Story and photos Melissa Hargraves
Lismore Regional Gallery celebrated 60 years on Friday night with the launch of three works exploring landscape, time and family history.
The launch of Ana Wojak’s ‘stepping stones’, Penny Evans’s ‘The AB-sorption Method’ and Lloyd Rees’s ‘Journeying’ also highlighted, according to many there, the need for a larger gallery space as people and works were crowded in for the big bash.
Brett Adlington, director Lismore Regional Gallery told Echonetdaily that although similarities could be found among the works on exhibition, there was no intention to do so.
‘When we put the program together we do look for diversity, the connections that people make with the works aren’t necessarily at the forefront of our minds,’ Mr Adlington said.
‘As soon as we start installing shows we see threads and themes coming together,’ he said.
Ana Wojak retraced in reverse order her family’s journey of migration from Poland to Australia through a recorded performance gesture at each site of significance.
The photographic essay is accompanied by the voice of Albina Kondratowicz (late grandmother) and linked installations.
The artist’s father is represented by a video performance from Lodz Poland.
Ms Wojak has always known her Polish heritage and through her sister’s family history research they discovered a fierce love of country.
She told Echonetdaily ‘we go back four generations until someone was actually born on Polish soil but there is still a fierce love of country, this journey of reverse migration wasn’t about finding lost relatives, it was about finding lost country’.
The research uncovered dire stories of fleeing a country to save lives of the family.
‘I am very conscious of the fact that my family were refugees and when I see what the Australian government does to people who are fleeing war, unrest and persecution, nobody leaves their country because they want to,’ she said.
‘Refugees become refugees because a situation has become untenable and they also leave with incredible uncertainty.
‘My family worked incredibly hard and were very grateful, making refugees feel unwelcome is so counter-productive because if they are made welcome they are so grateful.
‘Even though my work is about history and what has been, it is still current.’
Penny Evans explores her great grandmother’s story of assimilation through film and collage.
Ms Evans told Echonetdaily it was time for her to present her work.
‘It was time for me to show as I have been doing a lot of work from home making artist books, before I wasn’t ready, but I felt ready with this film that accompanies my collage,’ she said.
The film is based on real accounts of assimilation with Indigenous women covering themselves up with talcum powder to disguise Aboriginality.
A ritual cleansing takes place in the film where the character re-identifies with her authentic self.
Her body of work on paper can reveal and obscure fractured cultural elements of identity. The lighting from the film plays with the paper work on the opposite wall.
Ms Evans originally worked with ceramics and then photography, using these in forms of collage.
Her collage work has been ongoing and involves the collection of material over a number of years and machine sewing on paper.
‘Most of the materials I collect are pertinent to policies of assimilation, such as printouts of photos of previous work that I then rework,’ Ms Evans said.
‘And pieces of earlier ceramics that had grotesque representations of Aboriginals.
‘My ceramic works feature diamonds which I etch into the ceramic, I then photograph and print, then cut them up, the diamond is a burial symbol of the Gamilaroi people (north-west NSW) which is my lineage.’
Lloyd Rees’s posthumous exhibition covers 70 years of practice in over 40 works.
Beginning with a 1915 detailed drawing of an idea for a Brisbane Opera House, the exhibition journeys through France, Spain, Greece and the Australian landscape.
The collection was curated by Mr Adlington who told Echonetdaily that the gallery was looking for ways they could expand on works they had in their possession.
‘We had quite a few Lloyd Rees in our collection and he is an artist that the general public would warm to, he stands out as an artist who had sustained a career for a long, long time,’ he said.
Mr Adlington explained how Lloyd Rees was born in the late 1800s in Brisbane and quickly picked up an amazing skill in drawing from a young age.
‘There is still work in existence from when he was a teenager,’ Mr Adlington said.
The collection captures Rees’s work from the beginning to the end.
‘We are showing work from 1915 right up until his last series of works in 1984,’ Mr Adlington added.