Spotlight on the Geelong Gallery’s permanent collection and upcoming exhibitions

Guest post by Linda Edgerton.
The Geelong Gallery’s impressive collection of around 6,000 works of art has been built over almost 120 years. Established in 1896 the gallery has a magnificent collection of 19th and 20th century Australian and European paintings and decorative arts, including 18th and 19th century English porcelain, British art pottery, colonial Australian silver, as well as contemporary and modern Australian paintings, prints, sculpture and ceramics. A focus of the collection is images of the Geelong region.
I invited the Geelong Gallery’s curator Lisa Sullivan to share her top picks and the highlights of the current and upcoming exhibition program.

What’s the most significant work in the permanent collection and why?

There are many significant works in the collection, but the two that are often identified as iconic are Eugene von Guérard’s View of Geelong and Frederick McCubbin’s A bush burial. In addition to the significance of the two artists in the history of Australian art and these being great examples of their respective practices, for me these two paintings also represent tangible examples of the enthusiasm of Geelong residents for the Gallery – McCubbin’s 1890 painting being one of the earliest works to enter the collection through public subscription (Geelong residents of the early twentieth century pledging money towards the acquisition), and 106 years later, Geelong residents, businesses, and three tiers of Government contributing funds to secure this major painting by von Guérard. They’re both absolute must-sees for anyone with a love of Geelong and Australian art.

eugene-von-guerard_view-of-geelong

Eugene von Guérard
View of Geelong 1856
oil on canvas
89.0 x 154.5 cm
Collection: Geelong Gallery
Purchased through the Geelong Art Gallery Foundation with the generous support of the Victorian Government, the Australian Government, the City of Greater Geelong and numerous community and other donors, 2006

Which work from the Geelong Gallery collection would you love to have in your personal collection at home?

There are so many works from the collection I’d happily hang on my walls, and one of the most rewarding aspects of my role is working with our incredible collection. For this ‘hypothetical’, I’m selecting Jon Campbell’s neon work Pure bewdy gifted to the Gallery last year. It’s a work that sees the title (a nod to American conceptual artist John Baldessari’s ‘Pure beauty’) illuminated across a painted composition board: neon tubes spelling out the letters in a bold, italicised, upper case font. The dark background on which the tubes sit and the variously coloured drips of paint that run across the work’s edges highlight the significance of painting in the artist’s practice.

Jon’s works often include texts and imagery referencing the Aussie vernacular, suburbia, as well as music and popular culture in the form of band set-lists or sporting nick-names. He’s also well-known for his ‘Yeah’ banner – conceived as a positive, all-inclusive new flag for Australia. For those interested in seeing more of his work, he’s one of the shortlisted artists in the 2014 Geelong contemporary art prize with the work Are you fuckin kidding me (I’d happily take this one home too!).

Pure Bewdy

Jon Campbell
Pure bewdy 2011
neon, synthetic polymer paint, and enamel paint on composition board
24.2 x 50.0 x 7.2 cm
Collection: Geelong Gallery
Gift of an anonymous donor through the Australian Government’s Cultural Gifts Program, 2013
Lisa Sullivan and Jon CampbellGeelong Gallery Curator, Lisa Sullivan with artist Jon Campbell at the opening of the 2014 Geelong contemporary art prize exhibition. Photography: Reg Ryan.

Could you tell us about some works of the Geelong region that are in the collection?

The Gallery has a strong commitment to collecting images of the region and to supporting the work of local artists through exhibition and acquisition opportunities. We’ve many fabulous works in the collection that interpret the city and surrounds, and again, it’s hard to focus in on one (when I could mention works by ST Gill, Alexander Webb, Fred Kruger, Walter Withers, Arthur Streeton, James Northfield, Max Dupain, Jan Senbergs and many more artists). One significant work that’s currently on display in the permanent collection galleries is William Duke’s 1851 painting Geelong from Mr Hiatt’s, Barrabool Hills. Like von Guérard’s View of Geelong (painted five years later) it depicts the fledgling city of Geelong and the Bay from an elevated vantage point so as an historical record it’s very important. Significantly, it depicts two Indigenous figures in the foreground, an important recognition of the original owners of the land.

William Duke
William Duke
Geelong from Mr Hiatt’s, Barrabool Hills 1851
oil on canvas
81.3 x 122.2 cm
Collection: Geelong Gallery
Gift of the family of Edward John Bechervaise, in his memory, 1943

What drew you to being an art curator and what do you enjoy most about your work?

It’s an obvious answer, but a strong interest in and passion for art. Once I’d decided on a curatorial career I completed post-grad studies in museum management along with voluntary work in arts organisations, with the aim of making this happen. I’ve been very fortunate in my career path, working at two great galleries – the Ian Potter Museum of Art at The University of Melbourne and here at Geelong Gallery.

What appeals to me about curating is the opportunities it presents to work creatively with works of art and artists to research, interpret and create new contexts for the presentation of works. I particularly enjoy working with institutional collections and here in Geelong we’ve a fantastic collection of almost 6,000 works. I enjoy looking into the history of collections and the provenance of works – the credit lines on work labels often reveal interesting threads about when and how a work has been acquired. And working with living artists is a treat – initiating contemporary projects is always inspiring and energising.

What’s currently being exhibited at Geelong Gallery?

The 2014 Geelong contemporary art prize exhibition runs until 23 November. Read about this exhibition in an earlier post on Artin’ Geelong:

Complementing this exhibition is Winning ways 1938–68 – the first three decades of Gallery art prizes until 30 November. This exhibition includes winning works acquired from the Gallery’s earliest painting prizes – precedents to the current contemporary painting prize. Bringing this together provided an opportunity to hang a number of works that haven’t been seen for some time, include one of my favourite collection works Harley Griffiths’ The studio, and complete research on the judges of various prizes as well as contemporary press coverage (all of which appears on the exhibition labels). It’s an opportunity to see winning paintings in oil and watercolour by Arnold Shore, William Dargie, John Loxton, Sali Herman, Ian Armstrong, William Harding, Ernest Smith, Jon Molvig, Thomas Gleghorn and Louis James, amongst others.

Harley C Griffiths The studioHarley C Griffiths
The studio 1946
oil on plywood
Collection: Geelong Gallery
JH McPhillimy prize, 1947

Julia Gorman’s Growth habits, a major wall drawing in vinyl commissioned by the Gallery, is on display until 5 July 2015. It’s inspired by the way succulents grow in random ways and in unexpected places and looks fantastic across the two gallery spaces.

Geelong Gallery interiorGeelong Gallery interior
Julia Gorman
Growth habits 2014
vinyl wall drawing
Commissioned by Geelong Gallery, with the support of the Victorian Government through Arts Victoria
Reproduced courtesy of the artist
Photography: Andrius Lipsys

Works from the permanent collection are on ongoing display: these are hung thematically giving us the opportunity to bring together works from different eras. Currently on display are works by Australian artists Syd Ball, Sybil Craig, Sam Leach, Sally Ross, and David Wadelton, as well as more historical British artists such as Stanhope Forbes and Benjamin Leader.

Sam Leach Peacock going up
Sam Leach
Peacock going up 2006
oil on canvas
Collection: Geelong Gallery
Fletcher Jones art prize, 2006

Sam Leach recently presented a Sunday afternoon ‘Drop-in and Draw’ session at the Gallery.

In the decorative arts gallery until 30 November 2014, we have an exhibition of exquisitely handcrafted porcelain produced by Ireland’s Belleek Pottery, drawn from the Gallery’s permanent collection.

What’s coming up at the gallery over summer?

Over the summer months we’ll be presenting a suite of diverse exhibitions that celebrate Geelong and the region.

Moving through the building, we’ll have an installation by street artist Glen Smith that’s inspired by the well-known, and often controversial, Ritz Flats; a touring exhibition that looks at Australian surf culture in the 1970s and ’80s, Arcadia – sound of the sea consisting of large scale black and white photographs by John Witzig (who was behind the surf magazine Tracks and photographed Bells Beach and Torquay in the 1970s) along with drawings by Nicholas Harding; historic photographs from the archives of the Geelong Advertiser that document aspects of life in Geelong through the decades; an exhibition of prints, drawings and photographs of the early township of Geelong; and in the decorative arts cases, an exhibition celebrating a range of individuals who have contributed to life in Geelong, or who were born in Geelong and achieved great things further afield.

Note: An exciting additional exhibition over summer was later announced. ‘Lyons’ view – the Mayor’s choice’ features works of art from the private collection of Geelong Mayor Darryn Lyons, alongside his choice of works from the Gallery’s collection. The selection reflects the Mayor’s interest in popular culture and celebrity icons, as well as his passionate pride in his home town of Geelong. It includes works by Andy Warhol, Peter Blake, Damien Hirst, Stuart Semple and Hayden Kays as well as iconic Gallery paintings by Eugene von Guérard, Frederick McCubbin and Juan Davila.

Glen Smith Ritz flat study
Glen Smith
Ritz Flat (Study) – work in progress
Mixed media on board, 2014
Image courtesy the artist.
F7.tif
John Witzig
Bells steps c. 1975
pigment print
Collection of the artist
Reproduced courtesy of the artist

This exhibition suite will remind visitors that there’s much to celebrate about our city and surrounds – and our gallery.

Visit the Geelong Gallery

The Geelong Gallery (http://www.geelonggallery.org.au)
Connect on Facebook (https://www.facebook.com/geelonggallery)
55 Little Malop Street
Geelong
Open daily from 10am–5pm
Admission is free

Support the future growth of the Geelong Gallery’s collection and programs

A donation to the Geelong Art Gallery Foundation will ensure the Geelong Gallery, one of Australia’s leading and oldest regional galleries, continues to inspire, educate and delight audiences from near and far.

To find out more, please contact:
Richard Ferguson, Development and Business Manager
Tel. 03 5229 3645 or email development@geelonggallery.org.au

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2 thoughts on “Spotlight on the Geelong Gallery’s permanent collection and upcoming exhibitions

  1. Hi Linda
    Can you please send me your email address and phone contact details. Once agaian the 2014 Geelong and regional VCE art exhibition is only two weeks away and l would like to contact you directly….send through the flyer and poster to invite you to the opening on Friday the

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