For millennia the beauty, wonder and uses of plants and flowers have been subjects of fascination for artists. The earliest surviving botanical illustration dates back to the year 512 and formed part of a pharmacopoeia of herbs and medicines. In China, brush paintings of old trees, bamboo and rocks by scholar-artists evolved into an independent genre during the Tang dynasty (618-906). By the 1600s many European artists were producing still life paintings of combinations of flowers and fruit, and the creation of flower studies for pure visual pleasure became widespread during the tulip mania of the mid-1600s.
The Botany of Desire exhibition takes its inspiration from a book of the same name published in the early twenty first century which explores the reciprocal relationship between people and plants. It highlights the human desire that connects us to plants and the ways in which plants have shaped our behaviour to their own ends. The exhibition presents work by a wide range of artists from the late 19th century through to the present day, and includes painting, photography, sculpture, video and decorative arts.
Image: Milan Milojevic, Night and Day (The Tree) 2016 (detail), digital/etching/woodcut print. Courtesy the artist and Colville Gallery, Hobart.
Prue Acton is widely known as Australia’s ‘golden girl of fashion’. Acton once described herself as “an artist who chose to work in the field of fashion”. She originally intended to become a professional artist, but after her move into fashion in the early sixties she rapidly became known as one of Australia’s top designers.
Prue was born in 1943 in Benalla. She spent many years in the fashion industry and won several awards. During the 1980s she returned to her first love, painting, continuing her study under the mentorship of Clifton Pugh and partner, Merv Moriarty. This exhibition comprises of a collection of still lives and native flowers recently painted in her coastal bush home and studio in rural NSW.
Image: Prue Acton, courtesy of the ABC.
Erewhon presents the work of five contemporary Australian artists that disturb distinctions between our real and imagined selves, and between the authentic and the fantastical. The exhibition shifts between sincerity and satire although its propensity was to shadowy psychological turns, . and towards darker, more charged imaginings.
Erewhon is influenced by an 1872 novel set in a fictional country that resembled the south of New Zealand, where the author had lived as a young man. The story was a satirical and philosophical exploration of various aspects of Victorian society, most notably crime and punishment, religion and science. According to Erewhonian law, offenders were treated as if they were ill, whereas ill people were looked upon as criminals. Related themes such as the fear of technological progress, the impossibility of utopias and the effects of colonisation, discipline and control form some of the ideas explored in the the exhibition Erewhon.
Artists: Brook Andrew, Claire Lambe, Clare Milledge, Mikala Dwyer and Tony Garifalakis
Curated by Vikki McInnes
A NETS Victoria Touring Exhibition
Image: Installation view, Margaret Lawrence Gallery, VCA, 2016.
Colonial Afterlives considers a range of contemporary responses to British colonisation from indigenous and diasporic artists living in Australia, New Zealand, Jamaica, Barbados, Britain and Canada. It incorporates a diversity of views ranging from melancholic eulogies to passionate and sometimes scathing commentaries on the complex legacies of British occupation.
Several of the artists explore multiple identities through performance and photography, including Fiona Foley (Australia), Christian Thompson (Australia), Charles Campbell (Jamaica), Kent Monkman (Canada), and Ewan Atkinson (Barbados). Others are keenly attuned to the nuances and contemporary resonance of the colonial archive—Julie Gough (Australia), Daniel Boyd (Australia) and Lisa Reihana (New Zealand)—while Yvonne Rees—Pagh (Tasmania) examines some of the deep wounds of ‘empire’, as manifested in racist stereotyping and modern forms of frontier violence. While the artists are all finely attuned to the histories and politics of their own region, the exhibition will reveal profound and sometimes surprising confluences. Ultimately, it will raise larger questions around the nature of post—colonial identity in an increasingly globalised and globalising world.
Curated by Dr Sarah Thomas
A Salamanca Arts Centre Touring Exhibition
Image: Joan Ross, The claiming of things, 2012 (detail), digital animation, 7 min 20 sec.
TextaQueen has developed an enviable reputation for her compelling portraits that explore gender, race and identity through the medium of fibre-tipped pens.
Bringing together work created over a 15 year period, this survey exhibition reflects on how visual and popular culture inform personal identity via re-interpretations of the salon nude, re-creations of cultural and historical identities undressed in the Australian landscape, critiques of colonial histories in apocalyptic movie poster portraits and in recent work articulating the evolution of TextaQueen’s own identity as an Australian-born Goan Indian.
This exhibition features 28 fibre-tipped marker works alongside a new body of landscape and self-portrait photographs.
A Mornington Peninsula Travelling Exhibition
Image: TextaQueen, Reunion, fibre-tipped markers and coloured pencil on Stonehenge cotton paper. MPRG Collection, purchased 2014.
Taking its title from an artwork by Leah King Smith, Patterns of Connection features the work of Indigenous artists from the Benalla Art Gallery Collection.
Indigenous art is often political, and several of these artists address contentious issues including representation, racism, religious influence and the exploitation of land. Others express their identity and connection with the land by representing ancestral stories, traditions and ceremonies.
The exhibition includes works by Brook Andrew, Destiny Deacon, Fiona Foley, Leah King-Smith, Gordon Bennett, Gloria Tamerre Petyarre and Turkey Tolson Tjupurrula.
Image: Leah King Smith, Untitled No. 11 from the Patterns of Connection series, 1991, cibachrome photograph. Benalla Art Gallery Collection. Licensed by Aboriginal Artists Agency, Sydney
The Body’s Terrain explores the strength, vulnerability and sensuousness of the naked body in relation to nature, land and environment.
Our physical impermanence and processes of change and decay are contrasted to the exquisite surfaces of skin glistening, glowing and exposed in the elements. A broad range of artistic approaches, from sensual and erotic to humorous and confronting, are depicted.
The exhibition includes iconic Australian photography by Olive Cotton and David Moore as well as work by Petrina Hicks, Tim Silver, Julie Rrap, Mike Parr, Patricia Piccinini, Bill Henson, Janina Green, Craig Holmes, Julie Reisberg and Norman Lindsay.
The Body’s Terrain has been generously supported by Ten Cubed, Monash Gallery of Art and private lenders.
Image: Petrina Hicks, The Unbearable Lightness of Being, 2015. Image courtesy of the artist and Michael Reid Sydney + Berlin.
In a letter to fellow painter Tom Roberts, Arthur Streeton described his experience at the summer painting camp he had set up on the outskirts of Melbourne in the late 1880s:
‘I sit here in the upper circle surrounded by copper and gold, and smile with joy under my fly net as all the light, glory and quivering brightness passes slowly and freely before my eyes.’
This exhibition celebrates the passion many artists share for the Australian landscape and the special quality of light which they strive to capture. A Quivering Brightness presents landscapes and views from the Benalla Art Gallery Collection dating from the mid-nineteenth to the mid-twentieth century, and includes works by many of Australia’s most highly regarded artists.
Image: Penleigh Boyd, Portsea, oil on board, 1921. Gift of E.E. Ledger 1975.
Saturday 20 May, 10-4pm (1 hr lunch): Landscape painting class with artist Julie Guppy
Born on the Street presents the work of two giants of the Australian street art community, Rone and Adnate.
Adnate shares his passion for indigenous cultures by painting large-scale, realistic portraits in the streets. From a graffiti background, he has gained world-wide recognition and captivated viewers with his monumental street art portraits.
Rone has gone from spearheading Melbourne’s fledgling street art movement in the early 2000s as a member of the Everfresh crew, to being a celebrated fixture on the international street art scene. As a street artist he is best known for his haunting, stylised images of women’s faces.
Born on the Street celebrates the passion of two of Australia’s foremost street art collectors, Sandra Powell and Andrew King, and their dedication and support for artists whose work is often thought of as temporary and transgressive.
Part of the 2017 Benalla Wall to Wall Festival, 6 - 9 April.
Saturday 8 April, 4pm: Artists RONE and Adnate in conversation with street art collectors Sandra Powell and Andrew King.
Sunday 9 April, 11am: Exhibition tour with street art collectors Sandra Powell and Andrew King
Born 100 years ago on April 22, 1917, Sidney Nolan was to become one of Australia’s most celebrated painters. He is best known for his painting series inspired by Australian landscapes, legends and history and featuring figures such as the Kelly Gang, shipwreck victim Eliza Fraser, and the explorers Burke and Wills.
This exhibition celebrates Nolan’s diverse career and includes paintings, rarely seen photographs, screenprints and the much loved Glenrowan tapestry, all from the Benalla Art Gallery Collection.
Nolan’s 1949 Central Australia series of photographs ‘provide a window into the life of outback Australia during the postwar era. More than this, they are the product of an artistic eye, revealing much about Nolan’s working process and highlighting the significant role that photography played in relation to his art.’
Saturday 22 April, 2-4pm: Sidney Nolan’s 100th Birthday Celebration