Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Drawing on Drysdale

Russell Drysdale, ‘Convoy on Road near Albury’ 1942, pen, ink, watercolour on paper, AlburyCity Collection, Purchased with funds from a 1985 public appeal.

Ararat Regional Art Gallery presents ‘Drawing on Drysdale’, an exhibition of drawings by an icon of 20th century Australian art, Russell Drysdale (1912-1981) from 3 july ro 24 August 2014. 

This touring exhibition is built around the substantial holdings of Drysdale’s work in the AlburyCity Collection. ‘Drawing on Drysdale’ presents drawings, sketches, written material and objects, including Drysdale’s portable easel, in an exhibition that celebrates a major Australian artist responsible for reshaping the way we see Australia. Russell Drysdale, 'Evening Camp' 1961 (detail), pen, ink, 25x33cm, AlburyCity Collection.

Born in England in 1912 to Australian parents, Drysdale moved to Australia with his family, settling near Albury in 1923. Drysdale was expected to work on the family farm, but at the age of 20 his potential as an artist was noticed by a local doctor who sought the advice of the Director of the National Gallery of Victoria, Daryl Lindsay. This led to Drysdale studying in Melbourne under George Bell and Arnold Shore. He sailed for Europe in 1938 to further his career in Paris, but returned Australia in 1939 when war became imminent. Drysdale moved from Sydney back to Albury in 1942, concerned for the safety of his family during the war. This formative period established his unique style, informed by European modernism but boldly inspired by the people and places of Australia. By the 1950s Drysdale has secured a unique position as Australia’s national artist, with his art widely reproduced and disseminated.

It was drawing that first brought attention to Drysdale in the early 1930s while recovering in hospital, and towards the end of his life when he was restricted due to ill health; it was drawing that once again occupied him. Through drawing Drysdale engaged with representation, touch and vision. He sought to create images that went beyond the depiction of appearances, wrestling with the significance of marks and mark making. He did not labour over details that were not essential; rather he focussed on the essential features leaving the remaining image to the viewer's imagination. Defective eyesight excluded Drysdale from war service, but through a need to be involved he produced what has become a significant body of work that details army life in Australia. Some of these works held in the Albury Art Gallery collection include ‘Albury Platform’ 1943 and ‘Convoy on Road near Albury’1942. ‘Drawing on Drysdale’ is an AlburyCity touring exhibition.

Sunday, March 2, 2014

Paull McKee and John Parkes

  Ararat Regional Art Gallery presents two distinct yet related exhibitions by Australia’s most prominent male textile artists, Paull McKee and John Parkes. Paull McKee's 'The Art of Repair' and John Parkes' 'Present in the Process' were presented from 30 January to 16 March 2014.

Paull and John have developed their practices on opposite sides of the Australian continent: John in Perth and Paull in Canberra.  At first glance what links them is the use of reclaimed materials. These similarities soon diverge through the artists’ different approaches to their materials. The artists share an immense respect for the utilitarian origin of cloth - highlighting remnant marks and signs of wear and tear - with reference to the relationships of cloth to memories, the body and the environment. You can view the catalogue online here.

John Parkes was in residence at the gallery from 31 January to 2 February 2014 and during his stay in Ararat he established a stitching circle in the gallery. John was mentored in Perth as a student by the late textile artist, Elsje van Keppel, and he remains a passionate champion of her legacy. This photo shows John with local resident Nolene Fraser admiring Elsje van Keppel's 'Equivocal Landscape' 1991-92 from the gallery's permanent collection. Nolene also brought with her a van Keppel piece from her own collection.

Monday, February 24, 2014

Master Potter John Eagle

'This is where I live' is an exhibition of recent ceramics by Ararat artist, John Eagle. John's association with Ararat began following his artist's residency at Marian College. This residency evolved in a teaching role and a move to Ararat with his wife Rosemary, who is also an artist specialising in printmaking. This exhibition features richly glazed ceramics informed by the landscape around Ararat, including Mount Langi Ghiran, Mount Cole and the Grampians National Park.

The plates featured in this exhibition are from a major body of work commissioned from an American collector. John explains the origins of the project: "John Jay is a Ford executive who spent several years living and working in Australia before returning to America 23 years ago. Before he left he commissioned a copper red stoneware dinner set from me. John insisted that it was entirely up to me to create and he wanted me to use it as an opportunity to produce something special and develop my work...This was the unique opportunity that artists dream about: a patron."

Initially John considered developing a body of work inspired by the iconic images of Australia, from desert to tropical rainforests and the ocean, but with his relocation to Ararat a new source of inspiration emerged. "Driving back and forth at all times of day and night in all seasons made me realise that right here was my reference; my inspiration," John said.

John Eagle is widely recognised for his contribution to ceramics in Victoria. A graduate of RMIT, he enjoyed early success when selected for inclusion in the seminal Victorian craft exhibition, Craft Victoria '75 at the National Gallery of Victoria. Following an initial teaching career, John dedicated himself to a life as a full time potter. His commitment to his craft during these formative years was vindicated when he received the National Bicentennial Art-Craft Award for Functional Pottery in 1988. John is regionally associated with Linton Pottery, which operated at Linton, near Ballarat, from 1997 to 2007. He is also known in wider ceramics circles through his writing, mentoring and the inclusion of his work in exhibitions at galleries in Australia and overseas. His prize-winning ceramics often feature a striking copper red glaze, which remains a signature aspect of his work to this day. The exhibition continues until 12 March 2014.