Victoria’s Mornington Peninsula has long been a subject of evocative landscape art. At the Mornington Peninsula Regional Gallery this summer the exhibition Coast: the artists’ retreat, comprises both historic and contemporary takes on this.
In the Peninsula’s hinterland at the McCulloch family’s Whistlewood Gallery at Shoreham, the subject is explored in different manner through the work of 20 Indigenous and 20 non-Indigenous artists whose art shows a deep connection to a particular region or place.
Called 20/20 A Sense of Place, the show, says Whistlewood’s co-curator Susan McCulloch is “explorative in style, media and subject matter” through the work of more than 40 artists from around Australia with 60 paintings, ochres, barks, 3D, works on paper and other media.
As the long-time home of the McCulloch family of art writers, curators and gallery directors, Whistlewood has hosted many of Australia’s most well-known landscape artists over more than six decades.
Today’s artists include those with well-established careers, such as the Mornington Peninsula-based John Anderson, Miodrag Jankovic and Stephen May, Sydney-based Michael Fitzjames, Sally West and Charmaine Pike, Far North Queensland’s Rosella Namok, Samantha Hobson and Claudine Marzik, Melbourne printmaker Martin King, Victorian painters David Beaumont and Adriane Strampp, the Kimberley’s Shirley Purdie and Betty Carrington, street artist and printmaker Tom Civil, and award-winning and emerging Aboriginal artists including the Ken family, Robert Fielding and Sonia Kurarra and many others from the APY Lands, WA, Queensland, Arnhem Land, Utopia and the NT.
Newcomers include Tasmanian artist Jillian Catto, whose mixed media canvases were inspired by Willem de Kooning’s 1950s series that explored female archetypes. Made by placing paper on the earth and using branches as drawing tools, Catto explores whether the images emerged from the earth or from that aspect of the earth which is also within us.
Younger generation Kimberley painter Lindsay Malay’s textured ochres meld the traditional and contemporary while three-dimensional works include ceramic Bagu firemaker sculptures from Girringun, Queensland.
A special feature of the exhibition is a group of works by artists of Papunya Tjupi – the art centre based at the NT community of Papunya – renowned as the birthplace of the Western Desert painting school. Artists such as Candy Nelson Nakamarra and Narlee Nelson Nakamarra who are the daughters of famous Papunya founding artist Johnny Warangkula Tjupurrula show a very direct and inherited sense of place.
Mornington Peninsula’s John Anderson (his work, Flinders Coast, Low Tide is featured in main image above) has an intimate knowledge of the area in which he’s lived for more than 30 years, depicting its coast and unquiet seas in oils of emotional intensity. Others, such as Queenscliff’s David Beaumont, paint both the coastal reaches of his home region while equally drawn to particular outback countries such as Lake Mungo, the Flinders Ranges and the Larapinta trail whose space and fragile eco system he depicts in painterly calligraphic canvases.
To further increase the range, the McCullochs worked with some of the artists’ representative galleries – Gallerysmith, Australian Galleries and Salt Contemporary Art.
“This has broadened the type of works we’re able to show,” says Whistlewood’s co curator Susan McCulloch. “These include photogapher and painter Catherine Nelson’s intriguing Waterhole pigment print, which reflects her work as an effects artist on films such as Harry Potter, Moulin Rouge and Baz Luhrmann’s Australia.”
“Combining Aboriginal artists whose work we specialise in showing with a great variety of styles by artists from diverse cultural backgrounds makes for a vibrantly different survey of landscape art.”
Coast: The Artists’ Retreat is at Mornington Peninsula Regional Gallery until February 18