‘Winter’ at Gippsland Art Gallery

From top:
Wayne Viney, Clearing Storm, 2000, monotype on paper, 17.5 x 17.4cm (platemark). Collection Gippsland Art Gallery, donated by the artist 2014
Raymond Arnold, Elsewhere World, 2016, digital print on paper (unique state), 138.8 x 101.8cm (image). Collection Gippsland Art Gallery, purchased 2016
Deborah Klein, Sometimes Jenny took long and lonely walks along the long and lonely beach, 1988, linocut print on paper (edition 4/25), 61.3 x 45.6cm (platemark). Collection Gippsland Art Gallery, donated from the estate of Patricia Marie White 2013

Curator Simon Gregg discusses the exhibition Winter at Gippsland Art Gallery.

Imprint: What was the inspiration for this show and what are the sorts of parameters you decided upon in establishing the theme and content?


Simon Gregg: Winter is an exhibition of thirteen works drawn from the Gippsland Art Gallery’s permanent collection, designed to complement the two concurrent major exhibitions, one a survey of Kenneth Jack (1924-2006), the other, Bohemians in the Bush, being a survey of early Gippsland art (1860-1920).


So Winter is an exhibition that addresses the senses, and draws an emotional and physical response from visitors. I wanted to get away from the strict chronology of the other two historically-focussed exhibitions, and dip visitors into a pot of art bliss without too many parameters. There were no restrictions on the selection other than some relevance to the theme “winter”, which I wanted to interpret as broadly as possible. I had a wide array of artworks to draw upon for the exhibition (the collection has over 1600 works) but the thirteen I settled on cover a range of periods, styles and materials, while maintaining a certain coherence and, together, tell a compelling story.


Some of the works I selected, if presented in isolation, would not speak necessarily of the winter theme, but in this company I think they do. So I really wanted to encourage a different reading of some of the artworks. I always try to get people looking beyond literal interpretations, and to see with the heart, not just the mind. I think, overall, the works create a powerful and rejuvenating space to be in – most of the works look cold but they also have a depth and a warmth that I wanted to draw forward.


Imprint: What are some of the printmaking-related works you accessed while involved in the curatorial process?


SG: Of the thirteen works on exhibition, six are the product of printmaking processes, ranging from traditional etchings and linocuts to monotypes and a large digital print by Raymond Arnold, which is the result of digital manipulation of a series of etchings. The gallery holds hundreds of prints in the collection (I think about 400) so there was a lot of printmaking to choose from, representing every process imaginable. We have a wonderful range of works by Jorg Schmeisser, for instance, that might have suited the theme. Equally, some early prints by Jock Clutterbuck might have suited – we have some of his etching, aquatint and coloured stencil works – and they are among my favourite works in the collection, but it came down to what was going to be the most coherent within this setting.


Imprint: Would you elaborate on some of the printmaking-related works included in the exhibition, and how they reflect the wintry theme?


SG: Printmaking, for me, often speaks of a sense of distance, or separation, because there is a mechanical process that separates us, as viewers, from the creative act. I felt that especially with Lesley Duxbury’s relief etching A Certain Light and Raymond Arnold’s digital print Elsewhere World, and because of this separation there is a kind of inherent melancholy that I felt suited the winter theme. Both of them look cold, but they also speak of an internal world, and a withdrawal from the physical world. As a very introverted person I’m attracted to the idea of winter hibernation and being able to shut out the world. For me Judy Dorber’s work Chrysalis is about the magic found within – it’s about an artist looking inward rather than outward (Caspar David Friedrich famously said “an artist must paint what he sees within himself, not just what he sees outside himself”).


I suppose in a way I imagined the spirit of Friedrich watching over this exhibition, and these are kind of offspring of his own magical, wintry, romantic paintings.


Imprint: In what ways do you think audiences might respond to the show?


SG: Well, I hope people can park their expectations about art at the door, and open themselves to experiencing art in a new way. I don’t think the internal world of the gallery needs to be divorced from the external world of the seasons, and I always hope that when people leave the gallery they will look at their own world in a new way, and see new possibilities. By aligning the inside and the outside in this way, I hope to provide a direct correlation between art and life, to encourage this new way of looking. – Andrew Stephens

Winter is at Gippsland Art Gallery, Sale, until 27 August www.wellington.vic.gov.au