Artel #4 ~ MRAG Members' magazine (Spring/Summer 2020-21)

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B IA N N UAL #4 - S P R I NG/ SU M M ER 202 0 ― 2 1

Art Connects Us

$4 | Free for Members

Meet MRAG's new Director #MRAGhomedelivery Exhibition Program Collection Peek

“We are less lonely when we connect. Art is connection.” ― NIK K I G IOVA NNI, A MERIC A N P OE T MRAG



Maitland Regional Art Gallery. 11 exhibition spaces ~ diverse artistic program ~ gift shop and café ~ inspiring arts and community hub. In a beautiful heritage building lit by night with a happy-sad neon rain cloud by Maitland-born artist Nell.

Maitland Regional Art Gallery Members. The vibrant community of MRAG supporters who, through their membership and fundraising, help sustain the Gallery’s creative learning programs.

‘Artel’ is of Russian origin and refers to an arts or crafts cooperative. The ‘Artel of Artists’ (1863) was formed by a group of St Petersburg Academy of Arts students who’d rebelled against the rules of its annual art competition. Artel has been the name of the MRAGM newsletter, now magazine, since 2007.

230 High Street, Maitland, NSW 2320 Open: Tues–Sun 10am–5pm Ph: 02 4934 9859 E:

Represented by volunteers on the MRAGM Committee, elected annually.

Contents Welcome 5 Exhibitions 6 Feature Story


Creative Kids


News for Members


Meet a Member


Five Ways to Experience MRAG


Creative Insight


Meet an Artist


Collection Peek


Social Gallery


Art About Town


Inspired! 34 COVER IMAGE

MRAG member Lucinda Oost (7) creating a mandala out of natural materials found in her garden in March 2020. An #MRAGhomedelivery activity (see page 21) inspired by the MRAG garden and Dr Simone Patterson's Mandala prints (which were on display in Guns to Roses until Aug 2020). Photo: Sandra Kaija Oost

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MRAGM Committee Chairperson Sui-Linn White Vice Chairperson Holly Fisher Bidwell Council Representative Councillor Ben Whiting Treasurer James Marshall Secretary Sarah Crawford Membership Officer Michaela Swan Magazine Secretary Sally Denmead Events Coordinator Leah Riches General Committee Member Jannette Rush Gallery Director Gerry Bobsien

Maitland Regional Art Gallery and its members acknowledge the Wonnarua People as the Traditional Owners and Custodians of the land upon which the Gallery stands.

The Committee wishes to gratefully acknowledge the support of Maitland City Council as well as Patron Jenny Aitchison MP.

Look Out!

Artel is produced by MRAGM volunteers and MRAG staff. Copies available at MRAG front desk Read online via

On pages marked with the symbol you’ll find artworks from the MRAG Collection, which are either on display around the Gallery or behind-the-scenes in the Collection Store.

Original Layout Jaime Pritchard Issue Designer Clare Hodgins Editorial Coordinator Sally Denmead Advertising enquiries Printed by WHO Printing


See page 23 for artwork details.

Gerry Bobsien, Kattie Bugeja, Dale Collier, Sally Denmead, Cheryl Farrell, Ashley Grant, Andrew & Nicola Neil, Matt Petherbridge, Michaela Swan, Portia Wendt and Sui-Linn White.

News Flash!

All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced, in whole or in part, without written permission from MRAGM. While every effort has been made to ensure the accuracy of information and to secure copyright permissions, we apologise for any oversights, which we will correct in future issues.

Two new exhibitions have just been added to the MRAG program, due to our members’ art sale being postponed to 2021.

Maitland Regional Art Gallery gratefully acknowledges the support of:

10 Oct – 15 Nov 2020

Anna Louise Richardson: When Night Falls Shan Turner Carroll: Title TBC

Maitland Regional Art Gallery is a service of Maitland City Council and is supported by the NSW Government through Create NSW.



Dear Readers

Message from the Gallery Art has a way of connecting us with each other. It shines a light on our times and the world around us and, more than anything else, creates a space for curiosity, education, wonder and joy. As we welcome visitors back into the Gallery after our temporary closure, we hope you’ve enjoyed staying connected with art, and with us, through our ‘MRAG Home Delivery’ program.

Welcome to the wonderful world of MRAG, which continues to share its fabulous artistic program with us as we steer through unchartered waters.

Over the next two seasons, we aim to bring you joy through an inspiring mix of exhibitions. A Passion Shared, curated from the extraordinary private collection of Gordon Elliott and Michael Eyes, celebrates the joy of art in the home. Fieldwork, a travelling exhibition from the Art Gallery of New South Wales, presents light-filled landscape paintings by prominent artists, including Elioth Gruner’s much loved Spring frost (1919), which is rarely taken off the walls of AGNSW and which we are thrilled to be able to share with you. And, once again, we display works from Maitland’s own Collection, in an exhibition of portraiture with the perfect title, Hello Again.

I MRAG more than ever, for having found new ways to share art with us in these challenging times, and for continuing to make us feel part of a community. Many of us have had to slow down and re-examine our lives in recent times, and art can support us with this. When we take the time to focus and explore artworks deeply, new ideas and perspectives can emerge to help us understand our emotions and the confusing happenings in the world beyond the ‘intimate universe’ of our homes. Please continue to support the arts in our community if you can. MRAG membership is a simple, direct way to do this, from as little as $25 a year!

Gerry Bobsien Gallery Director Maitland Regional Art Gallery

Sui-Linn White Chairperson, MRAGM Committee


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Exhibitions Meet old and new friends at MRAG this Spring and Summer, as you enjoy exhibitions of portrait and landscape painting, a burst of colour from Ken Done and a homage to Maitland’s heritage.

15 Aug 2020 – 14 Feb 2021

Hello Again – It’s nice to see your face | Portraits from the MRAG Collection Coming out of isolation to say ‘hello’ again are faces of old friends we haven’t seen for some time, in an exhibition of iconic portraits from the MRAG Collection. Hello Again will also introduce you to new friends, through several recent portrait acquisitions displayed for the first time. These portraits depict faces artists have been compelled to interrogate and record in many different formats and mediums, and their sitters include famous Australians, friends and family, plus self-portraits that provide us with an insight into the artists themselves. Darren McDonald, Self, 2013, Acrylic on paper, 76 x 56cm Purchased by Maitland Regional Art Gallery, 2018

Please note that exhibition details are subject to change. 6


1 Aug – 4 Oct 2020

A Passion Shared: The Elliott Eyes Collection The owners of the Elliott Eyes Collection of contemporary art in Sydney have generously offered MRAG access to their collection of over 300 sculptures, paintings, and ceramics to curate an exhibition specifically for Maitland. It includes work by Clara Adolphs, Euan Macleod, John Coburn, as well as Maitland’s own Todd Fuller and Nell.

Nell, The Ghost Who Walks Will Never Die, 2008, bronze, 23 x 22 x 22cm

1 Aug – 15 Nov 2020

Chris Kunko: Thinking of an Old Friend The song Thinking of an Old Friend, by Japanese guquin player Wu Jinglue, provides the inspiration for this exhibition of work by Gilgandra-based artist Chris Kunko. As he listened to the song, Kunko scribbled down poems that breathed life into locked away imagery and drawings.

Chris Kunko, Study (detail), 2020, ink and biro on paper, 26 x 20cm

22 Aug – 15 Nov 2020

Susan Ryman: Hide and Seek Hide and Seek is an interactive exhibition that encourages viewers to unlock hidden personal stories. The 500plus small detailed hand-drawn and varnished images in this body of work act as potent visual memory triggers that viewers can unlock, privately or openly, using words and images. Susan Ryman, Flashcards (detail) 2008-2012, coloured pencil, ink, gouache on rag paper, varnished, 432 pieces each 12 x 10.5cm, photograph by Roger Hanley 7

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22 Aug – 15 Nov 2020

Arlo Mountford: Deep Revolt This survey of Arlo Mountford’s artistic practice, encompassing video, sculpture and drawing, includes his recent work 100 years (2016), an animated chronology of appropriated artworks charting abstract art since the ‘zero point’ of Malevich’s Black Square in 1915. A Goulburn Regional Art Gallery exhibition toured by Museums & Galleries of NSW.

Arlo Mountford, Walking the Line (detail), 2013, Dual channel HD digital animation, 14:37 mins.

29 Aug – 22 Nov 2020

2020 Brenda Clouten Memorial Travelling Scholarships This biennial scholarship supports young achievers in the visual arts (30 years or under) who live or work in the Lower Hunter to undertake a program of professional development in an international context. There are two scholarships awarded, based on artistic merit and potential, with all the finalists’ entries exhibited at MRAG.

Leeroy Chapman, The Spaces In-Between, 2018, concrete, steel, dimensions variable

21 Nov 2020 – 21 Feb 2021

Holly McNamee: About Maitland This exhibition is a personal visual record, derived from observation and recollection of times past, of Maitland’s heritage structures and once rich agricultural surrounds. McNamee was a child in Maitland in the 1950s and, after spending many years away, returned in the early 2000s. Holly McNamee, The Old Place (detail), 2008, conte and charcoal on arches paper, 57 x 38cm 8


21 Nov 2020 – 21 Feb 2021

Ken Done: Paintings You Probably Haven’t Seen – Selected Works 2000-2017 Ken Done’s vibrant paintings celebrate Australia’s natural beauty and express wonder in the everyday through glorious colour, spontaneous mark making and brilliant visual expression. A joyful exhibition of significant pieces from Done’s private collection, displayed alongside recent studio work.

Ken Done, Violet coral head (detail), 2011-16, oil and acrylic on linen, 152 x 122cm. Courtesy of the artist and Ken Done Gallery, Sydney

Touring from Ken Done Gallery

28 Nov 2020 – 7 Feb 2021

Fieldwork: AGNSW A survey of plein air painting (painting outdoors) west of Sydney between the late 19th and mid-20th centuries, including works by prominent artists such as Elioth Gruner, Julian Ashton and Hilda Rix Nicholas. Portrayals of this region made an important, yet often overlooked, contribution to Australian art.

Hilda Rix Nicholas, Through the gum trees, Toongabbie, c1920, oil on canvas, 65.7 x 81.9cm. Art Gallery of New South Wales. Acquired with the support of the Art Gallery Society of NSW through the Dagmar Halas Bequest 2016 © Estate of Hilda Rix Nicholas

Touring from the Art Gallery of New South Wales

28 Nov 2020 – 7 Mar 2021

Andrew Sullivan: Survey into the Cretaceous For this exhibition, the artist imagines being assigned to a team of palaeontologists and geographers on a survey expedition into the late Cretaceous period. Recording the fauna and expressing the experience through an artist’s eye, this is a journey into the painter’s imagination.

Andrew Sullivan, T-REX (Tyrant Lizard King) (detail), 2014, oil on canvas, 153 x 213cm

Touring from Galerie pompom 9

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Feature Story


This Summer MRAG invites you to explore Fieldwork, a survey of late 19th to mid-20th century Australian en plein air painting and works on paper from the Art Gallery of New South Wales Collection. From the Hawkesbury to Emu Plains and the Blue Mountains, these beautiful works depict pastoral and bush scenes west of Sydney. Many Australian art lovers are familiar with the Australian Impressionist paintings of the Heidelberg School and Box Hill artists, such as Tom Roberts, Arthur Streeton and Frederick McCubbin, depicting bush and rural scenes outside of Melbourne, and works of that era capturing Sydney’s harbour and coastline. Less well-known, and often overlooked, is the significant contribution en plein air (‘in the open air’) paintings created in the western fringes of Sydney made to Australian art.

Fieldwork brings these into focus. From large oil paintings of expansive landscapes now lost to urban sprawl, to small works on paper depicting old barns, churches, cottages and stables in areas such as Windsor and the Parramatta River, this exhibition features many significant works from the Art Gallery of New South Wales Collection. It includes work by artists such as Elioth Gruner, Julian Ashton, Hilda Rix Nicholas, Sydney Long, Grace Cossington Smith and Lionel Lindsay, surveying landscapes 10


around the Hawkesbury, Nepean, McDonald and Parramatta Rivers; pastoral scenes, most notably Gruner’s Emu Plains paintings (1915–19); as well as bush vistas in the Blue Mountains.


Did You Know? In 2006 twelve artists, primarily studio-based, were invited to Maitland to paint the City en plein air, as viewed from the northern (Lorn) side of the Hunter River. The artists, including Euan Macleod and Suzanne Archer, came together over two weekends, and members of the public were encouraged to wander amongst them as they worked. Their finished works were exhibited at MRAG as View of Maitland from the riverbank (with apologies to Jan Vermeer and View of Delft) and donated to the MRAG Collection. Maitland is home to many artists who enjoy plein air painting, including Maitland Region Society of Artists members and Nicola Bolton, who was a finalist in the NSW Parliament Plein Air Prize in 2017.

All these artists, from Impressionist to Modernist in their approaches, embraced working en plein air, striving to capture the distinctly Australian light and character of the landscape, painting quickly to capture it as it was before their eyes. Plein air painting played a role in the development of an emerging national identity and spirit, with many artists depicting idyllic rural scenes, conjuring a pioneering dream of a pastoral Australia and challenging early colonial perceptions of Australia as a drab ‘wide brown land’. One of the most significant paintings in Fieldwork is Spring frost (1919) - see image 1 - by Elioth Gruner, a muchloved painting rarely taken off display at the Art Gallery of New South Wales, and for which Gruner won his second Wynne Prize for Landscape Painting. Painted on a farm in the Emu Plains, where he rented a cabin, it depicts a pastoral scene of cows and a farmer in a field, beautifully evoking the “crackling frosty sensation of early morning in the country”.1 Gruner is said to have risen at 5am to start work, wrapping his legs in chaff bags while he painted to avoid frostbite. In a Sydney Morning Herald review, Spring frost is described as the work “of a mature artist, who is also at once a wilful child, wanting to gaze directly at the sun, to revel and roll in the sun, to be exposed to, and by, the sun.”2

View of Maitland from the riverbank was curated by former Director Joe Eisenberg OAM. The exhibition catalogue can be viewed at


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even evasive, he had many friends who supported him throughout his career and personal struggles, including Norman Lindsay, to whose home at Springwood he was a frequent visitor. Gruner is considered one of Australia’s most prominent landscape artists and won the Wynne Prize more times than any artist other than Hans Heyson.


Gruner’s family emigrated to Sydney from New Zealand in 1883 when he was a one-year-old and, after initially working as a draper’s assistant and then gallery manager for Julian Ashton, he became a full-time artist, travelling to farmlands west of Sydney from 1915 onwards to paint en plein air. Barry Pearce describes the breakthrough in Gruner’s artistic development as being when “he began looking into the light so that shapes in the landscape became dark silhouettes haloed from behind by a bright backdrop of sky”.3 Gruner’s Morning light (1916), which is considered his masterpiece, is included in this exhibition. It is said to have been the talk of the art world for months, with art critic Basil Burdett writing “I do not think any picture ever painted in this country shows so lovely a quality of surface. It is jewel-like…the quintessence of his vision”.4

Another significant painting in the exhibition is Through the gum trees, Toongabbie (circa 1920) by Hilda Rix Nicholas, one of several female artists whose work is featured. The view through the tall trees to the crisp light of an open western Sydney landscape uses a distinct palette, with dynamic blue daubs of brushwork. The work reflects the post-war revival of the pastoral tradition in the 1920s, celebrating the restorative qualities of light and the land after the wartime experience, and was exhibited in Paris and the UK a few years after it was painted. Born in Ballarat in 1884, Rix Nicholas studied under Frederick McCubbin and travelled overseas for many years from 1907, working for a time in a studio in Paris. She returned to Australia in 1918 after her husband was killed in action at Flers (three days after they wed), and for the next eight years Rix Nicholas travelled around New South Wales to “paint things typical of my country”. She became well-known for her nationalistic landscapes and patriotic paintings of war heroes.5

Gruner was supportive of modernist art but preferred painting serene rural scenes. Described as shy, enigmatic,

Fieldwork also includes significant works by Sydney Long, who became known for his Art Nouveau and Symbolist-inspired 12



We hope this exhibition inspires you and gives you pause to reflect on changing perceptions and depictions of the Australian landscape.

“alternative vision” of the Australian landscape, drawing on mythology to create enchanting, even haunting, depictions of the Australia bush.6 Born in Goulburn in 1871, Long lived in Sydney from the early 1890s, an art student under Julian Ashton and schooled in plein air painting. Works such as Midday (1896), and particularly later paintings such as Hawkesbury Landscape (circa 1925), exude a lush sensuous approach to painting and evocation of mood through a rich colour palette and bold brushwork.

Fieldwork is an Art Gallery of New South Wales touring exhibition. On display at MRAG from 28 Nov 2020 – 7 Feb 2021. Words: Sally Denmead IMAGES

1 Elioth Gruner, Spring frost, 1919, oil on canvas, 131 x 178.7cm. Art Gallery of New South Wales, gift of F G White, 1939 2 Claire Martin, Riverbank Path – Maitland, 2006, oil on canvas, 97 x 115cm

Fieldwork can be enjoyed as an historic artistic survey of a region’s landscapes, many long lost to Greater Sydney’s urban sprawl; and for the innate beauty of, and masterly technique displayed in, the exhibited works, with their different stylistic approaches to capturing the Australian light and landscape en plein air.


Hilda Rix Nicholas, Through the gum trees, Toongabbie (detail), c1920, oil on canvas, 65.7 x 81.9cm. Art Gallery of New South Wales. Acquired with the support of the Art Gallery Society of NSW through the Dagmar Halas Bequest 2016 © Estate of Hilda Rix Nicholas

4 Sydney Long, Midday, 1896, oil on canvas, 102.2 x 153cm. Art Gallery of New South Wales. Purchased 1896 © Estate of Sydney Long





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Barry Pearce, Elioth Gruner 1882–1939, Sydney, Art Gallery of New South Wales, 1983, p.39 "Milking works for a moment in the sun", Sydney Morning Herald, 3 April 2002, review of the exhibition Parallel Visions at AGNSW, curated by Barry Pearce. B. Pearce, Elioth Gruner 1882–1939, Sydney, Art Gallery of New South Wales, 1983, p.6 Cited in B. Pearce, Elioth Gruner 1882–1939, Sydney, Art Gallery of New South Wales, 1983, p.35

Barry Pearce, Elioth Gruner 1882–1939, Sydney, Art Gallery of New South Wales, 1983 Art Gallery of New South Wales website – artist profiles Australian Dictionary of Biography ( – artist profiles ACKNOWLEDGMENTS

Thank you to the AGNSW curatorial team and writers of the source material.

A Painted Landscape This beautifully written and designed book surveys contemporary landscape painting in Australia today, profiling 50 artists and their practice. It provides a superb counterpoint to the era of works exhibited in Fieldwork and features several artists currently or previously based in the Hunter, including Nicole Chaffey, Rachel Milne and John Olsen. Ken Done, whose exhibition is on at MRAG at the same time as Fieldwork, is also featured. For Nicole Chaffey, an artist with Biripai/Gadigal heritage (profiled on page 29), painting the Australian landscape is both exciting and political. The book showcases some of Chaffey's plein air works painted in the Hunter and in the dramatic, romantic landscape of the Hawkesbury, which she describes as: “a very special place … almost otherworldly, and deeply secretive. You get a real sense of the ancientness of the land.”

A Painted Landscape: Across Australia from Bush to Coast by Amber Creswell Bell (Published by Thames & Hudson, 2018) is available for purchase in the Gallery Shop for $59.99 (members receive 10% off).


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Creative Kids While Free Art Sunday sessions were on hold, MRAG encouraged kids to ‘See Make Do’ at home, whether with #MRAGfromhome activities inspired by exhibitions or just by following their own creative joy. Lucinda Oost (7), Cardiff #MRAGhomedelivery activity

Mandala made out of natural materials. Amica McGrath (9), Lorn

Plein air painting her work Picnic by the Waterfall in the backyard.

Free Art Sunday is usually on every Sunday from 11.00am–1.00pm, but please check the MRAG website for updates about session times and booking requirements.

Toby Hershman (3), Horseshoe Bend

In the garden making a happy mess.

Supported by MRAG Members and CleverPatch.


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News for Members Keep up-to-date with MRAGM events and activities.

Member Events Update

We are delighted to welcome new Gallery Director, Gerry Bobsien, to MRAG. Gerry was appointed to the role in May and becomes the fourth Director of MRAG, following on from Margaret Sivyer OAM (Maitland City Art Gallery), Joe Eisenberg OAM and Brigette Uren.

With so much having changed in the world since the bustle of the Gallery’s Autumn exhibitions launch in February 2020 (image above), it will come as no surprise that several of our planned member events have been postponed. Our art sale fundraiser has been rescheduled for August 2021, but we hold onto a tentative hope that our Members Christmas Party may be able to go ahead on 26 November 2020 in some form.

Gerry comes to MRAG from a role at the National Gallery in Canberra and has experience in the Hunter region’s art sector, having worked at the Lock-Up Contemporary Art Space in Newcastle. She has also worked as a blacksmith and is the author of several children’s books. The members’ committee has loved working with Keryl Collard and Kattie Bugeja, who steered the Gallery through its 18 months in-between Directors, and thanks them wholeheartedly for their hard work and wonderful support.



Dive into MRAG Online! We are thrilled to have launched an online membership platform, making it much easier to renew, join or gift a membership via the MRAG website. We hope this encourages more Gallery visitors to join (and current members to renew!). For our members who love to renew in person, please do not hesitate to visit. The more supporters MRAG has through membership, the better we can support access to arts and culture in the community.

Save the Dates MRAGM events

Visit become-a-member/

Hosted by the MRAG Members Committee 5 September 2020* A Passion Shared exhibition tour with collector Gordon Elliott (Members' exclusive)

Acknowledgments The MRAGM committee would like to acknowledge the passing of valued longterm member and Gallery volunteer, Sandra Tweedie, in early May. Sandra first started volunteering at MRAG in 2008 and will be dearly remembered for her dedication, bright mind and community spirit. We offer our condolences to her husband, Frank, and her beautiful family.

21 October 2020* MRAGM Annual General Meeting All current financial members welcome (5.30pm for a 6pm start) Rescheduled to August 2021 MRAG Contemporary Art Sale

Key MRAG events

Thank you to outgoing committee member Kerri Gear, who recently relocated interstate, for her valued contribution to MRAGM over the past year.

29 August 2020* Spring season exhibition opening 28 November 2020* Summer season exhibition opening

The MRAGM Committee wishes to thank all members for your support of the Gallery. You can contact us via email at

*Please check email, social media and the MRAG website closer to the time for updates about how (and if) these events will go ahead.


Autumn Season Celebration, 29 Feb 2020


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Meet a Member Gerry Bobsien MRAG Director since May 2020 Lives in Newcastle

Please tell us a bit about yourself and your family I was brought up in Blacktown in the Western suburbs of Sydney and then moved all over the place for study, work and adventure. I now live with my two daughters, Pollyanna (17) and Skip (24), Skip’s partner Anthony, and two dogs, all of us crammed into a little old timber terrace in a chaotic mess of fun. Despite my yearning to be a sideline mother (preferably AFL), my kids just wanted to dance and paint. Skip (Willcox) is a dance artist and, after working for a few years in a contemporary dance company in Germany, is now home juggling University study with independent dance projects. Pollyanna loves art and right now she is fangirling hard over Italian artist Nicola Samori. She also loves surfing (like her mother).

Gerry with daughters Polly and Skip.

What have been some of your career highlights so far? I have an eclectic work history and that makes this question really hard! This list may seem odd: working as a blacksmith in an industrial forge in Melbourne; getting my first book published; taking



What are you enjoying reading, writing, watching and/or listening to at the moment?

part in an artist residency/surfing adventure on Manus Island; finally getting my PhD; working at the National Gallery of Australia; and, I would have to add, the first day I walked through the doors as Director of MRAG.

I’m reading Phosphorescence: On awe, wonder and things that sustain you when the world goes dark by Julia Baird and Kulinmaya! Keep listening, everybody! by Mumu Mike Williams. And I’m watching The Bureau (spunky French spies) on SBS On Demand and the Michael Jordan doco The Last Dance on Netflix.

What are you enjoying about your new role? Seeing people return to the Gallery, learning from the fantastic team here at MRAG and meeting people in the community. I am also getting to know the MRAG Collection and working on ways to bring this to life and refresh the building a bit. I started this role during a Gallery closure, which has been a sobering experience, with so many people and livelihoods impacted by this crisis. We’ve worked hard to connect with the community in a meaningful way during the COVID-19 experience, especially online, where we’ve found we can be more expansive and part of a wider conversation nationally and internationally. I’m also looking forward to how the arts and cultural sector in Maitland and the wider area can continue to evolve and grow. MRAG can play a pivotal role in this, if we continue to collaborate and provide the space, and audiences, for artists to make and present new work. There is space in this City for all forms of creative gesture, from the visual arts in all its shape-shifting guises, to performance, music and writing.

What are some of your most treasured items? I have so many treasures this is impossible. A list? My zippy little surfboard made by John Scollay; a pair of callipers that came out of the forge when BHP closed (I was lucky enough to walk out with the last shift and hang around the forge shop in the weeks leading up to closure); another pair of callipers that I made as part of my industrial blacksmithing trade certificate; a work by John Turier; a vase made as a portrait of my dog Ziggy by American designer and artist Katie Kimmel; and my Pee-wee Herman porcelain doll. Most of these are clustered on my mantelpiece, as is the diary I kept while I was doing my HSC in 1987. It is a torturous and hilarious account of an earnest and misunderstood young woman and I read it out to guests for their amusement.

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Five Ways to Experience MRAG


1. Look Closer

2. See Make Do

Margaret Olley’s Bedroom Still Life, one of MRAG’s most treasured paintings, is now on display in the exhibition Hello Again – it's nice to see your face. This gentle self-portrait of the muchloved Australian artist’s wistful reflection is surrounded by an eclectic collection of her ‘everyday’ trinkets. Look for perfume bottles, feathers, pencils, shells, a notebook, and a sewing kit, all set against a wallpaper backdrop of colourful blooms. What are your eyes most drawn to in this exquisite painting? Bedroom Still Life has been loaned many times to major art galleries, most recently QAGOMA in Brisbane for the 2019 exhibition Margaret Olley – A Generous Life.

Now, more than ever, we seek meaning and connection through art, as it helps us to understand how we’re feeling about the changing world around us. MRAG will keep offering opportunities for you to ‘See Make Do’ at the Gallery when possible, such as through pre-booked Free Art Sunday sessions. And we will continue to invite you to enjoy extra special content and art activities on our website, developed for you, your family, and friends to enjoy from the comfort of your home. #MRAGfromhome IMAGES

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Margaret Olley, Bedroom Still Life, 1997, Oil on board (Masonite), 61 x 91cm. Purchased by Maitland Regional Art Gallery with the assistance of the Art Gallery Society, 1998. Teval Guner ceramics will be available in the Gallery Shop in the lead-up to Christmas 2020. Mandala made in MRAG garden


4.Explore the Sensory Garden


3. Take a Piece of MRAG Home When did you last do a happy dance? This season the Gallery Shop is brimming with fun, thoughtful pieces and one-of-a-kind treasures which we hope will bring joy to you or a special someone else. By purchasing a ‘little something’ here you are directly supporting MRAG and/or an artist. Cue: ‘happy dance’! PLUS we are extremely excited that a small selection of exhibition catalogues, from exhibitions past and present, is now available to purchase via our website. Happy dances all round!

The original vision for the garden space behind Café Seraphine at MRAG was for it to be a Maitland Community Sensory Garden, complete with artist-designed arbours and a raised vegetable garden. The garden that has evolved over the years offers plenty for the senses to enjoy, with native and edible plants, several sculptures, and the occasional visit from a tawny frogmouth or green tree frog. The much-loved orange and red flowering gums are spectacular in Summer. We would love help from a volunteer to maintain and develop the existing garden, so please do contact the Gallery if you are interested.

5. Make a Mandala One of the first activities developed for the #MRAGfromhome series was making a mandala out of natural materials. Mandalas are intricately patterned motifs that encourage us to focus and reflect, and this activity was inspired by both the MRAG garden and Dr Simone Patterson’s Mandala prints (which were on display in the exhibition Guns to Roses). Get some fresh air in your garden or local park; collect leaves, seed pods, sticks or other natural materials; and make your own mandala out of these, paying attention to the season’s colours and textures.

Don't forget members receive 10% off Gallery Shop purchases all year round!

See for activity details

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Creative Insight

Kattie Bugeja discusses how MRAG steered through the start of the COVID-19 crisis, finding new ways to meaningfully connect art with our community. In early 2020 MRAG, along with many other cultural institutions across the world, was forced into unchartered waters. On Thursday 26 March, we closed our doors for what was an unknown period of time.

Additionally, we were very mindful of MRAG’s role as a contributor to the region’s economy. The Gallery engages a vast array of arts practitioners, performers and educators (over 500 a year – we’ve counted) and we felt a responsibility to our team, many of whom, as sole traders, were experiencing the full and devastating economic impact of COVID-19 restrictions.

As our community faced the uncertainty of a global pandemic, we wanted to ensure your Gallery was here to support you. MRAG is a meeting place, a source of inspiration for many, and an active contributor to our community’s wellbeing. Inclusion is one of our core values and continuing to provide an accessible service during social restrictions – a time when the importance of community and connection has come to the fore – was a priority.

In response, the Gallery team created #MRAGhomedelivery, a weekly communication showcasing activities to See, Make and Do from the comfort and safety of your home. The decision was made early on to honour our commitment to MRAG’s exhibition program and develop ways of connecting 22


audiences with this program through digital engagement. E-workshops, virtual exhibition tours, artist talks, studio visits, Free Art Sunday activities, yoga and more were delivered via email, Instagram and Facebook. With a focus on diversity and accessibility, ten weeks of creative content was produced, directly engaging over 16,000 people, reaching an audience of more than 170,000 and involving 48 creative contributors.

As MRAG Arts Administrator Kattie Bugeja contributes to the leadership of one of NSW's most dynamic regional galleries. In her own words:

In a few short weeks we became videographers, designers and presenters, sharing our knowledge with one another and developing new digital skills. The Gallery team are thankful our audience has been very gracious; we soon learnt that everything published doesn’t need to be perfectly edited and seamlessly delivered to connect and inspire.

I love talking about art! Talking about myself is a little more challenging! So, here is a very quick summary of why I love what I do. For me, standing in front of an artwork, watching a performance, or hearing a musician is as good as it gets. Art connects us with ideas, emotions and each other and I think that is important.

Where to from here? As we re-open our doors and slowly re-introduce physical programs, much thought has been given to how we make the most of this learning curve moving forward. Art-isfor-all and now, more than ever, we seek comfort, inspiration and connection with art and artists. Stay tuned to our monthly ‘What’s On’ emails for more digital content to come.

I love being part of something bigger; a community, a vision, a team. I have seen first-hand the profound effect arts education can have; it teaches critical thinking skills, facilitates challenging conversations, improves our well-being, and connects diverse audiences.

If you missed any of the #MRAGhomedelivery content, head over to and enjoy it at your leisure.

Look Out! MRAG Collection artworks featured in this issue…


Inside front cover Braddon Snape, Large device for a yet to be assigned purpose, 2016, Welded, painted and inflated steel Contents page Christopher Hodges, The Red Guard, Circa 2005, Synthetic polymer on cardboard Pg 5 Mark Aylward, Magpies, 2013 stencilled hand-cut mild steel plate, installation detail* Pg 17 Anne Ross, I am a fan, 1993, Bronze

Vicki Cornish (Bonsai Woman) does an artist talk to camera for #MRAGhomedelivery

*On permanent display at MRAG; not part of the Collection. 23

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Meet an Artist


Dale Collier is a socially engaged interdisciplinary artist of Wiradjuri and Northern European heritage, who experiments with a wide range of media in his practice. His work explores complex social and global dynamics and aims to encourage new ways of thinking about ecological security. Dale grew up on Yuin country, on the South Coast of New South Wales, and now lives and works upon Awabakal, Worimi and Wiradjuri country, in the Hunter region and Central New South Wales. An emerging artist who won the Brenda Clouten Scholarship at MRAG in 2016, Dale has increasingly spent time making work on Country, responding to the climate crisis and the hidden

workings of social and political power as his practice has progressed. Dale often travels and participates in artist residencies, so we communicated via email for this interview. As an artist engaging with a diverse range of media, including sound, text, moving image and installation, Dale focuses on experimental processes. 24


projects highlight processes of global conditioning and encourage news ways of thinking about ecological security.

Much of his work across these mediums involves ongoing interrogations of, and interventions into, social constructs of identity, history, and place.

From my experience of Dale’s practice, audience participation is a critical aspect, especially in his installations. Dale creates astounding activated spaces and experiences that question our beliefs and values, and which, he hopes, have “the potential to transform an audience into allies, or accomplices.” It is both an “enormous privilege” and a responsibility, Dale says, to engage an audience: “A passive audience doesn’t really sit well with what I’m trying to do as an experimental artist.”

Dale’s work is informed by his personal experience and perspectives as a “Koori with fair skin and blue eyes”, which he describes as being like “some kind of bastard child of the colonial project”. He says he has the overwhelming feeling of existing ‘in-between’ and is motivated by a desire to learn and grow by exploring these issues, which are still problematic and misunderstood in Australian society today. Dale uses powerful symbols in his work, such as drones, lifebuoys, and hazard tape, to creatively express complex dynamisms and systems. He says the state of the world at the moment blows his mind and that he hopes his

You were awarded the 2016 Brenda Clouten Memorial Travelling Scholarship. Please tell us about your experience of the scholarship and your trip overseas. Being awarded the BCMT scholarship in 2016 came as a total shock. I was grateful just to be part of the finalist exhibition. It’s such an encouraging and supportive opportunity for emerging artists across the Hunter region. To propose new work and develop a long-term project plan for the award is a solid, engaging format for artistic development. I remember being kind of awestruck because Nell was one of the judges in 2016; her work is so strong, so consistent. The scholarship made it possible for me to travel overseas for the kind of career development that I wouldn’t have otherwise been able to experience. I took part in an artist residency with ArtScape in Toronto, Canada, where I lived and

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worked for a month with 11 other artists in studios at Gibraltor Point, Toronto Island, the edge of Lake Ontario. Just before we all landed for the residency there had been cyclones, a really nasty Autumn period with weather conditions that pretty much flooded the island. The changing climate was extremely obvious in that place at the time; sinkholes, sandbags, trash everywhere washed up from the city; all the local residents were actually evacuated because of the conditions. It was a really amplified experience and led to a whole lot of new work responding to global conditioning and biospherical crisis.

really pushed me to listen deeper to the things taking effect outside of the white-wall context, beyond museum and gallery environments. So, I’ve been going out on Country making work a lot more. More confidence, more conviction, more connection.

“I’ve been going out on Country making work a lot more.” You’re consistently creating new work. Tell us about something you’re currently working on.

How has your practice evolved since the Scholarship experience?

I’ve just finished up at a visiting artist in residence program with the City of Melbourne at the Boyd Community Library, where I was looking into digital/virtual objects and data

Since then I’ve just tried to stay in the flow, keep creating, experimenting with different modes of socially engaged practice. The scholarship experience 26



management systems as process tools for experimental art practice.


I’m also just about to start on a collaborative project with the new Wirimbili-yahni Wiradjuri Walan Cultural Centre in Mid-West NSW. We’re going to be putting something together over the next 12 months, which will hopefully be ready for the Cementa Contemporary Art Festival in Kandos in 2021. Other than that, just isolating, doing self-care and playing lots of music!

2 Dale Collier, Immeasurable Context, 2019, digital photograph inkjet print on cotton rag, 42 x 42cm

1 Dale Collier, The Cost of Hot Air, 2020, video installation, dimensions variable

3 Dale Collier, Pseudophryne Corroboree, 2020, digital photograph inkjet print on cotton rag, 75 x 53cm 4

Dale Collier, Leap of Lithobates Pipiens, 2018, performance and composite video still featuring Ryan Danny Owen, Canada. Funded by the Brenda Clouten Memorial Travelling Scholarship.

Interview: Michaela Swan

The finalists’ entries in the 2020 Brenda Clouten Memorial Travelling Scholarship for Young Achievers in the Visual Arts will be exhibited at MRAG from 29 Aug – 22 Nov 2020


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Collection Peek The MRAG Collection comprises more than 5,000 artworks by Australian and international artists, with a focus on works on paper.

In Focus Artist Derek Kreckler Artwork How to discipline a tree (detail) 1989 Compressed newspaper bricks Dimensions variable Donated under the Australian Government's Cultural Gifts Program by Derek Kreckler, 2019

Born in Sydney and based on the NSW South Coast, Derek Kreckler is an academic and conceptual artist, whose careers spans more than four decades. This installation, constructed of 1000 bricks made from compressed newspapers, is a meditative and timely work from a year, much like 2020, that is considered to have changed the world. Laid in a zigzag structure of receding walls,

representing the roots of a fig tree, it makes a powerful environmental statement about our throwaway culture of consumption; the bricks are made with just one month’s worth of newspapers from a single household in 1989. A wooden chair invites the audience to sit and reflect, yet with uncertainty about doing so for fear of the wall’s fragility. Words: Sally Denmead 28


Some of the artworks Andrew and Nicola saw on their tour included: Max Watters View over Glenbawn Road, 1976, oil on masonite, 79 x 110.5cm Rew Hanks Krefft’s Chair, 2012, linocut on paper, 102 x 76 cm Margaret Olley Bedroom Still Life, 1997, oil on board, 61 x 91cm

Member Tour

Andrew – The size, scope and incredibly varied nature of the Collection. It’s an amazing cultural asset for the entire community.

Collection Management Curator Cheryl Farrell recently took members Andrew and Nicola Neil on a guided tour of the MRAG Collection Store.

What has been one of your favourite exhibitions at MRAG so far?

What were you most interested in hearing about, or seeing, on your tour of the MRAG Collection Store?

Nicola – Despite being terrified of snakes I really enjoyed Teresa Purnell’s Snakeabout exhibition and her informative talks. My favourite would be Penelope Seidler’s Gift to Maitland – a wonderful and eclectic selection of works.

Nicola – I was just keen to get a look behind the scenes, see some pieces I hadn’t seen before and hear about future plans for the Gallery.

Andrew – Legacy: Reflections on Mabo was an incredibly powerful exhibition, and a great example of the high-quality touring exhibitions MRAG can attract.

Andrew – Seeing the huge body of work that isn’t out on public display, and learning more about how the Collection is managed, displayed and cared for. What, if anything, surprised you about the MRAG Collection?

Any MRAG Member who would like to experience a one hour private Collection Store tour, and would be happy to be featured on this page in a future issue of Artel, please email us at artelmagazine@ to register your interest. The Collection Store is also open to the public from time to time; check the MRAG website for dates.

Nicola – I was surprised that the storage facilities are so basic, considering the value of the Collection. I hope funding can be secured to upgrade the facilities soon. 29

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Social Gallery MRAG encourages people of all ages to come together and enjoy art.

MRAG's bustling Autumn Season Celebration, 29 Feb 2020 (prior to COVID-19)



Georgia Hill painting her mural You can come back at the MRAG entrance, July 2020

MRAGM Chairperson Sui-Linn White enjoying the colourful Tiger Palpatja exhibition, June 2020

Anna Buxton-Soldal filming an MRAG Collection sneak peek for #MRAGhomedelivery Marnie Petherbridge (4) explores Box City in Helen Hopcroft's exhibition The Re-Enchantment, July 2020 Photo: Matt Petherbridge

MRAG Director Gerry Bobsien with Helen Hopcroft's Box City 31

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Art About Town A snapshot of arts activity happening around the Maitland community.


Black and White bustle in the Gallery for the opening of Grogan’s exhibition, as part of MRAG’s Autumn Season Celebration, its public display was literally cut short, but we are thrilled to have his quilt The Shroud (2016) now as part of the permanent Collection. Don’t forget to look up by day and especially by night, at Nell’s Made in the light – Happy Cloud and Drips neon installation on the other side of the MRAG building, which has become a well-loved part of the City scape and gained additional meaning since COVID-19.

From Sydney to Paris to Delhi, and now to Maitland, comes internationally acclaimed Australian multidisciplinary artist Georgia Hill. Hill is the latest artist to grace this (little) City with a largescale mural. Painted on the exterior wall at the entrance to MRAG, you’ll be dazzled by her bold black and white pattern-based composition. As you walk, hop, scoot, cycle or drive along Maitland’s High Street past MRAG, look up and enjoy, and perhaps also be reminded of Maitland-born Lucas Grogan’s blue and white murals, which were painted on the ground floor and walls of MRAG for his exhibition Long Story Short before lockdown. After the




Walls That Talk


Maitland City Council’s Place Activation program continues to support creative projects as part of Council’s COVID-19 Response and Recovery. The latest exhibition of Walls That Talk, which transforms the front wall of Maitland City Library into a public gallery, is Pandemical Habits, a creative project by Grace Barnes telling the stories of nine Maitland locals who formed a healthy habit during isolation. Grace has a design background and received grant funding for the project through Council’s Quick Response Creative Streets program. Grace has teamed up with photographer Jedd Cranfield to develop a video and imagery to accompany each #pandemicalhabits story. On display from the end of August until the end of October 2020, but you can view current and previous Walls That Talk exhibitions anytime on the Maitland Libraries website.

Also keep an eye out for ISO-MOOD, an interactive, kinetic sculpture that will be on display at the Bolt Gallery at 395 High Street, Maitland from September 2020. The sculpture, representing a pixel, will keep changing with data provided by community members that displays their mood through colour and intensity. The inspiration for the project has been the importance of screens throughout self-isolation, whether for keeping in touch with friends and family, watching a performance online or playing a games console for entertainment. The project is the work of Stevi Cannon and Peter Sesselmann, who were also recipients of Quick Response Creative Streets funding. 395 High Street, Maitland IMAGES

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Georgia Hill, You can come back. This striking mural is the latest to transform the entrance to MRAG. Walls That Talk is a series of exhibitions transforming the front of Maitland City Library into a public gallery. Pets of Maitland, which was on display until mid-2020, featured nine local pets that have provided love, solace, and company to Maitland residents during the COVID-19 pandemic. Image courtesy Maitland City Council

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Inspired! Maitland writer and artist Matt Petherbridge and his daughters were thrilled to return to MRAG when it reopened in June and were inspired by the exhibitions Safe Space and The Re-Enchantment. It was really special to be back in MRAG after the COVID-19 lockdown. My daughters Marnie (4) and Blair (1) absolutely love the Gallery and it’s a real delight to see their relationship with art, their perceptions and reactions, grow and change. Marnie’s visceral and unmitigated reactions are priceless. I wrote a poem about her reaction to Alex Seton’s three-dimensional artwork Someone Else’s Problem on display in Safe Space Contemporary Sculpture. It’s part of a poetry series I’ve been writing called COVID-19 Metamorphosis, which is my poetic response to the pandemic, the ensuing months of protests, worldwide uncertainty and unrest. The series freeze frames on the most important things in our lives at this time, our families and our sacred spaces.

Alex Seton, Someone Else’s Problem, 2015, marble dust, resin, Tasmanian oak, stainless steel, dimensions variable

We also recently had the time and space for the girls to make their own ‘Box City’, as part of Helen Hopcroft’s exhibition The Re-Enchantment. If there was ever an antidote to the pandemic, of children being banned from playgrounds, it is an interactive, imaginative space such as this.

Steam pillowing out from under the door knees knock before the quarantine airlock The nervous toe tap, awaiting the unlatch We’re back!!! Rush of blood, into open space Through the foyer like The Flash A monolithic cavalcade of oars! WOWWWWW… Awesome An incredulous outpouring of joy Exalted return to what we loved before The COVID-19 metamorphosis

In each issue of Artel we share a member’s creative response to an artwork on display at MRAG. So, if an artwork inspires you to get creative – whether it be to write, cook, dance or sing – we’d love to hear about it! Please contact us at 34

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