron Kenny, an experimental painter, generous with his connections with the wider art world in Australia. The foundation lecturer, then head of Zoology at the University, Ron formed a vital link between the art community and the University, together with strong office bearers of the Society, such as Helene Marsh (one of his former students) and Carol Kenchington, a JCU librarian. Ron’s contributions to the development of art appreciation and infrastructure in Townsville cannot be overestimated.

Opening Exhibition invitation of the Ralph Martin Gallery 1972

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During his 11 years, on and off, as president of the Art Society he was instrumental in bringing more than a dozen major exhibitions to Townsville: loan exhibitions from Queensland University and Queensland Art Gallery; the Blake Prize and others of similar stature; Gesso and Peter Stuyvesant collections, of which Art of the Space Age in 1969 amazed with newness of materials and forms, strips of metal, hitherto unexplored colour juxtapositions and imagery. There was no internet or quick glance at iPhones. The Art Society successfully lobbied businesses, the Pacific Festival Committee and the Townsville City Council to offer major art prizes. Big name judges such as John Olsen, Laurie Thomas and Hall Missingham came up, some also gave talks and workshops. An art rental service was set up in 1970.


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M a r t i n G a l l e r y

In 1963, we were given a semipermanent studio in a wonderful wartime wooden barracks at Camp Magnetic on Harbour Board land, roughly where Mariners North is now, instead of downstairs at Adult Education near the present ABC studios. A salty sea breeze would rattle the wooden louvres, which diffused the glaring daylight all around the studio. Because it was destined for demolition we could make as much mess as we liked. Still, a permanent, prestigious regional gallery was needed.

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In consultation with Vice-Chancellor Ken Back, Ron Kenny initiated the University Art Collection, at the same time urging the University to invite prominent artists such as David Aspden and Ron Robertson Swann to be ‘artists in residence’. The Townsville City Council was lobbied to provide a Visual Arts Director, funded partly by the Visual Arts Board. Influential board members flew up to assess the quality of the art scene. Obviously we passed muster, and the position was established for a couple of years.

Destruction from Cyclone Althea 1971 CityLibraries Townsville, Local History Collection

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All the travelling exhibitions and displays by local artists had to be held in ‘borrowed’ spaces, from churches, furniture stores and business premises to the School of Arts or the refectory at the University’s Pimlico campus. The Townsville Art Society began lobbying the Townsville City Council for a regional gallery in 1969, even engaging in fundraising, but it wasn’t until more than a decade later that the Perc Tucker Regional Gallery opened.

During his boarding school days Ralph had developed a keen interest in the visual arts. In the school library he feasted on art history publications with good large colour reproductions, not common at the time. So imagine the greater impact this would have had on a young person. He learned copper enamelling and made a number of very beautiful matrixes of coloured rectangles. Practical considerations, though, steered him towards a course in pharmacy.

It was clear there was an urgent need for a major regional gallery. But also Townsville needed a private commercial gallery with a proper gallerist, a lover of art, in charge. This need was met in 1972, when pharmacist Ralph Martin opened the Martin Gallery, assisted by his wife Margaret and young daughters, Elizabeth and Hilary. Not that it was a calculated move on his part. It was more like a conspiracy between extraordinary circumstances - a bored chemist and a cyclone - that created one of the most exciting developments in visual art up to that time.

Established in one of a set of lovely old shops - which still exists today right opposite Umbrella Studio - Ralph became a well respected pharmacist. But there was an unfulfilled part of him, which was noticed by one of the supply companies’ representatives with whom he had more than the average banter during business calls. This person, Ralph tells me, remarked: “You are really bored to tears in this shop, aren’t you? Why don’t you put something in the window... a picture or something so you can have something interesting to talk about?" advice he followed. It so happened that Cyclone Althea struck soon after... creating general havoc in Townsville on Christmas Day 1971, and damaging the back of the shops. Some tenants hastily moved out, and Ralph discovered that a storeroom in the shop next door was a lovely well-lit space with access from the front and back.

Peter BROWN Lidded jar

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Stoneware; iron red glaze, over waxed design 21 x 13 x 13 cm Collection of the North Queensland Potters Association Inc. Photo: Holly Grech-Fitzgerald © Peter Brown

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He decided to move to that shop next door and start an art gallery in the back room while running the pharmacy in the front and - hey presto! - the Martin Gallery was born. And so it was that this tiny space behind a chemist shop became the kernel from which the Townsville art scene expanded. Meanwhile, in the rest of the world quite a different battle went on in the arts: between abstraction and representation.

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During this period Australian culture was shaking off its British heritage, looked towards America, then finally started to assert its own identity. No better way to trace this quest than in the arts. The Sydney Opera House was built and the national anthem changed to Advance Australia Fair! Overseas influences in art such as Abstract Expressionism, Color Field, Hard Edge, Post-painterly Abstraction were adapted to the Australian social and physical environment.

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The Antipodeans in Melbourne sided with figuration/representation. Ron Kenny’s network extended to members of these groups, to whom he introduced Ralph. Many exhibited here, came to judge art prizes or give workshops, creating pathways for the exchange of ideas. Contemporary art found perhaps more acceptance here, possibly due to Townsville’s anti-establishment attitudes, and the cosmopolitan character of the art community.

It involved editorials and letters to the editor in the Townsville Daily Bulletin lasting for several weeks. It was a test of maturity, but also a testimony to the level of engagement of the whole community.

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In Australia this had been sparked by Direction I, an exhibition of abstract work influenced by European modernism at the Macquarie Galleries in Sydney in 1956. The Sydney 9 formed in 1960 as defenders of abstraction. Similarly in Brisbane the Contemporary Art Society (CAS) was formed in 1961, with leadership from Roy Churcher and Mervyn Moriarty, among others.

To deny any controversy would be wrong; a major debate raged in 1974 when Leon Paroissien chose a purely abstract and deceptively simple work titled Cajun by John Firth–Smith to win the Townsville Art Prize.

The 1970s in Australia also saw a big counter-culture movement, a belief in self-sufficiency and alternative lifestyles, which led to an interest in crafts in general, with ceramic, printmaking and weaving studios springing up all over Australia.

Viv PLANT [Ceramic form] c. 1970s Earthenware; handbuilt, partially glazed 18 x 24 x 25 cm Private Collection of Lorraine and Simon McConnell Photo: Holly Grech-Fitzgerald © Viv Plant

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Scrutinizing the exhibition program of the Martin Gallery over the years, it is clear that both wall work and crafts, especially pottery and printmaking, were well represented. Ralph gave a printmaking prize for some years as part of the Townsville Art Prize. In paintings and works on paper, a balance was struck between complete abstraction and representational painting; and many sat, as Ian Fairweather would say, on a tightrope between the two: what Pat Hoffie called ‘figural expressionism’.

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To make these movements visible to those who were not necessarily subscribed to one of the few art magazines such as Art and Australia, the Martin Gallery was the perfect venue— the internet had not yet exploded into being everyone’s encyclopaedia.

Magnetic House CityLibraries Townsville, Local History Collection

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The Martin Gallery was by no means the only gallery in Townsville. Several short–lived galleries had been combined with other interests such as picture framing, fashion or theatre. But another major figure had a hand in nurturing cultural awareness: Paul Tonnoir. His main focus was antiquarian books and oriental rugs. Paul restored several heritage buildings—making their beauty visible at a time when people were knocking such buildings down.

His restorations included his residence Kardinia, originally the first Japanese consulate in Australia, and helping with the National Trust houses in the Castling Street Heritage precinct. In 1979 Magnetic House in Flinders Street, freshly restored, became the venue for the antiquarian business which Paul operated with his wife June, a professional librarian. They ran a gallery above the main premises. It also housed the Mary Who? bookshop, modelled on the very trendy Mary Martin bookshop in Adelaide; as well as a contemporary interior design shop, June Power’s Alkira Bazaar, showing what was exciting in decor; Inspired Fibres run by Andi Cairns completed the set. Next door Christy Meyers operated a Gallery showing Aboriginal art and artefacts. It became another cultural hub, at the opposite end of Flinders Street to the Martin Gallery.


T h e M a r t i n G a l l e r y

“ YO U CO U L D WA L K F R O M T H E M A RT I N G A L L E RY TO M AG N E T I C H O U S E … A N D F E E L T H E M U R M U R I N G S O F T H E S O P H I S T I C AT I O N O F A B I G C I T Y… ” A I N S L I E VA N C E , I N N I S FA I L

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Jacqui and Bob Herring, the latter a lecturer in Indonesian, started a shop in that area too, importing rare and genuine batiks from Java and Bali; some of these unique pieces were shown at the Martin Gallery; the Herrings’ daughters, then in their teens, served drinks at openings. This shows the mutual respect which in many ways has always characterised the Townsville art scene... an atmosphere of respect and collegiality, perhaps inherited from the days of Ron Kenny and Barbara Douglas. This in my view gives it its strength and vitality.

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The Japanese Consulate CityLibraries Townsville, Local History Collection Image overleaf: Photo of Ben Trupperbäumer's artwork in the Martin Gallery

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When the Martin Gallery finally closed, Paul Tonnoir became instrumental in continuing its legacy. When he moved his antiquarian business to Solander House in Flinders Street West in 1989, he sponsored Anne Carter as director of a serious private gallery upstairs, named Flinders Gallery, where from 1991 onwards most of the Martin Gallery’s stable of artists could continue to show their work for another sixteen years. That is another story begging to be told.


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B E N T R U P P E R B ÄU M E R

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“ R A L P H A N D H I S G A L L E RY G A LVA N I S E D T H E CO N N EC T I O N A N D R EG A R D T H AT E X I S T E D B E T W E E N T H E A RT I S T S , A N D T H E P EO P L E W H O A P P R EC I AT E D A N D S U P P O RT E D A RT BY ACQ U I R I N G I T. H E C R E AT E D A B O N D B E T W E E N U S A L L .”

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I have elaborated on what went before, and the local context, because it shows that Townsville’s cultural milieu developed over a long period of time as a result of the contributions of many people. The Martin Gallery opened on 19 July 1972. The small space, perhaps no more than 6 x 8 metres, was beautifully appointed. Good lighting from a suspended frame lit the old handmade brick walls painted a neutral white. There was wall-to-wall Honan matting (who in the 70s did not decorate with Honan matting!- it was super trendy). Heavy raw timber shelving, supported by concrete blocks, lined the wall below the paintings to display pottery and sculptural objects. That small space hidden behind the chemist shop had a special aura; it was a quiet, almost secret, space. The work was always carefully hung, never crowded. You could be there for ages looking, contemplating and sometimes Ralph would pop his head around the corner... and make just a few insightful comments. Anne WILLIS Open spaces (blue between) 1971 Synthetic polymer paint on two canvas panels and painted composition board panel 170 x 140 cm 1972.2 Acquired from the Townsville Pacific Festival, 1972. City of Townsville Art Collection Photo: Holly Grech-Fitzgerald © Anne Willis

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Opening nights attracted large crowds. Invitations were simple, on folded A5 coloured card; artist’s name or signature on the front, statements on the inside pages... and always the distinctive logo. People gathered around the back where drinks were served under a large fig tree. Under the twinkling lights hanging from the tree a very hip crowd could be seen. It was an era in which Australia had discovered red wine, Zen Buddhism and Modernism. People delighted in being part of a scene that seemed to espouse the changing attitudes and values of the period, overlapping the Whitlam/Fraser/Hawke eras: social change, search for a national identity, questioning conventions, the latter especially embodied in the art on show. It was a time when males wore kaftans or long shirts and - not to forget - flared trouser legs, lamb chop whiskers and longish or very long hair... think Cat Stevens, Leonard Cohen, and James Taylor. Long loose skirts, Indian gear, ethnic prints and loads of beads typified female wear. There were Nana Mouskouri and Joan Baez lookalikes. The Martin Gallery became a scene where it was good to be, and to be seen: ‘spectamur spectandi’ as the old Romans would have it!


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Examples of invitations to Martin Gallery Exhibitions Image Opposite:

Crowds at the Martin Gallery

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“ I T WA S A R E A L S C E N E . YO U CO U L D TA L K TO A N YO N E .” G A R RY A N D R E W S

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“ I T WA S T H E P U L S I N G H E A RT O F A RT I N TO W N S V I L L E . T H E R E WA S A F E L LO W S H I P, I T B R O U G H T U S TO G E T H E R , M A D E L I F E W O RT H W H I L E .” JUNE POWER 38


It was the beginning of a densely packed program of exhibitions, often less than a month apart, for the next sixteen years. A huge variety of styles, media and art forms was presented, from painting to photography, printmaking and drawing to ceramics, sculpture and wood carving, as well as ethnic fabrics, fibre arts, copper work, glass, weaving and handmade jewellery.

T h e M a r t i n

The range of work that was shown clearly reflected the national trends of discovering modernism, and arts and crafts. International, national, local and Aboriginal art practices were showcased.

Regular reviews appeared in the Townsville Daily Bulletin and other local papers, written by, among others, John Massey and Anna Bock; serious critics who did not mince words. Ralph had connections that made sure the reviews would be published.

G a l l e r y

The opening exhibition combined large abstracted landscape interpretations by Ron Kenny in watercolour; stained canvas colour field paintings by Anne Willis; Jim Thomson’s almost monochromatic traditional pieces; Mervyn Moriarty’s mesmeric colour experiments on canvas and my gestural Summer Grasses. Ceramics by Arthur and Carol Rosser graced the shelves. It was a promise of things to come: contemporary experimental work, one traditional artist, artists from Townsville, a big name from elsewhere and a balance between male and female as well as craft items.

from left to right: Jim Cox, Bob Preston, Anneke Silver and Ron McBurnie, attending an opening at the Martin Gallery

” U S E D TO P O P I N TO T H E G A L L E RY W H E N E V E R I CO U L D. I T WA S A B R E AT H O F F R E S H A I R .” R AC H E L M AT T H E W S - B E R K E R

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Ralph made regular forays further afield, following up introductions by Ron Kenny; it snowballed from there with referrals to other artists. Many artists became personal friends. His daughter Hilary recalls: "When Dad had been on one of his trips it was so exciting to unpack what he had collected". In my view it is this focused effort to bring to Townsville what was exciting and trend-setting that made the Martin Gallery different from others. Ralph himself said “I wanted to bring something that had never been seen before in Townsville.” Indeed, often when installing a show, people would pop in, impatient to see what might be happening next. Although the Gallery began in the small space behind the dispensary, in 1980 Ralph, encouraged by Margaret, did away with the chemist shop.

Image Right:

Townsville Technical College CityLibraries Townsville, Local History Collection

Image Opposite:

Interior of the Martin Gallery

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In a mammoth effort, with help from family and friends, both spaces were combined into a continuous gallery, the slightly different levels connected through a step up under the elegant existing colonial arch. In the former pharmacy space, paintings hung above custom-made showcases with ceramics and art objects on top. A treasured antique desk looked perfectly in place. It meant solo shows could continue while there was a permanent mixed exhibition in the front. Part of the permanent display was handcrafted jewellery. It was an era when males started to wear jewellery, and Ralph often wore a magnificent pendant. Interestingly, one of Ralph’s daughters became a silversmith, while the other is a leading figure in youth drama. With around 150 artists and more than 200 exhibitions, it is clear that not everything can be discussed in this essay. A selection was made on the basis of frequency and impact, a selection that will demonstrate the wide variety of media, styles, concepts and subjects that emanated into Townsville’s collective artistic consciousness.


T h e M a r t i n G a l l e r y

“ I T WA S T H E F I R S T P L AC E I N TO W N S V I L L E W H E R E YO U CO U L D AC T U A L LY G O A N D LO O K AT A RT W O R K S .” M A RY LO R D

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Irene AMOS Born 1927 Brisbane, Queensland, Australia Died 2012, Brisbane, Queensland, Australia

Low tide 1973 Oil on composition board 17.2 x 36.3 cm Private Collection Ralph Martin Photo: Holly Grech-Fitzgerald Š The Estate of Irene Amos

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Irene KINDNESS Born 1940 Djakarta, Indonesia; Movements: Australia from 1969

Bitter Blue 1974 Pen and ink wash on paper 26 x 33.6 cm Private Collection Ralph Martin Photo: Holly Grech-Fitzgerald Š Irene Kindness

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“ T H E M A RT I N G A L L E RY G I V E S TO W N S V I L L E P EO P L E T H E O P P O RT U N I T Y TO E X P E R I E N C E T H E C U R R E N T W O R K O F Q U A L I T Y A RT I S T S . . . S U C H E X H I B I T I O N S A R E I M P O RTA N T, N OT O N LY F O R T H O S E W H O L I K E K E E P I N G I N TO U C H , B U T F O R A RT S T U D E N T S O F A L L AG E S . . .” ADRIENNE SMITH


T h e M a r t i n G a l l e r y

Mary NORRIE Emerging Blue

c. 1975

Collograph printed in colour, from multiple plates on paper 31.5 x 39.5 cm 1/1 unique state; no edition Private Collection Ralph Martin Photo: Holly Grech-Fitzgerald Š The Estate of Angus and Mary Norrie

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E r a a n o f I m a g e s Desiderius ORBAN Born 1884 Győr, Győr-Moson-Sopron, Hungary; Movements: France 1906; Australia from 1939 Died 1986 Sydney, New South Wales, Australia

Separation of the waters

1972

Thin oil paint over white oil on composition board 91.1 x 183.1 cm Private Collection Ralph Martin Photo: Holly Grech-Fitzgerald © Desiderius Orban

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To summarise, and elaborate later: the first four years were characterised by showcasing the best that Townsville itself had to offer combined with respected artists from further afield.

G a l l e r y

All the while Ralph continued to show Townsville artists as well as the spoils of his trips. The variety of media was very helpful to the various disciplines springing up at the college, an experience that was extended further when the Perc Tucker Regional Gallery opened in 1981.

Closely associated with them are Beverley Budgen and Pam Dolinska. All these artists have much in common, breaking the boundaries of convention with varying degrees of abstraction.

M a r t i n

When the course grew to three years, some graduates had their first solos there, showing to a now quite informed public. Students grouped together or with staff members; end of year exhibitions became a regular feature.

Abstraction made a big impact, with colour and form experimentations by Brisbane artists and Contemporary Art Society (CAS) members Mary Norrie, Irene Kindness and Irene Amos, all either taught or influenced by Roy Churcher and Mervyn Moriarty. Their intuitive statements with colour evoked not merely the human figure or landscapes, but an experience of pictorial space.

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When the first year of a Certificate of Art course was established at TAFE in 1975, Townsville’s art community was enlarged by a number of highly trained professionals and interested students, many of whom started to exhibit with Ralph. TAFE’s location, where YWAM is now, just one block away from the Gallery, contributed greatly to the Gallery’s being part of the College vibe, and vice versa.

Now for a more detailed look at what was shown and what was selected for this exhibition...

References to recognisable subjects are more prominent in the work of the latter two; Budgen using bold colour juxtaposed with evocative muted tones, while Dolinska plays with the human form, taking clues from Cubism. The experiments in abstracted texture by CAS member Veda Arrowsmith resonate to this very day. The work in this exhibition won a Townsville Art Prize.

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E r a a n o f I m a g e s Veda ARROWSMITH Born 1922 Sydney, New South Wales, Australia Died 2004 Gold Coast, Queensland, Australia

Totemic chasm 1968 Oil and paper on composition board 152 x 91 cm 1970.1 Acquired, 1970. Winner of the Townsville Pacific Festival Acquisitive 1st Prize. City of Townsville Art Collection Photo: Holly Grech-Fitzgerald © The Estate of Veda Arrowsmith

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Beverly BUDGEN Born 1937 Brisbane, Queensland, Australia

Lamp and oranges in blue bowl

1974

Oil on composition board 63 x 100.5 cm Private Collection Ralph Martin Photo: Holly Grech-Fitzgerald Š Beverly Budgen

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E r a a n o f I m a g e s Pamela DOLINSKA Born 1930 London, England, United Kingdom 1990

Spotlight on resting c.1980s Pastel on paper 25.2 x 32.2 cm Private Collection Gail Mackay Photo: Holly Grech-Fitzgerald

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John RIGBY Born 1922 Brisbane, Queensland, Australia Died 2012 Brisbane, Queensland, Australia

Library

c.1970

Synthetic polymer paint on composition board 57 x 56 cm Private Collection Ralph Martin Photo: Holly Grech-Fitzgerald Š The Estate of John Rigby

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John Rigby, trained in Brisbane and Sydney, is one of Queensland’s iconic painters. A true colourist, he was able to render quite recognisable subjects in pure colour, knowledgably structuring tone into colour in the manner of the French Fauves. He was represented in group and mixed exhibitions.

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John Coburn, a national name - born in Ingham - showed carefully considered colour abstractions of natural forms on plain coloured fields, in paintings and screen prints. He had designed the Curtain of the Sun for the Sydney Opera House, installed in 1973—all part of the groundswell in Australia to establish its own identity. John’s imagery was part of this, and with this solo show we became connected with it, such a big name in our little gallery! Mind again no social media; few viewers would have experienced the vibrancy of John’s colours firsthand.

For many it may well have been their introduction to typical Australian abstraction: his stylised shapes referencing our own environment. Other meaningful experiences with abstraction came with Desiderius Orban, born in Hungary and practicing in Sydney. Of great age - he lived to be over 100 - he had physically rubbed shoulders with Picasso, Matisse, Braque, Gris and Gertrude Stein, and carried all that discourse with him to Australia in 1938. He won the Blake Prize for Religious Art in 1971. He defined the traditional versus the modern debate by saying that there are artists and painters: the latter are obsessed with realism, the former transform reality. His mention of Zen moments of enlightenment and his mystical works speak of a highly spiritual person. Completely different, equally abstract and brimming with vigour and sensitivity, were prints and paintings shown by Bruno Leti, born in Rome, trained in Melbourne and widely travelled.


T h e M a r t i n G a l l e r y

John COBURN Born 1925 Ingham, Queensland, Australia Died 2006 Sydney, New South Wales, Australia

Desert ceremony

1984

Oil on canvas 176 x 244 cm 1985.17 Gift of John Coburn (the Artist), 1985. City of Townsville Art Collection Photo: Holly Grech-Fitzgerald © John Coburn/Licensed by Viscopy, 2016.

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Bruno LETI The Merry-Go-Round 1988 Screenprint printed in colour from multiple stencils on paper 5/35 70 x 111.5 cm (plate) 80 x 126 cm (sheet) Private Collection Ralph Martin Photo: Holly Grech-Fitzgerald Š Bruno Victor Leti/Licensed by Viscopy, 2016.

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Vita Endelmanis was born in Latvia and trained in Tasmania. She has a great affinity with snow, rendering what could easily be a monochromatic field of white into a feast of subtle plays of light and shade. Her collage techniques included heat-treated acrylic sheets. Photography in the early seventies came into its own as an art form. The closeup natural patterns of cracked mud and mangrove flats by Barry Woodworth, and of rusting iron by David Wilson, leaned towards abstraction, as did Dutch photographer Frank Heyden’s darkroommanipulated prints in colour.

Vita ENDELMANIS Born 1933 Cesis, Latvia

Ruled by the light

1980

Synthetic polymer paint and mixed media on canvas 61 x 71 cm Private Collection of Lorraine and Simon McConnell Photo: Holly Grech-Fitzgerald Š Vita Endelmanis

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E r a a n o f I m a g e s Carol ROSSER Lidded jar 1976 Stoneware; thrown, shino glaze 30 x 27 x 27 cm 1976.2.a-b Acquired, 1976. Winner of the Townsville Pacific Festival, Kern Brothers Award. City of Townsville Art Collection Photo: Holly Grech-Fitzgerald © Carol Rosser

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Arthur ROSSER Storage jar

c.1985

Earthenware; wheel thrown, glazed 45 x 35 x 35 cm 1985.28.a-b Purchased, 1985. City of Townsville Art Collection Photo: Holly Grech-Fitzgerald Š Arthur Rosser

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Ceramics were always included and were very popular. Local ceramicists Arthur and Carol Rosser - JCU mathematician and geologist respectively - and Noela Davis, a young Townsville Art Society member, did much to bring ceramics into focus locally. The Rossers dug up clays and minerals, creating wares strongly related to the area. They inspired many of us to build small up-draft kilns in our back yards with some strange results. They persisted however, and during a sabbatical year in Japan enriched their knowledge of glazes. They eventually gave up academia for an alternative lifestyle as ceramicists in the mountains west of Mackay. Not only were the Rossers instrumental in the establishment of the North Queensland Potters Association, they also facilitated the start of the Townsville Cinema Group in 1962, one of the oldest in Australia.

Greg Daly and Catherin Bennet combined ceramics and painting, the latter doing brushwork decoration on Greg’s ceramics. Gold leaf was suspended in some of his dark glazes to great effect. Aboriginal potter Thancoupie showed her chunky vessels. She grew up around Weipa, living a traditional life style. Ancestral stories, told by scratching themes in the sand, were powerfully echoed in her deeply incised markings. She went to East Sydney Technical College, studying with well known potters. She gained international recognition and mentored artists from communities all over northern Australia.

Greg DALY Born 1954 Melbourne, Victoria, Australia

Images on platter 1985 Stoneware; glazed 7.8 x 73 x 73.5 cm 1985.21 Acquired, 1985. Winner of the Caltex North Queensland Ceramics Award, Perc Tucker Regional Gallery, Townsville. City of Townsville Art Collection Photo: Holly Grech-Fitzgerald Š Greg Daly

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Ceramic pot Stoneware; Incised and glazed with woven wool ring stand 25 x 23 x 23 cm 1992.1.a-b Purchased, 1992. City of Townsville Art Collection Photo: Holly Grech-Fitzgerald

G a l l e r y

Thancoupie Gloria FLETCHER

This culminates in the unique Tropical Delft series, where traditional Dutch motifs are replaced with exuberant tropical vegetation in strong blues and whites. Her blue and white candelabra series, echoing the menorah, manifests her Jewish heritage.

M a r t i n

Ivan Englund from Sydney is a founding member of the Potters’ Society of Australia. His passion for exploring the bottle form is reflected beautifully in the chosen glazed stoneware piece.

The colour of his hand-painted decoration leads me straight to another exhibitor: Connie Hoedt. Born in the Netherlands, residing in Townsville, Connie’s evolution can be traced through her exhibitions at the Martin Gallery, starting with earthcoloured glazes, inspired by fossils and life forms such as seedpods, she progresses to the delightfully intimate Microcosms, allowing the viewer an inside look by pushing little cavity environments into smooth whole forms. Intrigued by ceramics in her Dutch heritage, she experimented with grey and blue glazes of 17th century Delft ware.

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Potters Russel French and Wendy Dowett evoked the Cape York environment in their colourful glazing, which they showed together with Japanese screen printer Tetsuro Savada, each enhancing the other. Ralph always managed to find the right combination of ceramics and paintings, such as Rick Wood’s woodfired stoneware and porcelain with local glazes resonating with the batik wall hangings and silk scarves by Jo Forster and Gladys Clooney, both from western properties.

Her work was acquired for the National Gallery Decorative Art Collection.

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Rick WOOD Born 1949 Sydney, New South Wales, Australia Died 2007 Mackay, Queensland, Australia

Bowl Stoneware; handthrown with dry crackle glaze 8 x 48 x 48 cm 1997.22 Purchased, 1997. City of Townsville Art Collection Photo: Holly Grech-Fitzgerald © The Estate of Rick Wood

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E r a a n o f I m a g e s Ivan ENGLUND Born 1915 Liverpool, New SouthWales, Australia Died 2007 Australia

Bottle 1982 Stoneware; thrown, hand-painted, glazed 45 x 14.5 x 14.5 cm 1982.7 Purchased, 1982. City of Townsville Art Collection Photo: Holly Grech-Fitzgerald Š The Estate of Ivan Englund

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T h e M a r t i n G a l l e r y

Carl McCONNELL Born 1926 Chicago, Illinois, United States of America; Movements: Australia from 1948 Died 2003 Australia

Matte Porcelain Blossom Jar

1976

Porcelain; wheel thrown with matte glaze 19 x 15.5 x 15.5 cm 2007.21 Purchased, 2007. City of Townsville Art Collection Photo: Holly Grech-Fitzgerald Š The Estate of Carl McConnell

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E r a a n o f I m a g e s Connie HOEDT Born 1936 Amersfoort, The Netherlands; Movements: Australia from 1958 Died 2014 Townsville, Queensland, Australia

Plate

1978

Stoneware; wheel thrown, hand-painted with white underglaze and blue chinese overglaze 39.5 x 39.5 x 5.5 cm 1978.11 Acquired from the Townsville Pacific Festival, Townsville, 1978. City of Townsville Art Collection Photo: Holly Grech-Fitzgerald Š The Estate of Connie Hoedt

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T h e G a l l e r y

R A L P H M A RT I N

M a r t i n

“ I D E V E LO P E D A S K I L L P L AC I N G PA I N T I N G S TO B E S T A DVA N TAG E , U S U A L LY K N O W I N G A S T H E Y W E R E U N PAC K E D T H E B E S T P L AC E F O R E AC H . . . F O R P OT T E RY J OA N E L L A R D H E L P E D. T H E R E WA S A R E A L B U Z Z A S P EO P L E A R R I V E D.”

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Unlike Connie, many potters in Australia were strongly influenced by Japanese ceramics. Carl McConnell, originally from the United States, was Head of Pottery at the Brisbane Technical College. He and his son Phillip became prominent potters. Carl worked in Japan with a student of Hamada, a living national treasure. The influence is evident in the vessel in this show. Potter Ian Currie hailed from Tinaroo at that time, and his layered glazes too are strongly influenced by his studies in Japan over several years. Like all potters, Len Cook from Paluma experimented with glazes and firing techniques, and now concentrates on the Japanese firing method of anagama.

Len COOK Vase 1981 Stoneware; gasfired, applied wood ash and cobaltcarbonate glaze 29 x 22 x 22 cm Private Collection Len Cook Photo: Holly Grech-Fitzgerald Š Len Cook

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In the field of printmaking, Basil Hadley studied at Ealing in the UK and Prahran in Melbourne. He explored different styles and techniques, but here he showed his tactile etchings of grafitied and crumbling walls. T h e M a r t i n

Brian Hatch trained as a graphic designer, but became interested in printmaking and attended the Pratt Graphics Centre in New York, to become one of Queensland’s leading printmakers. This colograph is printed with multiple plywood blocks, showing a satisfying juxtapositioning of light and dark.

G a l l e r y

Ian CURRIE Born 1941 Died 2011 Maryville, Queensland, Australia

Jar

1974

Stoneware; thrown, hand-built attachments, ash glaze 35 x 40 x 40 cm 1974.7 Acquired from the Townsville Pacific Festival, 1974. City of Townsville Art Collection Photo: Holly Grech-Fitzgerald Š The Estate of Ian Curry

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Basil HADLEY Broken Wall

1975

Etching printed in black ink from a single plate, on thick cream laid paper 10/25 Image 34.5 x 29.7 cm; Image and text 36.6 x 29.7 cm; Plate 34.8 x 30 cm; Sheet 51.8 x 39 cm (irregular) Collection of Anneke Silver Photo: Holly Grech-Fitzgerald Š The Estate of Basil Hadley

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T h e M a r t i n G a l l e r y

Brian HATCH Born 1934 Pomona, Queensland, Australia

Night passage 1983 Collograph printed in colour from multiple plywood blocks on paper 55/60 48.5 x 46 cm oval (comp.); 76 x 62 cm (sheet) 1984.18 Acquired, 1984. Membership Print purchased from the Print Council of Australia. City of Townsville Art Collection Photo: Holly Grech-Fitzgerald Š Brian Hatch

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T h e M a r t i n

“ T H E M A RT I N G A L L E RY L I F T E D YO U R S P I R I T S — B EC AU S E YO U K N E W YO U W O U L D F I N D P OT T E RY A N D PA I N T I N G S YO U ’ D A LWAY S LOV E O W N I N G.”

G a l l e r y

M A R Y G A L L AG H E R

Peter LAWSON Untitled [Bohle Abbatoirs] [detail] Oil on canvas panel 50.5 x 75.7 cm 2001.61 Gift of Mr & Mrs K Griffiths, Townsville, 2001. City of Townsville Art Collection Photo: Holly Grech-Fitzgerald

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1980

Wool hand-woven and metal rings 102 x 98 cm 2008.4 Gift of Mrs Vivien Evans, 2008. City of Townsville Art Collection Photo: Shane Fitzgerald © Deanna Conti

G a l l e r y

Violet-lined parrot fish

This was another special thing about Ralph, the presence of the Gallery and the quality of the work created a culture of art collecting. Ralph was never pushy about selling art, saying an art work should ‘kick you in the guts’, and that he was merely a bystander in this process. Collectors not only acquired famous names, they also invested in local names and strengthened local practice, therefore making it an even more happening place.

M a r t i n

Deanna CONTI

With Judy Cassab, born in Vienna and twice winner of the Archibald Prize, representation asserted itself, but with a difference. There were always underlying concepts; in the case of Mother and Child, a reference to Russian icons. The work in this exhibition was actually acquired from the Martin Gallery. It seemed extraordinary in 1980 that it was possible to purchase work by these prominent national reputations, here in Townsville, thousands of kilometres away from where it was all happening. But due to the presence of this Gallery it became clear that it was also actually happening here.

T h e

Exhibitions of large sculpted weavings by Deanna Conti - trained at RMIT connected us with alternative lifestyles as well as the wider Australian Art world. She and partner Bruce Arthur lived on tiny Timana Island, their looms strung between trees, with only a tiny hut to sleep in. Amazingly they made woven interpretations of paintings by prominent artists such as John Olsen and Fred Williams. An earlier show at the Perc Tucker Regional Gallery titled To the Islands brought these artists into focus. Her large, brightly coloured tapestries beamed with colour on the white walls of the gallery. One was acquired by the James Cook Collection and another by the Perc Tucker Regional Gallery as well as private acquisitions.

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“. . . T H E R E I S S O M E T H I N G S P EC I A L T H AT D I S T I N G U I S H E S A G A L L E RY I N T H E T R U E S E N S E F R O M A L L OT H E R S O RT O F S H O P S . I T I S N OT O N LY T H E R E TO S E L L P I C T U R E S B U T A L S O TO P R O M OT E C U LT U R E … ”

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A reviewer commented: “Anne Willis is a painter with guts. She differs from the wishy-washy so-called lyrical abstractionists and brings back something of the life and power of the great New York abstractionists”.

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It will become clear that the Townsville Arts community was equally adventurous and cosmopolitan. CAE lecturer Anne Willis trained in Manchester, and had lived in Canada. Well versed in abstraction, she showed her magnificent stained canvases such as Blue between, and Anxious milk. Influenced by Morris Louis and Barnett Newman, American Color Field painters, she had no interest in representation, but wanted to create reality with just the painter’s tools: paint and canvas.

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ANNA BOCK

Judy CASSAB Born 1920 Vienna, Austria Died 2015 Sydney, New South Wales, Australia

Mother and child

1979

Oil on composition board 75 x 60 cm Private Collection Gail Mackay Photo: Holly Grech-Fitzgerald © Judy Cassab/Licensed by Viscopy, 2016.

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Richard Lane, born in NSW, with tuition in the USA, has similar stylistic leanings, with dreamy veils of translucent colour, and his earlier mono-printed and stamped colour works evocative of coral reefs or small organisms. Margaret Wilson, from Melbourne and trained at Royal Melbourne Institute of Technology (RMIT), already had an impressive exhibition record in prominent capital city galleries. Her work enchanted with its carefully tuned merge of screen-printed colour, intercepted by simple linear statements, evoking marine environments. Fred Sulser, born in Switzerland, added a folksy - even fairytale - touch to his figure paintings, having worked in Sydney with Michael Kmit, who painted in a Neo-Byzantine style. Seppo Hautaniemi, born in Finland and a member of the Townsville Art Society since its early days, contributed to the abstraction discourse with his Post. This vertical motif was often found in abstract paintings, as were circular forms; basic shapes to play with...


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Richard LANE Great Barrier Reef - coral and fish

1989

Ink and watercolour on paper 32.5 x 64 cm

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2011.102 Donated to the Thuringowa Art Collection, 1999. Offically transferred to the City of Townsville Art Collection, Townsville City Council, 2011. City of Townsville Art Collection Photo: Holly Grech-Fitzgerald Š Richard Lane

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Fred SULSER Girl in yellow dress

c.1970

Synthetic polymer paint and mixed media on composition board 78 x 57.8 cm Private Collection Ralph Martin Photo: Holly Grech-Fitzgerald Š Fred Sulser

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Seppo HAUTANIEMI Post

1976

Mixed media on composition board 124.4 x 103 cm 1976.20 Purchased from the Townsville Pacific Festival, 1976. City of Townsville Art Collection Photo: Holly Grech-Fitzgerald Š Seppo Hautaniemi

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The Gallery also became a place where artists from isolated communities in North Queensland showed their work: five women painters from Babinda, including Jean Giarola and Eula Jensen, showed their accomplished and delightful watercolours of the wet tropical environment.

G a l l e r y

Brian Engris, both painter and sculptor, worked in lost wax cast bronze. If Michelangelo had made caricatures I imagine they would have looked like Brian’s work. Wonderfully humorous, there was Ned Kelly in various stances, and luxuriating Bacchus-like figures such as the nude musician Sea Shore Sousaphonist. His wife Joan also made bronzes; I remember her putting finishing touches to a rhinoceros sculpture at the back of the gallery.

M a r t i n

Peter Lawson was one of only a few traditional painters showing, and certainly the most frequent. His work is classical representation in the tradition of the early 1900s, perceptively adapted to North Queensland subjects, with a lovely sense of light. The work in this exhibition is of another disappeared Townsville landmark, the Bohle River meatworks. Peter recently had a retrospective in the Perc Tucker Regional Gallery.

Many architects are also splendid draughtsmen, as is demonstrated in Ralph Power’s pen drawings in which he lovingly renders North Queensland’s rapidly disappearing vernacular architecture. T h e

Valerie Crunden, born in UK, trained at RMIT and lived on Magnetic Island. Her evocative works of the Island’s coast, seen from the sea, show a painterly freedom gained from abstraction transferred into interpretations of reality. This is often referred to as ‘expressive figuration’. Her mastery of tone and colour combined with excellent draughtsmanship typify her style.

Brian ENGRIS Born 1943 Townsville, Queensland, Australia

Rampaging Kelly

1979

Bronze 32.5 x 16 x 19.5 cm Private Collection Ralph Martin Photo: Holly Grech-Fitzgerald © Brian Engris

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Previous page, Top Left:

Ralph POWER Church of England, Kuranda, North Queesland 1966 Ink on paper 25.3 x 35.6 cm (sheet) Collection of June Power Photo: Holly Grech-Fitzgerald © The Estate of Ralph Power Top Right:

House and palms, Queens Street, Northward 1966 Ink on paper 25.3 x 35.6 cm (sheet) Collection of June Power Photo: Holly Grech-Fitzgerald © The Estate of Ralph Power Bottom Left:

St Patrick's College, The Strand 1967

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Ink on paper 25.3 x 35.6 cm (sheet) Collection of June Power Photo: Holly Grech-Fitzgerald © The Estate of Ralph Power Bottom Right:

Thelmont, Blackwood Street, Townsville 1970 Ink on paper 25.3 x 35.6 cm (sheet) Collection of June Power Photo: Holly Grech-Fitzgerald © The Estate of Ralph Power

Peter LAWSON Untitled [Bohle Abbatoirs] Oil on canvas panel 50.5 x 75.7 cm 2001.61 Gift of Mr & Mrs K Griffiths, Townsville, 2001. City of Townsville Art Collection Photo: Holly Grech-Fitzgerald

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Margaret WILSON Hardy's Bay 1981 Screenprint printed in colour from multiple stencils on BFK Rives paper 13/20 56.5 x 56.5 cm 2011.12 Gift of Ross Searle, Brisbane, 2011. City of Townsville Art Collection Photo: Holly Grech-Fitzgerald Š Margaret Ann Wilson

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Robert PRESTON Chao Phya River

1977/78

Synthetic polymer paint on canvas 122.9 x 152.2 cm 1989.22 Purchased, 1989. Funded from the Perc Tucker Memorial Collection Appeal Fund. City of Townsville Art Collection Photo: Holly Grech-Fitzgerald Š Robert Preston

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Two artists from Ingham showed their paintings too, with totally contrasting styles: David Rowe with surrealist leanings and Lorrain Abernathy with beautifully felt interiors. Both serious artists, they continue to have active art practices. Mark Sutherland captured Charters Towers gold rush architecture with lush paint and low-key colour. Lin Newman from Ayr launched her book Stepping Stones to the Adventure of Reading to considerable acclaim from the education community. Ben Trupperbäumer, born in Germany, lived at Mission Beach in a house built (or should I say sculpted) by him from timber, merging with the natural environment. He studied at the German Bielefeld Academy, though his main influences are from working in West Africa, and tutoring at the University in Kathmandu. This is evidenced in his fluid manner of carving and the organic shapes inspired by tropical rainforest. In Platter he challenges its functionality. A similar one was acquired from Ralph for the National Gallery’s Decorative Art collection.

Ben TRUPPERBÄUMER Platter

1993

Acacia Cedar, hand carved and polished, coated with semigloss polyurethane paint 6 x 42 cm diam. 1993.40 Purchased, 1993. City of Townsville Art Collection Photo: Holly Grech-Fitzgerald © Ben Trupperbäumer

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Mackay-based artist Clem Forbes, in his many shows (eight in all) always captured a quintessential feeling of north Queensland. His development can be traced through his exhibitions here. His stylistic exploration ranges from early darkly glazed oil paintings with scraped out details - evocative of shady rainforests - to colourful pastels where deep greens foreground small visual events in the forest: a flash of brightly coloured parrots, details of a human figure or single palm. Prolific and inexhaustible in subject matter and techniques, he tackled not only rainforests but reef, the family, human figures, fish, bush scenes, still life and vernacular architecture. The selected piece, Girl in backyard, combines many of these aspects.

When in 1975 the TAFE College started the first year of a Certificate of Art, the Townsville art scene further grew in quality by the addition of staff members and passionate students. Robert Preston and Jim Cox had arrived in 1974 to start things off. James Brown, David Blackman, Phil Davis, Margaret Wilson and I followed. Many others joined when the course became a full-time Diploma: experts in an ever expanding range of subjects, such as among others ceramicists Bruce Anderson, Ray Harrison, silversmith Kerry Stelling, printmakers Ron McBurnie, Anne Lord, and Judy Watson, sculptor Jane McBurnie (Hawkins). These continued to maintain an art practice. The College was amalgamated into the University in the early 1990s offering full degree programs. This saw further expansion of full and part time staff... but that is yet another story that needs to be told.


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Clem FORBES Born 1938 Bowen, Queensland, Australia Died 1997 Brisbane, Queensland, Australia

Sophie in the garden

1988

Pastel on paper 60 x 90 cm Private Collection Ralph Martin Photo: Holly Grech-Fitzgerald Š The Estate of Clem Forbes

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Jim COX Ravenswood still life

1977

Gouache on cardboard 35 x 48.5 cm 1977.16 Acquired, 1977. Winner of the Townsville Pacific Festival Acquisitive Watercolour Award. City of Townsville Art Collection Photo: Holly Grech-Fitzgerald © Jim Cox

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His work adapted to the tropics after a trip to Thailand, where he embraced the shapes of tropical vegetation and Buddhist architecture, which became filled with his beautifully tuned bands of colour against neutral dark tonal fields. After another study trip, this time to Mexico, he further developed a rich vocabulary of shapes which interact with each other to form visual narratives in the manner of temple friezes and illuminated manuscripts.

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Robert Preston trained at Sussex University and Camberwell, London, where his tutors were amongst the most prominent and experimental of their time; he brought with him up-to-date knowledge of the newest approaches, which he generously shared with students and colleagues. One could argue that Robert Preston’s greatest oeuvre is the totality of his sketchbooks, full of exquisite studies and thoughtful notes.

When one day he introduced students to sketchbook practice, by scrutinising rare oriental rugs at the Martin Gallery, his own studies of chevron shapes found their way into borders of his hard edged works. He had absorbed the influences of Post-painterly Abstraction into a highly individual style: broad areas of colour contrasted with intensely patterned edges.

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Jim Cox, a tutor in graphic design and illustration, did highly realistic renderings with refreshing concepts. Mimicking the still life genre with a wry sense of humour, he produced 460 mm x 330 mm of Lawn, detailing every bit of grass and crumb of earth, and Still life: roadside verge, showing soft drink cans flattened by traffic. He often placed his objects on rectangles of flat colour, poking fun at the purist aesthetics of Color Field, while acknowledging it at the same time.

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Image Opposite:

Reg POTIPHAR

Jane HAWKINS

Platter 1979

Small and precious child…

1986

Bronze 48 x 28 x 28 cm (Sculpture); 82 x 36 x 36 cm (with base) Private Collection Jane Hawkins Photo: Shane Fitzgerald © Jane Hawkins

Earthenware; handthrown, glazed 32 x 32 x 1.5 cm Private Collection Ralph Martin Photo: Holly Grech-Fitzgerald © Reg Potiphar

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Jane Hawkins (McBurnie) is a graduate of Queensland College of Art (QCA) in sculpture, where she studied with the prominent sculptors Len and Kath Shillam. She took up a position in the sculpture department, in fact she ‘became’ the sculpture department. She taught a dazzling range of techniques including bronze and clay casting, welding, carving, timber construction. In her solo show Fragments she investigated how much - or how little - is needed for a face or torso to become recognisable. The life-size pieces were made from cast fired clay, such as the sculpture of her son in this exhibition. Bruce Anderson, from Melbourne and trained at Prahran, joined as a ceramicist. He placed hexagonal Raku glazed collars - with their characteristic crazing - on unglazed low-fired black vessels; an enticing combination.

His ceramics often incorporated other media such as bundles of wheat, red lacquer stamps or rough rope to bind a lidded pot - such as the one in this exhibition - thereby denying its functionality, rather like Trupperbäumer’s wood carved bowl, but different! The printmaking department with Ron McBurnie and Anne Lord produced experimental print work in as many printmaking techniques as possible. With several Albion presses, lino and woodcuts bloomed; large etching presses produced magnificent prints from mezzotints to dry point. There were full facilities to produce multicolour screen print editions. A lithography press added further to the range of experiments.

Bruce ANDERSON Born 1950, Melbourne, VIC, Australia.

Lidded vase

1982

Earthenware; Raku, thrown and handbuilt, four layers of thick string incasing the object 29.5 x 19 x 19 cm 1982.12.a-c Purchased, 1982. With funding assistance from the Australia Council Visual Arts Craft Board. City of Townsville Art Collection Photo: Holly Grech-Fitzgerald © Bruce Anderson

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One similar was purchased by the Queensland Art Gallery. The golden colour of native grasses gave rise to the sculptural gold-leafed Bush icon series, where natural forms replace traditional religious imagery; ultimately an environmental statement.

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Bridge, Night refers to Indigenous people’s stress in bridging the gap between traditional and Western culture. He deviated from printmaking, for which he had become increasingly well known, to show expressive shapes beautifully realised in bright pastels and paints based on the devastations of Cyclone Winifred.

Hard edge was in the air with the Gardens, based on designs for our new place on the Upper Ross River. Once settled there, undisturbed observation of the bush on the riverbank led me to several series based on that environment, such as the work in this exhibition.

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A devoted dog owner, he created affectionate satires in Professional Dogs caricatures of show dogs and their owners. His scenes from the suburbs are a mirror of our more quirky habits. He won the Fremantle Print Prize with the etching in this exhibition.

My development, too, can be traced in this way with more than eight shows, starting with drawings of my children, when I realised they were the best subjects I’d ever have. After this there were aerial interpretations of dynamically growing cities along the North Queensland coast.

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Several of Ron McBurnie’s series of paintings and prints can be followed through his many shows at the Martin Gallery, each with its own distinctive flavour, from the Cricketers and Bridge series, paintings and prints, to Mortal Coils and Man-tree Ferns - large images of cycads unfurling the spiral of their new fronds - laden with metaphorical potential.

Ron McBURNIE Born 1957, Australia

Bridge Night

1988

Hard groundetching and aquatint printed in black ink, from multiple plates on thick cream wove paper Artists' proof 89.5 x 60.5 cm 1997.53 Purchased, 1997. City of Townsville Art Collection Photo: Holly Grech-Fitzgerald © Ron McBurnie

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James Brown and I had three exhibitions together. We were both intensely involved with landscape. James reduced the landscape to flat, sensuous, softedged planes of beautifully tuned colour with one or two intrusions. In his later work this lead to the development of personal codes and ciphers; calligraphic brush marks, a patch of colour or a whisper of a line on the edge of abstraction. Finding a balance between structure and the casual mark for him was always played out almost as a game, but in a landscape format. After a college study trip to Egypt, we showed the resulting work at Peter Lane Gallery in Sydney. There was always a good relationship between us - Ron, Bob, James and me to this very day, leading to an exhibition curated by the Perc Tucker Regional Gallery: Drawings x 4 which travelled nationally in 1984-1985.

James BROWN Born 1953 Townsville, Queensland, Australia

Single fall

1982

Oil on canvas mounted on board 104 x 90 cm 1982.15 Purchased, 1982. City of Townsville Art Collection Photo: Holly Grech-Fitzgerald Š James Brown

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Judy Watson, fresh from Tasmania, showed prints and collages with a feminist leaning, before she aligned her practice to acknowledge her Aboriginal ancestry. The Diploma course at TAFE started to deliver brilliant graduates, Garry Andrews being one who soaked up every influence. A naturally talented student with a feeling for the medium, a sense of space and ability to capture a moment, a model’s stance or a facial expression. He tackled painting and printmaking in his Rat paintings, such as the Members of the Anti-vivisection association. His abstract paintings showed a mature sense of form. Garry did a Master of Visual Arts at Griffith University. Able to handle large-scale work, he became involved in the Greentrain project (decorating the outside of the Sunlander) where his mural became the focus of an ABC documentary. He was the founder and first chairman of KickArts in Cairns and was included in the groundbreaking exhibition The Fish That John West Regrets. He had three solo exhibitions at the Martin Gallery. Represented in the National Gallery he maintains an active art practice.


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Judy WATSON Pretty maids all in a Row

1982

Mixed media; collage of hand-drawn images and text using watercolour, coloured pencil, graphite, pastel, cellotape, flaggin tape on thick wove BFK Rives paper 60.1 x 56.5 cm Private Collection of Anneke Silver Photo: Holly Grech-Fitzgerald Š Judy Watson/Licensed by Viscopy, 2016.

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Anneke SILVER Born 1937 Holland

Grey place 1981 Oil on canvas 92 x 92 cm 1981.1 Purchased, 1981. City of Townsville Art Collection Photo: Holly Grech-Fitzgerald © Anneke Silver

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E r a a n o f I m a g e s Garry ANDREWS 1957 Figure dynamic

1980

Synthetic polymer paint on canvas 84 x 100 x 6 cm 2009.55 Gift of Arthur and Michelle Collins, 2010. Donated through the Australian Government's Cultural Gifts Program. City of Townsville Art Collection Photo: Holly Grech-Fitzgerald Š Garry Andrews/Licensed by Viscopy, 2016.

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Anne LORD Suspension Flood Gate

1983

Screenprint printed in colour, from multiple photographic and paper stencils on Moulin du Gue rag paper Artists' proof 46 x 61.5 cm irregular (Printed image) 48 x 61.5 cm irregular (Printed image and text) 46 x 61.5 cm irregular (Plate) 57.8 x 76 cm irregular (Sheet) Private Collection Anne Lord Photo: Holly Grech-Fitzgerald Š Anne Lord

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Sylvia - born on the Darling Downs - shows boulders and rock formations from the dry hinterland, in characteristic high colour. Her later solo show of the Fan series found inspiration in ancient Egypt, where they were linked to female imagery. Fanning out from a small point and expanding, Sylvia saw them as a metaphor for life. She now promotes her own art through her gallery.

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Anne Lord grew up on Kilterry, a property north of Nelia. Her first encounter with art was with Mervyn Moriarty’s Flying Art School, completing her studies at the National Art School. With very light transparent calligraphic marks on large canvasses and no particular focus, she explores the character of the endless expanses of the western plains: “Beautiful delicate foliage and twisted gnarled trees”. Similarly, in her screen prints she uses multiple layers of very high tone and closely related colour. In Suspension Flood Gate she further evokes the shadowless dry country, anticipating the possibility of floods.

She also exhibited together with Sylvia Ditchburn and Jo Forster, the latter also a student of Mervyn Moriarty’s Flying Art School. Jo lived on Trivalore, a property near Maxwelton and was similarly passionate about the inland: “To some people it’s a harsh and cruel land. To me it has tremendous beauty.” With her meandering rivers in Carpentaria, she made that inland landscape she loved, visible to viewers on the coast.

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Glen Skien, now established in Brisbane and a nationally acknowledged printmaker, runs his own press, The Silent Parrot. He first showed his witty assemblages and etchings at the Martin Gallery in his final year. Glen feels that we are defined by objects, always associated with memory and nostalgia. Realised in fine etchings and found objects, his exquisite assemblages, artist books, wrapped objects and little boxed collections always trigger a deeply felt response. His exhibition MYTHO-POETIC recently toured to 16 venues all over Australia.

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Artist name Artwork Title Year Size Medium Credit line

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In the 1980s Townsville had become considerably better endowed with art infrastructure. In 1979 Paul Tonnoir too had opened his gallery above the antique books and Persian rug business. Perc Tucker Regional Gallery was well and truly established with Ross Searle as Director. It connected with the wider Australian circuit of travelling exhibitions and created opportunities for established artists to show large scale work in curated exhibitions.

In 1986 Umbrella Studio was started by emerging artists and students as an artist-run initiative. With a shift in focus in the arts generally towards concept, performance and installation, the rattling tin sheds just one block up from the Martin Gallery became another hub for a new generation of adventurous artists. Umbrella moved via various other premises to their present location, right opposite where Ralph Martin started. Another full circle!

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Maggie Thomson and Denise Piva banded together, both fine and talented students. Denise, a keen observer of the human form, and Maggie with her paintings of feet in all sorts of positions and attire. Printmaking students especially grouped together with many exhibits over the years. The final exhibition before the Gallery closed was that of the College’s final year printmakers of 1988.

Sylvia DITCHBURN Born 1943 Allora, Queensland, Australia

Jourama landscape

1988

Gouache on paper 76 x 58 cm irregular Private Collection Ralph Martin Photo: Holly Grech-Fitzgerald Š Sylvia Anna Catherine Ditchburn/Licensed by Viscopy, 2016.

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The Martin Gallery closed on Christmas Eve in 1988, but its legacy goes on far beyond the closing date. Those sixteen years of intense exhibiting created a following for the visual arts in Townsville. It created a culture of gallery viewing, meeting others with similar interests, discussing art subject matter, ideas and techniques. Many people discovered the joys and love of collecting, owning original pieces or following artists’ development.

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For those who came from places where this was already part of life, it meant that Townsville was a ‘real’ place where one could enjoy the finer things in life. Thanks to this general cultural push, the need for a Regional Gallery had become obvious enough for Perc Tucker Regional Gallery to become a reality.

Image Overleaf:

An exhibition at the Martin Gallery

Early on the Martin Gallery created an appetite for visual culture, and an opportunity for art to be shown properly, not just intermittently in adhoc premises. The opportunity to exhibit in a permanent gallery greatly facilitates the development of art practice. I asked many artists during the course of this writing where they would have been without Ralph’s gallery and the answers all pointed in the same direction: without the prospect of exhibiting in

a professional gallery that encouraged honest experimentation and did not push commercial success as a criterion, they would not have developed as artists with established practices and reputations. Having gained confidence from exhibiting in the same gallery as the big names, many of us developed connections with art scenes in capital cities, exhibited elsewhere, applied for residencies and won art prizes. But many of us also realise that there is nothing quite so satisfying as exhibiting in one’s own community, especially when the work is related to that community. Without an outlet such practices would not have flourished or been seen by appreciative eyes. The Townsville art world owes a lot to the pioneering spirit of the Ralph Martin Gallery. We thank you Ralph!

D R A N N E K E S I LV E R ‡ Brown, James: Personal Archives ‡ Fridemanis (Wilesmith), Helen: CONTEMPORARY ART SOCIETY, QUEENSLAND BRANCH, 1961-1973; A Study of the Post-War Emergence and Dissemination of Aesthetic Modernism in Brisbane ‡ Interviews with Ralph Martin: March, April, May 2016 ‡ Kenny, Helen: The first twenty years 1962-1982 ‡ Martin, Ralph: Notebook, 2016 ‡ McBurnie, Ron: Personal archives, 1987, QUP ‡ Millington, John: Tropical Visions ‡ Power, June: Beginnings, A short History, self-published, 2005 ‡ Preston, Robert: Personal archives ‡ Ralph Martin Archive: Special Collections James Cook University ‡ Searle, Ross: Artists in Tropical Queensland. Thesis 1993 ‡ Silver, Anneke: Personal archives; Diaries and letters 1961-88

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‡ Tonnoir, Paul: Private Archive


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Images of an Era | The Martin Gallery: Publication  
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