Artel #6 ~ MRAG Members' Magazine (Spring/Summer 2021 - 22)

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B IAN N UAL #6 - S P R I NG/ SU M M ER 2 0 2 1 ― 2 2

$4 | Free for Members

The Archibald Prize comes to Maitland

“I think it's extraordinary, to live on this planet for 100 years and still have a sense of purpose, curiosity.” ― PE TER W EG NER , W INNER OF THE 2021 A RCHIB A LD PRIZE ON HIS SUB JEC T, A R TIS T GU Y WA RREN

HAPPY 100TH BIRTHDAY TO THE ARCHIES AND GUY WARREN Sydney-based artist Guy Warren was born in Goulburn in 1921, the same year as the inaugural Archibald Prize. He started his working life at The Bulletin, the magazine founded by J.F. Archibald, whose bequest established the prize. Warren himself won the Archibald in 1985 with a portrait of artist Bert Flugelman, which was included in the Archie 100 exhibition at the Art Gallery of New South Wales. Warren had been painted for the Archibald five times before Peter Wegner’s winning portrait of him, and had also entered a self-portrait, making him one of the most frequently seen sitters in the history of the prize.




Maitland Regional Art Gallery

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.

Gallery & Shop Tues-Sun 10am-5pm 230 High Street, Maitland NSW 2320 02 4934 9859

Represented by volunteers on the MRAGM Committee, elected annually.

Contents Dear Readers


Exhibitions 6 Feature Story


Creative Kids


News for Members


Meet a Member


Meet the Maker


Art & Community


Meet an Artist


Collection Peek


Social Gallery


Art About Town


Inspired! 34

Cover Image Winner of The Archibald Prize 2021 Peter Wegner, Portrait of Guy Warren at 100, 2021, oil on canvas, 120.5 x 151.5 cm © the artist Photo: AGNSW, Jenni Carter

Quote Peter Wegner quoted on facing page from ABC Arts story by Dee Jefferson posted online 4 June 2021 -prize-winner-peter-wegner-guy-warren/100188212

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MRAGM Committee Chairperson Sui-Linn White Vice Chairperson Holly Fisher Bidwell Council Representative Cr Ben Whiting Treasurer & Secretary James Marshall

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.

Membership Coordinator Michaela Swan Magazine Secretary Sally Denmead Events Coordinator Leah Riches General Committee Members Sarah Crawford, Liz O’Brien, Catherine Kingsmill, Jannette Rush Gallery Director Gerry Bobsien The Committee wishes to gratefully acknowledge the support of Patron Jenny Aitchison MP. Artel is produced by MRAGM volunteers and MRAG staff. Available from the Gallery Shop Read online Original Layout Jaime Pritchard

Look Out!

Issue Designer Clare Hodgins Advertising enquiries Printed by WHO Printing


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.

Celeste Aldahn, Joanna Bartels, Kim Blunt, Gerry Bobsien, Sally Denmead, Cheryl Farrell, Joey Hespe, Jenny Hunter, Anne McLaughlin, Linden Pomare, Maree Skene, Vanessa Turton and Janis Wilton. 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

See page 23 for artwork details.

the accuracy of information and to secure copyright permissions, we apologise for any oversights, which we will correct in future issues. Maitland Regional Art Gallery gratefully acknowledges the support of:

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



Message from the Gallery The past six months flew by at the Gallery. Many of you joined us as we celebrated the launch of our major exhibition, Shadow Boxer and took part in Free Art Sunday, artist led workshops and our education programs. We are now gearing up for the next six months with a host of exhibitions that will knock your socks off.

Dear Readers

In September, we open A Conspicuous Object, where art meets history as we explore the personal and public stories of the Maitland Hospital. We present two exhibitions that tackle environmental crisis by responding to the 2019/2020 bushfires, with a very personal solo exhibition by artist Fiona Lee and a cheeky and powerful response by 27 leading Australian artists in Bushfire Brandalism. Our upstairs gallery will be heaving with the work of over 50 of Australia’s leading artists – the glittering alumni of the National Art School - and join us as we wonder at the masterful set design of artist and filmmaker Daniel Agdad who will recreate the set of his art deco post-industrial inspired world.

Welcome to the Spring/Summer edition of Artel! Visiting MRAG with children recently reminded me of the importance of questioning how we know what we know, and the role of art in challenging us to think in new ways and spark unexpected conversations – as we wonder at how and why an artwork has come to be. Having that opportunity at our doorstep is something I truly value. I’m beyond excited about the conversations and wonder that the Spring/Summer exhibition program will inspire and hope that you are too.

While we’ve had to change, shift or cancel some of our programs recently, we hope to keep offering our workshops over the coming months. We extend our support and thoughts to all artists doing it tough at this time.

As part of the MRAG Member community we can look forward to enjoying the seasons’ program of special member events, discounts on tickets, workshops and artist talks. See you there! Sui-Linn White Chairperson, MRAGM Committee

The MRAG team


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Exhibitions Join in the excitement as we welcome The Archibald Prize to MRAG! From portraiture to climate activism and local history, there’s plenty to entice, inspire and challenge you in our Spring and Summer program.

A Conspicous Object: The Maitland Hospital

Linda Greedy, Instruments, 2021, oil on timber panel, 30 x 30 cm.

Built on Wonnarua land in the 1840s, The Maitland Hospital is a layered place – a patchwork of buildings and corridors imbued with the fears and hopes of a community over 170 years. A Conspicuous Object – The Maitland Hospital taps into these layers, with nine artists invited to respond to stories that capture a diversity of experiences, people and places from the hospital’s history. The exhibition highlights the ways art, history and health can intertwine to tell stories, invite reflection, and engage community memories. Presented by MRAG in partnership with Hunter New England Local Health District (HNELHD) and Health Infrastructure (HI).

16 Oct 2021 – 6 Feb 2022



Operation Art Each year the Operation Art program provides an opportunity for schools and students to demonstrate their visual arts achievements across various venues and regional galleries in New South Wales. An initiative of The Children’s Hospital at Westmead in association with the NSW Department of Education.

4 Sep – 7 Nov 2021 Emily Keith, Origami Girl (detail), 2020, digital photograph on paper, 63 x 48cm, Kiama High School

National Art (Part One) National Art – Part One is a dynamic selection of both recent and early formative work by fifty of Australia’s leading artists, all of whom studied at the National Art School in Sydney. The exhibition celebrates the approaching 100-year anniversary of NAS (1922-2022). Touring from the National Art School

18 Sept 2021 – 16 Jan 2022

Guy Maestri, Innocent X, 2017, painted bronze, 66 x 46 x 26cm. Donated to the National Art School Collection by the artist in 2018 through the Australian Government’s Cultural Gifts Program © the artist

Bushfire Brandalism In February 2020, 41 artists took to the streets across three Australian cities for the nation’s largest unsanctioned art campaign, #BushfireBrandalism. This exhibition shows a selection of posters created by the artists as a direct response to the catastrophic bushfires of 2019/2020. 2 Oct – 28 Nov 2021 Kirsten Browning, Caramello Dodo (detail), 2020, digital print on paper, 205 x 138cm 7

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Fiona Lee | Unpreparable Artist and climate change activist Fiona Lee lost her family home and studio near Taree to the catastrophic bushfires in November 2019. In this exhibition – a very personal, raw and challenging response to the climate crisis – Lee has shaped works from her home’s scorched remains. 2 Oct – 28 Nov 2021 Fiona Lee, Unpreparable (installation detail), 2020, polyester, resin, ash from the bedroom of the artist’s child, fire damaged children’s shorts, pegs, clothesline, wood. Dimensions variable.

Neridah Stockley | Hermannsburg and Paint Neridah Stockley is a multi-disciplinary artist based in Alice Springs. Her work for this exhibition responds to Hermannsburg, a unique cross-cultural heritage site in central Australia where Lutheran Mission activity in the 1930s intersects with The Hermannsburg School of watercolour painting made famous by Albert Namatjira. Neridah Stockley is represented by Michael Reid Gallery

13 Nov 2021 – 27 Feb 2022

Neridah Stockley, Hermannsburg (detail), 2019, oil on paper, 76 × 56cm

Daniel Agdag | Lost Property Office: The Exhibition A behind-the-scenes insight into the creation of stop-motion short film Lost Property Office. The art deco, post-industrial inspired world of the film was created by artist and filmmaker Daniel Agdag from 2500 sheets of cardboard. The exhibition includes time-lapse footage and a cardboard set installation. 27 Nov 2021 – 20 Feb 2022

Daniel Agdag working on Lost Property Office, 2017 8


Tim Andrew, High Court Judges Wall (detail), 2019, black toner on 100gsm stock, crayons, public participants. Dimensions variable. Digital draft courtesy of the artist.

Archibald Prize 2021 finalist, Mirra Whale, Repose, oil on linen, 90.1 x 110.2 cm. Photo: AGNSW, Jenni Carter, Sitter: Ben Quilty

Storylines | Curated by Todd Fuller and Lisa Woolfe

Archibald Prize 2021 The Archibald Prize 2021 is coming to MRAG! First awarded in 1921, The Archibald is the country’s favourite art award, and one of its most prestigious, showcasing a who’s who of Australian culture through portrait painting. This touring exhibition includes all 52 finalists.

An exhibition of work by contemporary Australian artists who use drawing to dissect the accepted historical timeline of our country. Drawing, by its very nature, comprises erasure and correction, and the artists in Storylines use these actions in their work to challenge accepted understandings of Australian history.

Touring from the Art Gallery of New South Wales

22 Jan – 6 Mar 2022

4 Dec 2021 – 27 Feb 2022

Noŋggirrŋa Marawili 19 Feb - 14 Aug 2022

Speaking with Colour | Maitland Cultural Resurgence 12 March - 22 May 2022

Alysha Fewster | Of This Place 26 Feb - 5 June 2022

Dani Marti | Oh Canola! 5 Mar - 29 May 2022 Dani Marti, Oh Canola! (detail), 2021, customised corner cube reflectors on aluminium, 281 x 1160cm 9

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A Conspicuous Object


In 1849 The Maitland Mercury described the newly opened Maitland Hospital as ‘a conspicuous object’. Located on Campbell’s Hill, the front of the building faced towards town across the Mount Pleasant floodplain. Now, more than 170 years on – and imbued with a layered history – the time has come for a new Maitland Hospital to open to serve the needs of a growing community.

Health Infrastructure and Maitland City Council. The main objective of Collected Memory is to connect the Maitland community with the new hospital by realising a variety of heritage items and artworks in the public spaces of the new hospital. Art, history and health intertwine in the objects and works going on display, which aim to invite reflection and evoke community memories.

As part of the transition from the old to the new site in Metford in early 2022, and as an acknowledgment of the important role The Maitland Hospital has played in the local community through its history, the Collected Memory Project was initiated as a partnership between Hunter New England Local Health District,

Curated by Emeritus Cultural Director Joe Eisenberg, Collection Curator Cheryl Farrell, and historian Janis Wilton, the exhibition at MRAG, A Conspicuous Object – The Maitland Hospital, and its website ( are companions to the Collected Memory Project. For the exhibition, 10


ten contemporary artists respond to stories and memories shared by staff, volunteers, patients and community members. Some of these stories are available on the website, where you can also share your memories of the hospital. Among the artists in the exhibition is contemporary printmaker, painter, sculptor and graphic artist, G.W. Bot, who creates her own signs, which she calls glyphs, to capture her close, personal relationship with the landscape. For A Conspicuous Object, she focused on the hospital’s gardens. “Gardens,” Bot says, “symbolise many things to different cultures. Upon entering a garden one encounters different pathways of meaning.” In relation to the hospital’s gardens, Bot reflects, “Since [its] establishment ... the gardens have always been a part of the hospital in some shape or form, sometimes well looked after, sometimes neglected. A garden needs a gardener in the same way that a medical doctor is needed to tend the medical care of a patient.” Artist Susan O’Doherty draws upon recycled everyday materials to create assemblages, collages, paintings, and sculptures, offering provocative commentary on gender, consumerism, violence, memory and history. For A Conspicuous Object, she created a series of soft sculptures representing the various occupations available to women at The Maitland Hospital over time, such as ‘Maternity Nurse’.

“Raised on a textile mount, a white cane pram represents the maternity nurses and the women who have given birth at The Maitland Hospital from its very beginning. Linking the decades, the late nineteenth century castor oil bottles and midtwentieth century half pint milk bottles symbolise both motherhood and the care and support given by nurses and midwives at the hospital in the journey from pregnancy to birth and postnatal care.” Anita Johnson works with familiar objects and language to elicit feelings of longing and memories of place. For the exhibition she has transformed salvaged broken objects into artworks that explore experiences of separation and union, illness and repair. “I am interested in alternative understandings of repair as opposed to restoration to former wholeness and utility. I like to play with the curious suggestion that objects could be imagined as having parallel lives and hardships to our own. I repair them into new autonomous objects, free to leap across the room, to play, to retaliate, to be other than they are expected to be, to go beyond their objecthood.” Words: Janis Wilton, Exhibition Curator A Conspicuous Object – The Maitland Hospital is showing from 16 October 2021 – 6 February 2022. Visit the website, and share your story, at The exhibition and website are presented by Maitland Regional Art Gallery in partnership with Hunter New England Local Health District and Health Infrastructure. IMAGE

1 Val Anderson, Maitland Hospital building 1849, 1992, drawing


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When The Archibald Prize comes to town It’s a grand occasion when The Archibald – the most popular and prestigious annual prize for portrait painting in Australia – comes to town. When MRAG hosts the touring 2021 Archibald Prize exhibition in early 2022, it will be just the third time in its 100-year history it has been shown in Maitland. It being the 100th birthday of The Archibald makes it even more of an occasion.


As always, a who’s who of Australian culture is represented in the 2021 exhibition. Sitters include actress Rachel Griffiths, who hosted the 3-part ABC documentary Finding the Archibald; Dhungutti artist Blak Douglas, whose work was included in MRAG’s recent exhibition, Shadow Boxer; 2021 Australian of the Year Grace Tame; and broadcaster Kerry O’Brien. All 52 finalists will be shown, including, of course, the winning portrait by Peter Wegner of 100-year-old-artist Guy Warren.

As we prepare to welcome the Archibald back to Maitland, and to join in the excitement of the centenary celebrations, we thought we’d share with you some of MRAG’s own connections to the Prize. One of the earliest artworks acquired into the MRAG Collection, the painting J.W.A. Smith (a portrait of the artist's father) by Joshua Smith, was a finalist in the 1937 Archibald Prize. Joshua Smith’s name might be familiar to you 13


as the subject of the controversial 1943 Archibald-winning painting by William Dobell. The question of whether Dobell’s painting of Smith was a caricature or a portrait rendered both the painting, and the sitter, at the mercy of THAT court case in Sydney in 1944.

of Penelope Seidler AM, who has many links to Maitland and made a major gift to the MRAG Collection in 2019. Her bequest was celebrated in the MRAG exhibition Unfolding Time: Penelope Seidler’s Gift to Maitland.

The winner of the 2021 Archibald Prize is painter Peter Wegner’s portrait of artist Guy The next year, in 1938, 28-year-old Nora Warren who, fittingly, also turned 100 this Heysen was the first woman and, at the year. Warren himself won the Archibald in 1995 with his portrait of sculptor and friend time, the youngest artist, to win the Burt Flugelman (Flugelman with Wingman). Archibald.1 Fellow artist Max Meldrum MRAG has had the pleasure of hosting at the time was scathing of Heysen’s success and declared, “If I were a woman, Guy Warren on a couple of occasions to officiate at events, and the MRAG Collection I would certainly prefer a healthy includes several works by Warren – such as family to a career in art”.2 The work of Heyson, along with that of other female Wingman as Icarus – with motifs that echo his Archibald-winning work. artists to win The Archibald – including Wendy Sharpe and Judy Cassab – is well We hope you enjoy reflecting on stories represented in the MRAG Collection. from the history of the Prize, and perhaps Eighty years on and for the first time uncover more, as you take in the portraits there is gender parity for artists in the 2021 Archibald. selected in the 2021 Archibald. Artist Mitch Cairns’ portrait of art collector and philanthropist Reg Richardson AM was a finalist in the Archibald in 2014, the last time MRAG hosted the exhibition. Both Cairns and Richardson, a long-time supporter of MRAG, attended the opening celebrations. Richardson has loaned numerous artworks from his private collection to MRAG for exhibitions over the years, and Cairns’ portrait of Richardson was later acquired by the National Portrait Gallery. Cairns went on to win the Archibald Prize in 2017 with his portrait of fellow artist and life partner Agatha Gothe-Snape. The Archibald-winning portrait in 2014, incidentally, was Fiona Lowry’s painting

Words: Kim Blunt, Senior Curator

The 2021 Archibald Prize, touring from The Art Gallery of New South Wales, will be showing at MRAG from 22 January to 6 March 2022.


1 2 accessed 4 July 2021 accessed 6 July 2021


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Wendy Sharpe, Self portrait, 1988, mixed media on paper 49 x 39.5cm, Donated through the Australian Government's Cultural Gifts Program by Robin Gurr, 2012, Maitland Regional Art Gallery Collection. A portrait of Wendy by Dagmar Cyrulla was a finalist in the 2021 Archibald. Joshua Smith, J.W.A. Smith [portrait of his father], 1937 oil on canvas, 122 x 77 cm, Gift of Yve Close, 1999, Maitland Regional Art Gallery Collection

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Creative Kids From artist-led workshops in Free Art Sunday to self-directed art trails, MRAG offers a dynamic creative program for kids and their families.

Kenzi Halford (aged 9)

“One of these is two different drawings of my dog Mr Rooben. He is getting old now. The other one is a picture of a Unicorn Kitty – I have been practising drawing cartoon style.” Kenzi has been a regular visitor to MRAG since she was four. Codebreakers and Free Art Sunday are her favourite things to do at the Gallery. Over the Winter school holidays, Kenzi completed the Shadow Boxer art trail and enjoyed creating her own ‘Local Legend’ badge. (“Pick something unique that makes you legendary and create your own badge for your fans”.)

Free Art Sunday is the Gallery’s flagship program for creative children and their families, led by MRAG Art Tutors with all materials included. On every Sunday 10.30am – 12.30pm. Bookings required. Look out for our new art trail accompanying the exhibition A Conspicuous Object – The Maitland Hospital.

Kenzi is also creative at home and collaborates with her friends to make artworks inspired by the app Roblox and other things they are interested in.

Free Art Sunday is supported by MRAG Members and CleverPatch.


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


Digital Collections

MAPDA Winners

The Gallery is collaborating across Maitland City Council with Maitland Libraries, Maitland Gaol, and the Morpeth Museum on a Digital Collections project, which will see a digital hub established and the complete digitisation of the Council's cultural collections. This multi-year project, supported by a $478,000 Create NSW grant, will make Maitland’s art and history accessible to audiences everywhere.

At the Museums Australasia Multimedia & Publication Design Awards in June 2021, the Gallery took out the award for best Children’s e-Activities, for the ‘MRAG Home Delivery’ videos created during our closure. We also received an award for best Exhibition Branding Package, for designer Clare Hodgins’ collaboration with artist Lucas Grogan on his 2020 exhibition Long Story Short. The judges commented on the artwork “excellent collaboration between the artist and the designer which amplified the graphic nature of the artwork.”


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Detail from Long Story Short exhibition catalogue, available for $25 in the Gallery Shop or on the MRAG website. (L to R) Clare Weeks, Jenni Nichols (The Hunter Artisan Gallery) and Fiona Lee. Lionel Lindsay, Hornbill, 1932, Wood engraving, printed in black ink on paper, 14 x 14cm, The MRAG Collection. 16



MRAGM Bursary Winners 3

After assessing over 60 applications, the MRAG Members Committee announced the beneficiaries of its Artist Bursary initiative in May 2021. Clare Weeks and Fiona Lee received the $5,000 artist bursary; The Hunter Artisan Gallery, an artist collective in East Maitland, received a $3,000 bursary towards a program of inclusive workshops; and Jakeob Watson was granted $1,000 in project support.

Lionel on Tour! The MRAG touring exhibition Lionel’s Place consists of more than 130 Lionel Lindsay artworks from the Maitland Regional Art Gallery Collection, featuring examples of Lindsay’s finest etchings, wood engravings and watercolours. These works on paper are rich in visual texture, and depict scenes from abroad and closer to home, exotic and domestic animals and birds, the lushness of gardens, floral abundance and portraiture.

Upcoming dates: Manning Regional Art Gallery Taree, New South Wales 14 October – 28 November 2021

A Month of Free Art Fun Free Art January returns in 2022 with a month of engaging and educational talks, tours and activities for visitors of all ages. Enjoy drop-in workshops, artist-led labs, curatorial and Collection insights, and oneoff performances – for free! All welcome. Bookings open in December 2021.

Banana Shire Regional Art Gallery Biloela, Queensland 13 December 2021 – 28 February 2022


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Meet a Member Joey & Daniel Hespe, Maitland Members since 2021

Tell us a little about yourselves and how you came to live in the Maitland area.

We’d both always felt a strong connection to the Hunter region and have familial links to the area. Daniel is maternally related to a pioneer of the Hunter, Thomas Adam (who Adamstown is named after), and my 5 x Great Grandfather was Chief Constable of Maitland Mounted Police in the late nineteenth century. I’m certain there are some distant relatives floating around Maitland that I have yet to meet! We feel so lucky to be able to raise our daughter in such a beautiful place surrounded by a wonderful community.

My husband, Daniel, and I both spent our formative years by the ocean in Sydney. We’d been dreaming of a tree change and moving out of the city for a few years however, due to work commitments, it wasn’t a reality for us. The silver lining of the pandemic meant that Daniel was able to pivot his construction business and work predominantly from home. Falling pregnant with our daughter at the beginning of 2020 was the catalyst we needed to move. 18


What inspired you to join the MRAG Members community?

chat at events, I always made time to make members feel special.

For me, art has and always will be something I value – socially, culturally and emotionally. I think it’s natural to want to support a cause that’s so inherent to my philosophy. Understanding that regional galleries are so important to the cultural fabric of the areas they exist in, but also that gallery membership is integral to the endurance of culture in a small community, it was an easy decision to become an MRAG member.

Do you have a highlight from your career to date? I have two… being in the room to watch the Archibald, Wynne and Sulman Prizes awarded to winners in 2018 and 2019, and in 2018 I was awarded an Art Gallery of NSW staff scholarship, which allowed me to attend the World Federation of Friends of Museums (WFFM) general assembly in Montreal in 2019. I met international colleagues, visited cultural and historic institutions, and was part of a panel discussion on future proofing membership organisations in the arts.

In your previous role at the Art Gallery Society of NSW, what were some of the ways you made Members feel special?

You’re now working as a writer and creative? Could you recommend a good book?

Years before I was employed by the Art Gallery Society, I was an active and involved member of the Gallery. I got so much out of being a member that I went on to volunteer with the Young Members events program (targeted to young professionals) and then sat on the Young Members Committee as Volunteer Coordinator.

I tend to have a few different books on the go at the one time. I have a real weakness for historical fiction and recently finished William Boyd’s Love is Blind. I’ve just started The Missing Sister, which is book seven of Lucinda Riley’s The Seven Sisters books. I’m also reading Erin Lovell Verinder’s Plants for the People, which was a gift from Daniel from the Gallery Shop at MRAG.

Before working for the Art Gallery Society, I saw the Art Gallery of NSW as being an impenetrable fortress, a well-oiled machine with staff hidden away behind inaccessible wings of the building. I wanted each visitor to feel as though the Gallery was theirs, so I strove to create transparency between the Gallery and members and provide a space for them to feel welcome. If that meant making time for a cuppa in the members lounge or a friendly


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Meet the Maker Gallery Officer Jenny Hunter visits ceramicist Lyndel Henry of Henry & Tunks at her studio in Rutherford. in the School of Architecture for ten years. I still think of myself as a designer rather than an artist. How would you describe your work’s aesthetic? I’d call it soft minimalism: muted colours, clean outlines, no unnecessary ornamentation. What inspires you when you create new pieces? Sometimes it’s about what I need or would like to have. But I also talk to customers at markets; their requests for certain things may influence what I produce. I try not to look too much at other people’s work as I don’t want to feel like I am copying anything, but I do spend ages on Instagram looking at textures, shapes and details – such as in fabrics, architecture or organic forms – for inspiration.

Can you tell me a little bit about your creative journey and how your interest in ceramics came about?

Where does ‘Tunks’ come from in your brand name?

Sure! I became interested in ceramics at quite a young age and chose it as a subject in high school. After school I did admin at TAFE but soon realised I didn’t want to work in an office, so I completed Advanced Diplomas in both Fine Arts and Ceramics. I then did a four-year Industrial Design degree, after which I worked as an Industrial Design lecturer

No one has really asked me that before! Olga Tunks was my father’s mother. I spent a lot of time with her as a child; she was a strong and capable woman who told me stories and encouraged my creativity, and even let me clear out part of her shed so I could make my first studio. 20


5 essential Christmas gifts from MRAG Spoil someone special with a unique artisan gift from the Gallery Shop. 1. A timber board (below), handcrafted in the Hunter Valley by Joel and Matt from The Woodshed from $60 2. An exquisite leather handbag (below), made in Maitland by artisans Bob and Annie Dennerley of Dennerley Leather Designs RRP $95

How have you adapted to cope with the challenges of the Covid-19 pandemic? I was actually busier than ever during 2020; the wholesale-side of my business trebled! Lockdown also pushed me to finally buy a 3D printer, which allows for great design accuracy and the addition of certain details. It isn’t quicker but is a lot less messy than carving an initial form out of plaster!

3. A unique silver piece (middle), inspired by the beauty of nature, by contemporary jeweller and artist Amanda Charge from $165 4. A luxurious silk and cotton handwoven wrap (below), dyed and painted by textile artist Ellen Howell RRP $155

Do you have plans for any new directions in the near future?

5. A simple and functional planter (left), designed with longevity in mind, by Lyndel of Henry & Tunks from $170

I’d like to focus more on architectural pieces rather than small homewares, which were ideal when I was starting out and going to markets, and I’d like to do more ‘investment pieces’ for interior design work. I’m also exploring more environmentally friendly ways of producing my work. A selection of Henry & Tunks ceramics is stocked in the Gallery Shop



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Art & Community

Local primary school students recently teamed up with architects to co-design a welcome space for First Nations peoples in the MRAG grounds. Indigenous students from six local primary schools recently had the opportunity to work with architecture students from the University of Newcastle to co-design a First Nations landscape space for the Gallery grounds. This community project, generously funded by Rotary Sunrise and the University of Newcastle, forms part of the Gallery’s objectives over the next five years for inclusive programs and infrastructure.

by their teachers and collaborated with a team of architecture students for over a week in the MRAG workshop spaces and adjoining garden. The students engaged in storytelling, shared ideas about what makes a place special, made dioramas, gathered objects, and explored the Gallery’s garden space. They then developed concept plans and small-scale models, some of which incorporated bush tucker, landscaping structures and the use of beautiful natural materials, as part of the lead-up to making larger models on-site.

The first phase of this project was led by Professor SueAnne Ware, Head of the School of Architecture at the University of Newcastle. Students from each school’s Aboriginal Education Consultative Group were accompanied

An open day was held following this codesign process, with visitors – including architects, landscape contractors and community guests – invited to view the 22


concept plans and models. The designs will be refined and presented to the Gallery and Council for development and construction, with the aim of MRAG having a beautiful new welcoming space on its grounds in early 2022. One Year 4 student who participated in the co-design process said afterwards, “I have loved being involved in designing a garden and doing lots of painting.” A Year 5 student said, “It will be great when visitors come to the Gallery and see what we have been working on.” For the architecture students, it represented an opportunity to further develop important career skills and knowledge – around cultural awareness, communication and collaboration – as they contribute to the redesign of a public space.

Professor Sue Anne Ware is Head of the School of Architecture at the University of Newcastle and an active MRAG member! She has worked with us as a collaborator on the garden co-design project for the past 12 months ensuring strong engagement between architecture students and community. Sue Anne is a landscape architect with a design practice that explores catalysts for social change. She is a co-founder of out(fit), an all-female collective of design practitioners and student volunteers providing design services for women’s domestic violence refuges, underfunded schools for students with special needs, and Indigenous Community Centres. She believes that landscape architects share a responsibility for exploring social agendas in public spaces.

This is one of several projects in MRAG’s 5-year plan to better engage Indigenous peoples with the Gallery and is informed by The Australian Museums and Galleries Association's ‘First Nations Roadmap’, an important guide for developing more culturally inclusive museums and galleries. An important step in this process is to create a welcoming space such as the one you will see at MRAG in 2022. Keep an eye on the MRAG website for project updates.

Look Out!

Words: Anne McLaughlin, Learning and Audience Development Curator

MRAG Collection artworks featured in this issue Contents page Peter Kingston, untitled, 2004, paint on plaster, 32 x 26 x 6cm. Pg 4 Anne Ross, I am a fan, 1993, Bronze. Pg 5 Braddon Snape, Large device for a yet to be assigned purpose, 2016, Welded, painted and inflated steel. Pg 17 Paul Selwood, Points of Possible Surety, 2003, painted steel. Pg 19 Mark Aylward, Magpies, 2013 stencilled hand-cut mild steel plate, installation detail*


University of Newcastle and local Indigenous students shared their ideas for a co-design garden project at Maitland Regional Art Gallery, July 2021. Image Leighsa Cox.

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


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Meet an Artist


Fiona Lee was a recipient of the MRAGM 2021 Artist Bursary. Her practice is multi-disciplinary, spanning sculpture, installation, video and photography. Most recently, her work has been fuelled by the devastating 2019 bushfires, in which she lost her family home north of Taree. By the time Fiona graduated in Fine Art from The University of Newcastle in 2011, she had begun to question whether art could affect change. “I really questioned my voice in art,” Fiona says, “and I think that is ultimately why I stopped making.” In an effort to directly express her political concerns, she chose to dedicate her time to environmental activism.

During her time away from Newcastle, Fiona met her partner and began building a home together near Taree. Over many years, they realised a long-held dream for a sustainable home, and also started a family, welcoming a daughter into the world. In 2019, when bushfires were raging across the east coast of Australia, the 24


Fiona says this link has now been acknowledged and points to recent changes made by the State Government since the bushfires including a commitment for net zero emissions in NSW by 2050.

house in Warrawillah that Fiona and Aaron had worked so hard to craft was lost. Fiona saw a link between the prolonged drought, the consequential extreme fire event, and climate change. Just four days after losing their home, she arrived at NSW State Parliament with a bucket of ash and debris, dumping it at the gate and demanding the government acknowledge the link between the unprecedented fire storms, the resulting devastation, and climate change.

Her exhibition at MRAG, Unpreparable, was born from that first act at the gates of State Parliament. Over the next six months, as the rubble sat waiting for clean-up crews to gain access the property, Fiona’s art practice and her political voice became intertwined.

At the time, Fiona was frustrated by comments, including those made by the Deputy Prime Minister, who stated that connections between climate change and the bushfire crisis were the "ravings" of "pure, enlightened and woke capital city greenies.”

Sorting through the mess, she was driven by a desire to represent the elements that made life on their property possible. “Initially,” she explains, “I was choosing objects that spoke to the experience of living in the bush and living off-grid and being

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vulnerable to the elements. Items that spoke to survival [such as] water…we were living in drought the whole time we were there and having little to no water a lot of the time. It was so crucial to our survival so I was looking for themes of water, power, food and shelter.”

Fiona collected a large amount of burnt, singed, and melted items, like pieces of garden hose, pump fittings, clothing, car parts and tools. With this collection of charred remains, the family returned to Newcastle, where Fiona was welcomed back into an arts community peppered with familiar faces and old friends. Being awarded a Bushfire Artist in Residency studio at the Creator Incubator gave Fiona the space she needed to develop the works currently on display.

“I hope that my work can help others to grasp the existential threat of a heating world more fully and inspire action – as art can often say what words cannot.”

Over a year on, with Unpreparable complete and having actively worked her way through trauma, Fiona acknowledges that she underwent “intense exposure therapy in the studio … It has really made me understand,

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process and accept what has happened.” One piece in the exhibition is created from the disfigured remains of a bull bar. Another repurposes disaster-speak, using utilitarian water devices to form the words ‘Prepare, Act, Die.’ A blunt statement, offering a prophetic warning about climate change and the real impacts extreme weather events have on people’s lives. “I hope that my work can help others to grasp the existential threat of a heating world more fully and inspire action – as art can often say what words cannot,” Fiona says. “There have been so many positive opportunities that have come from the ashes.” Unpreparable is certainly one of them. Interview: Maree Skene, Gallery Officer Unpreparable by Fiona Lee is on exhibition at MRAG from 2 October – 28 November 2021. IMAGES

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Fiona Lee, Photo credit: Stuart Marlin Fiona Lee in her studio. Photographer: Michelle Gearin Fiona's studio wall at The Creator Incubator, 2020 Fiona Lee and her family at a rally on the steps of NSW Parliament where they dumped the ashes of their house and declared now was exactly the right time to talk about climate change. Photo credit: twitter. Fiona's artwork Present and Future Dystopia in progress, 2020.

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Collection Peek In May 2021, the inaugural ‘2320 Collectors Club’ event was held at MRAG, an evening during which participants donated funds for the acquisition of a new artwork into the MRAG Collection. The “Collectors” were presented with five artworks, selected by MRAG curators, one of which would be purchased after a vote.

New Acquisitions

The beautiful painting Warmurrungu by Western Desert artist Nyarapayi Giles was chosen after a tight vote. In this work Giles paints the tjukurrpa (stories) of Warmurrungu, a special ceremonial site near Karku (her birthplace), depicting the travels of emus of the Dreamtime and the rockholes at which they stopped.

Nyarapayi Giles, Warmurrungu

In an unexpected, but very delightful turn of events, two of the 2320 Collectors very generously made an extra donation so that the second most popular work of the night, Tumbling through treetops, by Sydney-based artist Tamara Dean, could also be acquired. During lockdown, Dean created a series of photographs using her own body as the figurative element within a natural landscape, at times appearing emboldened, as in this work, and in others appearing to flee from an invisible threat. This timely work reflects the duality of Dean’s psychological response to the pandemic, from claustrophobia and anxiety to a sense of release and connection to nature.

2015, Acrylic on canvas, 106.5 x 101cm Purchased for the MRAG Collection in 2021 with the assistance of the 2320 Collectors Club

Tamara Dean Tumbling through the treetops 2020, Eco-solvent pigment print, 110 x 160cm Purchased for the MRAG Collection in 2021 with the assistance of the 2320 Collectors Club

Words: Cheryl Farrell, Collection Curator 28


Jackie Gorring

Loft, c.1983 (not dated) Linocut on handmade paper, 17.5 x 13cm. Purchased for the MRAG Collection in 1985 with the assistance of the Art Gallery Society.

interest of print makers to control all aspects of a print’s production” (Newcastle Herald, 1985). I contacted Jackie, who now lives in country Victoria and regularly opens her ‘Palace of Wonder and Creative Abandon’ gallery to the public– to reflect on the work. Jackie says Loft refers to the barn her family had just built at Limeburners Creek and is a print of one of the kids’ beds in the loft. “I wanted a simple image to show off the paper,” she says, having been “heavily into making paper in those days”. Jackie made paper from recycled envelopes, newsprint, dried leaves and even (labour-intensive) from cumbungi reeds surrounding the dam at that time.

Member Sally Denmead invited Maitland-born artist Jackie Gorring to reflect on an artwork she created in the early 80s, which was acquired into the MRAG Collection.

Reflection I first came across Jackie Gorring’s work a couple of years ago, possibly in local artist Robyn Werkhoven’s Studio La Primitive Arts Zine and felt an immediate connection with it. Gorring makes large relief prints, stamping textured images of odd bod characters, animals and farmyard objects from Styrofoam into curious assemblages.

Jackie says she shifted from using lino in the 90s, when she started experimenting with printing from Styrofoam; “I loved the immediate quality and the ease, texture and spontaneity [it] gave me,” she says, and she still does. Aside from big bold prints, Jackie made many sculptures during lockdown inspired by local identities and animals around her.

I noticed that Jackie was born in Maitland (in 1953) and wondered if any of her work was in the MRAG Collection. Happily – yes! Loft, a small linocut on handmade paper, was acquired into the Collection after being commended in the Maitland Art Prize in 1985. Roger Butler, then Curator at the NGA, described it as an “exquisite” linocut, which at the time reflected “a growing

The MRAG Collection comprises more than 6000 paintings, drawings, sculptures, photographs and limited edition prints, by Australian and international artists. Visit to find out more. 29

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Social Gallery Winter Season Celebration In June, we celebrated the launch of four new exhibitions including group shows Shadow Boxer, Just Not Australian, and Barka: The Forgotten River, by Badger Bates, Justine Muller and the Wilcannia community; solo exhibition Impressions of a Journey: Landscapes Between Walcha and Paterson by Paula Jenkins; and displays Wonnarua by Ryan Lee and Marge’s Story by Aunty Marge Weastell.

The event included music by the Illume Girls and performances and talks by artist Blak Douglas and Chad Ritchie Sands, grandson of legendary boxer Dave Sands.



Panel discussion Chaired by artist and boxer Abdul Abdullah and featuring artists Karla Dickens, Blak Douglas, Richard Lewer and boxer Bianca ‘Bam Bam’ Elmir, this panel discussion contemplated the entanglement of boxing and art, and considered how contemporary artists negotiate history, culture, gender, physicality and folklore in their work. IMAGES: RENAE SAXBY


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


Artist Collective

previous business, The Old George and Dragon Restaurant, put the building up for sale and started a Diploma of Visual Arts at Newcastle Art School in mid2017. Some months later, inspired by conversations with fellow art students (and with the building still not sold), Jenni decided to launch an art collective gallery “to give up and coming artists their first step on the ladder.”

The Hunter Artisan Gallery & Café in East Maitland was awarded the MRAGM Artist Bursary (for an artist collective) in mid-2021 in support of its ongoing contribution to the local creative community. The hard worker at the helm of the collective is Jenni Nichols, self-described “Owner, Curator, Artist, Chief Cook & Bottlewasher”, who launched the Gallery in late 2017.

She established a program of solo exhibitions with 3-week runs, group exhibitions, regular art classes, and workshops run by collective artists, giving them the opportunity to gain confidence and experience as tutors. Jenni takes a small commission if a work sells but realised early on that she would

The story behind the Hunter Artisan, which has grown over four years to a collective of some 60 primarily local artists, is that it was very much an “unexpected venture”. After “a few dreadful years of personal loss and despair,” Jenni says, she closed her 32


also need to run a café (a 10-seat space) to make the Gallery sustainable. The Hunter Artisan is an all-inclusive collective, showing the work of emerging and established local artists working across diverse media and subject matter, with many artists affected by mental or physical illnesses. Jenni says, “For some reason the gallery is seen as a place of great acceptance and healing; as a place without ego where everyone’s story is important.” 48 Melbourne Street, East Maitland

Maitland Art Galleries


BOLTspace 395 High Street, Maitland Open Fri-Sat 9.30am-3pm

Maitland Portrait Prize The sitter for the 2021 Maitland Portrait Prize, which is in its 5th year and open to members of the Maitland Region Society of Artists, was muchloved and respected local chef and Slow Food movement advocate Amorelle Dempster. Amorelle was a driving force in establishing the Slow Food Earth Market in The Levee, is owner of the Reader’s Café and Larder in East Maitland and was Maitland Citizen of the Year in 2017. An exhibition of the 20 entries was held at The Hunter Artisan Gallery in July, with the Prize going to Susan Webb.

The Hunter Artisan Gallery & Café 48 Melbourne Street, East Maitland Open Thu-Sun 9am-3pm The Levee Art Gallery 282 High Street, Maitland Open Wed-Fri 10am-4pm, Sat 10am-2pm Morpeth Gallery 5 Green Street, Morpeth Open Thu-Sun 10am-5pm Studio Amsterdam 321 High Street, Maitland Open Fri-Sun 11am-5pm WordXimage 445 High Street, Maitland Opening hours occasional and by appointment


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*Opening hours subject to change.


Jenni Nichols at The Hunter Artisan Gallery & Café in East Maitland, 2021 (Photo: supplied) The winning portrait of Amorelle Dempster for the 2021 Maitland Portrait Prize by Susan Webb.

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Inspired! Paper is a marvellous thing. Gallery Officer Vanessa Turton is endlessly inspired to collect, cut and create with paper, making colourful collage art. Hi. I’m Vanessa. You might have seen me at the Gallery, at the front desk or as an Art Tutor. I’ve been working at MRAG for nearly 12 years now. When I’m not at the Gallery, I have my own art practice in Newcastle where I paint and make things out of paper. In my time working at the Gallery, I have been lucky to see some wonderful works made from paper. Children’s art inspires me too – they are not constrained by overthinking!

Vanessa Turton, #31 of series 100 Collages, 2021 (above), Vanessa Turton, It’s time, 2021, Collage and acrylic on paper (opposite page).

Making collages is one of my favourite things. I love to find material for my collages from second-hand bookshops and op shops. Vintage magazines, children’s picture books, maps, old street directories or old postcards are useful too. The pleasure of cutting the paper and finding the right images, as well as bringing together the layout, composition, and theme, is quietly enjoyable.

I recently made 101 collages for a solo exhibition at Onwards Studio in Newcastle. Some of the collages I make are purely for fun; others contain subtle political, historical or gender-based themes that haphazardly appear as the work evolves. I like to think that the collages take on a life of their own; I’m really just there pushing the shapes around until they find a happy spot.

I have no doubt I'll be inspired by Daniel Agdag’s exhibition Lost Property Office, about the production of a stop-motion film fashioned from over 2,500 sheets of recycled cardboard, patiently hand-cut by the artist to create 1,258 set pieces and delicate individual props!

Give it a try yourself… you never know what may happen! Lost Property Office is on exhibition at MRAG from 27 November 2021 — 20 February 2022



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