26 September 2023

Art Gallery works aim at rural Australia

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A new exhibitionDis/possession – at the Art Gallery of Western Australia (AGWA) centres on the juxtaposition of two significant works by Australian artists, Hans Heysen’s Droving into the Light and Mervyn Street’s Bull Ride.

Painted approximately 100 years apart, each work offers a view of rural Australia that reflects the preoccupations of the artist at the time of its production.

Mr Street, a Gooniyandi artist from Fitzroy Crossing, worked as a stockman at a time when the impact of the pastoral movement was being fully felt by Western Australian Kimberley Indigenous communities.

German-born Mr Heysen lived and worked in the Adelaide Hills during an era in which Australia as a young nation continued to be positioned as a locale of opportunity for colonisation.

Curator Historical Art and Manager Curatorial Affairs at AGWA, Melissa Harpley said by bringing the artists’ work together, an understanding of the past can be used to start conversations about issues with shared importance for today’s audiences.

“These include questions around national identity, land ownership and use, and our relationship to the natural world,” Ms Harpley said.

“Heysen’s and Street’s paintings are accompanied by other works from the Gallery’s collection to give context to the historical narratives of the time.”

Director of AGWA, Colin Walker said dis/possession represented the Gallery’s thinking about how people engaged with the State Art Collection, one of WA’s greatest visual assets.

“As art museums globally re-think the display of their collections, as well as question the art historical canon and practices around collecting, display and interpretation, we are also looking to our collection to explore nuances in themes and drive conversations,” Mr Walker said.

Dis/possession runs at AGWA until 26 March 2023.

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