Defining Art at Burnie Regional Art Gallery

Above: Arthur Boyd,  Narcissus, Skull and Webbed Bird, 1978, etching and aquatint, 76.6 x 58 cm
Right: Jeffrey Smart, The Dome, 1979, etching and aquatint, 76 x 56 cm
Below: Sidney Nolan,  Miner Smoking, 1972, lithograph, 80.7 x 79.2 cm

Birgitta Magnusson-Reid explores the exhibition ‘Defining Art’. 

Imprint: What were some of the foundation ideas for ‘Defining Art’ in showcasing the gallery’s collection?

BM: It is well known that the Burnie Regional Art Gallery’s permanent collection, which is focused on works on paper, is of National reputation.

The Gallery is celebrating it’s 40th birthday in 2018 and we wanted to really show the depth of the gallery’s collection after 40 years of acquiring works of art.

What may not be quite so well known is that the collection includes works by many significant Australian artists, who all had a big effect on the development of art in Australia in the 20th century.

Imprint: What are some of the print-based works in the exhibition?

BMR: The vast majority of the works on display are print based.  And many of these works are editioned and thus true to the saying   that editioned prints are affordable collect for young institutions such as the Burnie Regional Art Gallery. And this would be particularly true for the prints in this exhibition that are from the 70ies and the 80ies.

Imprint: Are there any of these works in particular that you feel drawn to – why?

BMR: My absolute favourite work  is a lithograph from 1977 by Brett Whiteley  ‘View of the Garden’ (‘View From the Window’)  showing his glorious drawing and compositional  skills, both done with such  ease.

I have also fallen in love with a work by Rosalie Gascoigne. She was the first female artist to represent Australia at the Venice Biennale in 1982. The Birdhouse is an assemblage created from found objects, including Rosella Parrots from Arnott Biscuit packaging, which was exhibited at the Venice Biennale in 1982. So it is a well-travelled work with a bona fide Venice Biennale stamp.

When I was a fresh immigrant to Australia I discovered the works of Fred Williams in art books and was immediately taken by the colours and his calligraphic way of depicting the sparse flora in the dry outback. Immigrating can be hard on the mind but I found solace in his works and felt less lonely and very excited to have discovered an amazing landscape artists! The works by Williams has not been on display for some 25 years and this is a wonderful opportunity to share his works.

Imprint: What are some of the possible ways of seeing these works in a new light, in terms of the connections that might arise with other works in the show?

BMR: The exhibition is a who’s who of Australian Art history!  The works themselves are from a time period of say 25-30 years but of course the artists themselves represent different generations and it the exhibition will give the viewer an idea of developments in visual art in Australia.

The artists included in Defining Art are:  Charles Blackman, Arthur Boyd, John Brack, Pat Brassington, Ruth Faerber, Rosalie Gascoigne, Alun Leach-Jones, Roger Kemp, Bea Maddock, Sidney Nolan, John Olsen, Desiderius Orban, John Peart, Lloyd Rees, Jan Senbergs, Martin Sharp, Jeffrey Smart, Tim Storrier, Imants Tillers, Tony Tuckson, Brett Whiteley and Fred Williams.

Curator: Birgitta Magnusson-Reid, Gallery Project Officer

Defining Art is at Burnie Regional Art Gallery until 14 January