This year’s Contemporary Indigenous offering at the BVRG…

14 08 2013

Monaroo Bobberrer Gudu: people of the mountains and the sea and White-out: new work from Michael Brogan was a lovely double show that had gallery visitors hankering for more.  It was rich and varied and full of heart…


Monaroo Bobberrer Gudu: people of the mountains and the sea

gallery view

We’ve dropped in the gallery blurb…

Monaroo Bobberrer Gudu: people of the mountains and the sea.

The seed for this exhibition was sown back in 2011, when Beryl Cruse and her grandson Lee entered work into the Bega Art Prize 50th Anniversary exhibition. This was significant in two respects; firstly for the distinctive quality of the work and secondly for the outré show of self-assurance. Because in the art world there exists a very curious divide between indigenous and non-indigenous art in terms of exhibiting – almost a state of segregation, in fact. Initially, the imposition of separate presentation was a protective measure, to ensure space and engender respect; indigenous artwork is sacrosanct and any appropriation of storylines and/or motifs by a non-indigenous artist remains strictly taboo. As it should be.

Yet there is no reason why indigenous art shouldn’t stand, on its own terms, smack bang in the midst of mainstream exposition. It’s in this context that the submission of work by Beryl and Lee to the Bega Art Prize was a welcome demonstration of both personal and community empowerment – and it sent a loud signal that some serious cultural regeneration was stirring in the southern part of the Shire.

Beryl Cruse’s Culture Bridge belonged to an established tradition of shell work specific to the region stretching from Sydney (La Perouse) down to the Far South Coast of NSW. Decorative shell objects/souvenirs are recorded anecdotally from the 1880s and were a key source of income for a perpetually marginalised koori community.  But the craft has much wider implications than merely pragmatic day to day survival – shell art is part of South Coastal indigenous visual heritage, a direct and crucial line for the transmission of knowledge. The collecting of shells and the making of objects is an inter-generational activity, a social opportunity to share traditional stories and skills. And there is some suggestion from art theorists that the progression from baskets, boxes and shoes to Harbour Bridges – and even Opera Houses – reveals a political underscore; traditional decoration of iconic landmarks was intended as an outward sign of koori cultural persistence. (Google Daphne Nash’s excellent paper shell work to shell art: Koori women creating knowledge and value on the South Coast of NSW)

Beryl passed away last year and her work in the exhibition is an homage to the pivotal role she played in her community.  Liddy Stewart’s darling little shoes represent the continuation of the legacy and allude to the gathering together of the women folk; to preserve and impart local knowledge to the oncoming generations.

Lee Cruse won second prize in that Bega Art Prize 2011 – and the work, Joongar hunting, has since been acquired for the Bega Valley Shire Council’s Permanent Collection. He has gone on to paint a new series of work in his now recognisably idiosyncratic – and unique – style. Indeed members of propperNOW (the indigenous artist-activist collective from Brisbane who showed at the BVRG last year and met Lee at a Yarn-Up organised as a gallery public program at Jigamy) were highly impressed by his ‘moiré’ cross-hatching technique, declaring that they’d not seen anything like it. Lee now eschews the literal and tells his grandfather’s stories in his own inimitable fashion – the imagery is mesmerizing, the secret business artfully preserved.

Poker work has long been part of the indigenous trade repertoire and the cute carved poker work lizards made by Ossie Stewart demonstrate why – they’re irresistible and, as he explains, easy enough for a tourist to slip into a pocket. Less transportable but equally desirable are Darren Mongta’s snake sticks. As a boy Darren watched his uncles and cousins make snake sticks around the fire at Cann River – a laborious task of heating wire in the coals, then burning the wood one hot scorch at a time. There was no handing down of technique involved here, however; ‘just watch’, they told him ‘you’ve either got it or you haven’t.’  He patently has it – the eye for just the right branch in the bush, the patience for the stripping, drying and sanding process, and then the meticulous decorative work. The sinuous works are astonishingly lifelike and really quite beautiful – if you’re not ophidiophobic!

At the end of last year the BVRG facilitated a youth film project under the guidance of indigenous film maker Lou Glover. Filmed at Jigamy by a group of proud young people and their special guest star Uncle Ossie Cruse, Connected went on to share the major JD Shaw prize at the recent Festival de YoofTube short film competition held at the Picture Show Man Cinema in Merimbula.

Monaroo Bobberrer Gudu: peoples of the mountains and the sea is a wonderfully encouraging exhibition, a hint of the richness to come. Because while each step in the cultural evolution continues to sustain and venerate the sacred knowledge, the artist’s personal interpretation of that knowledge is key to the integrity and longevity of the Yuin culture. The past is the primer for the future, to borrow a painter’s term, and it’s the turn of the next generation to leave their own mark.


Lee Cruse, Spirit of Balawan, acrylic on canvas

Lee Cruse, Spirit of Balawan, acrylic on canvas

Darren Mongta, Snake sticks, pokerwork

Darren Mongta, Snake sticks, pokerwork


The exhibition had the bonus treat of being a double-header…


For the last four years the New Black mentoring program has been running under the aegis of the Bega Valley Regional Gallery, courtesy of funding from artsNSW. The aim of the program was fairly simple; to encourage local artists to consider their work in terms of a contemporary art practice – that is, as an expressive response to the specific socio-historic realities of their own experience (as opposed to just pumping out stereotypical commercial ‘tourist’ art.) In other words to move away from what the Brisbane-based artist activist collective proppaNOW call ‘ooga booga’ art and position their work firmly within contemporary social context. Otherwise there’s a danger that indigenous art will forever remain relegated to an anthropological curiosity show.

Michael Brogan has been both an exhibitor and key mentor throughout the New Black program. He presents work that is pared down to the essential, using low tech and easily accessible materials (in this case Wite-out on Arches and his signature polypipe) – and manages to convey so much in an extraordinarily unassuming way. These deceptively simplistic, minimalist works are a subtle representation of the indelible nature of indigenous culture. Try as the colonisers might, it cannot be erased.

reconcileNOW is a whitey guerrilla group empathetic to the cause of Brisbane’s proppaNOW mob. There can be no doubt that the visual arts provide a powerful platform for social change and the perennial political vacillations regarding all things indigenous – from reconciliation to basic rights and protections – has long been a source of angst for all decent Australians with a moral pulse.

Post Modern Tokenism III comes from a series of work alluding to the capricious nature of public displays of respect for our indigenous citizens – wheeled out when it suits for gala events (like the opening ceremony of the Sydney Olympic Games) and then shoved back into the gloom the moment the scrutiny is past. They emerge and fade from view as pomp and circumstance/politics/the marketplace dictates. It’s unconscionable.



Michael Brogan, Mock Turtle series, Wite-out on Arches

Michael Brogan, Mock Turtle series, Wite-out on Arches

Michael Brogan, from the Mock Turtle series

Michael Brogan, Mock Turtle series

Michael Brogan, Mock Turtle series

Michael Brogan, Schell Shock, polypipe

Michael Brogan, Schell Shock, polypipe


White Out: artist statement

Recent works on paper have become the extension of an ongoing going dialogue I have orchestrated between my self and an invisible art audience or general public who might just walk in off the street into the gallery. However, my concerns with both the medium and the subject matter are focused on the here, now and immediate future.

Though, the concepts and ideas surrounding my artwork are stark contrast to responses, encounters and engagement with other artists in between exhibitions and group shows over the last 10 years.

This particular body of work is in transition… a body of work in progress that has been fast tracked on account of a number of factors beyond my control. Most people familiar with my work will recognise that the Mock Turtle series is about returning to the nature of things and moving away from the incessant head stuff that has occupied my time working in academia over the last 20 years.

The little poly pipe sculpture pieces are also undergoing a transition of their own; from shield motif morphing into organic augmentations that appear like simple life forms you might encounter washed up on the shoreline after the tide has ebbed.

Michael Brogan


Post Modern Tokenisn III

Post-modern Tokenism III

Post-modern Tokenism III


Monaroo Bobberrer Gudu: people of the mountains and the sea was complemented by a very rich and varied program, from the welcoming dances at the opening




…to the floortalks given by Lee and Darren…


Lee Cruse floortalk

Darren Mongta with his snake sticks


…to the culture walks down at Jigamy where Uncle Ossie had everyone playing the gumleaf (well, we were attempting to…)


Uncle Ossie's gumleaf session


More snaps here.

Movement in the murk…

12 08 2013

Omigod, we hear you gasp – there’s still life out in them thar hills…

What can we say? It’s been the winter of our discontent. But wethinks Foo may be just starting to peek over the parapet.

So much to catch up on and a few happenin’s missed, but we’ll cobble together a flying retrospective (…soonish!)

Meanwhile perhaps we should kick off where we left off; Stephen Skillitzi, who has just had an open studio event (which you’ve missed, alas.)


Stephen Skillitzi

Stephen Skillitzi glass

Stephen Skillitzi glass


Seems like a fitting launching point…especially given that it’s also Ranamok this Wednesday night. Puts ya right in the mood, eh?

The Gang won’t be able to make it to the gala Aussie/Noozelland studio glass  event this year, sad to say – Megsie has change-over at the BVRG, and will be hard at it hanging eX de Medici and Haeli Van Veen in Skun, which opens this coming Friday (16th Aug)…


eX de Medici packing up the photographic work destined for the BVRG

eX packing up the photographic work destined for the BVRG

Lordy, Lordy, it’s been a long time coming…

4 03 2013

…we’ve been distracted, but hey – the show must go on.


Showgirl ritz: 'Best Heifer in Herd', Debbie Petersen

Showgirl ritz: ‘Best Heifer in Herd’, Debbie Petersen


The Country Show, that is, at the BVRG. And what a corker it is, and the fun hasn’t been confined to the gallery – the public program component hitched up with the Bega Show, beaming old-fashioned goodness from the bosom of the glorious old Show Pavilion itself.


Waratah and Caren man the Pavilion

Waratah and Caren man the Pavilion


There was a great turn-out of participating artists for both the opening and associated ag show event and a splendid time was had by all. [Anyone who thinks the country ag show scene is past its use-by date needs to get with the program – it’s the perfect antidote for pestilent IT-dysplasia.  n(Ed)]


Tanya and Lia check out the local talent

Tania and Lia check out Simon Ramsay’s trophy


Side-show alley was a treat, with leanings ever so faintly toward Victorian freak show…


Simon Scheuerle's fabulous Stallionator

Simon Scheuerle’s beyond awesome Stallionator

Chloe Bussenschutt's Lambs, Bellies, Fairyfloss

Chloe Bussenschutt’s Lambs, Bellies, Fairyfloss

Simon Scheuerle's Transbovine adaptor harness

Simon Scheuerle’s Transbovine adaptor harness

Visitors are loving it, and if ever there was an exhibition that could boast ‘something for everyone’, this is most certainly it.



man from snowy river

Miss Showgirl with Waratah's blokes

Miss Showgirl with Waratah’s blokes


Best in show? Too hard to pick – but we’re really taken with Elvie’s banana…


Elvie's banana


More exhibits here.

Meanwhile we’ve lifted this article from the Bega Times…

Show ponies

While the Bega Show is over for yet another year the spirit burns brightly in the Bega Valley Regional Galley’s current exhibition The Country Show. Described as ‘a convivial contemporary take on a cherished agronomic tradition’ the exhibition showcases the work of a group of Canberra artists who for the last 5 or so years have held their own annual homage to the spectrum of agricultural fare.

This year, on the occasion of the Canberra Centenary, they’ve made the trip across the Monaro to help celebrate the BVRG’s own 25th anniversary milestone (the current gallery space was opened by the then Premier of NSW Nick Greiner.  

‘It’s a wonderful exhibition,’ said BVRG curator Megan Bottari. ‘A great mix of serious skill delivered with flair and good humour. It’s so nice to sit in my office and hear visitors chuckling away in the gallery. When it comes down to it, you know, the visual arts are just another form of entertainment. This show is certainly that.’

The out of towners − Emma Beer, Joyce Bell, Ali Aedi, Jacqui Bradley, Cathy Laudenback, Chloë Bussenschutt, Hilary Cuerden-Clifford, Julie Cuerden-Clifford, Denise Ferris, Dan Edwards, Tania Evans, Kirsten Farrell, Caren Florance, Cathy Franzi, Erik Krebs-Shade, Cathy Franzi, Simon Ramsey,  Mini Graff, Bernard Hardy, Waratah Lahy, Janet Meaney, John Pratt, Simon Ramsey, Simon Scheuerle, Wendy Teakel, Lia Tajcnar, and Lyndall Kennedy – have been joined by local artists Debbie Petersen, Elvie Preo, Cathy Jarratt, Vicky McCredie and stalwart Bega Show Art and Craft Champions Rita Roberts and Elvie Preo.

But perhaps the biggest excitement of the exhibition is the inclusion of Gail Schaefer’s panels from the Southern District’s 1991 Royal Easter Show exhibit. The Man From Snowy River tableau has graced the north facing wall of the Bega Town Hall foyer since it’s return from the big smoke and, after years of relentless exposure to direct sunlight and dust, has faded away to a ghost of its former self.

‘But from a visual arts point of view, ironically enough,’ says Megan Bottari, ‘the work has come into its own. The subtlety and movement in the fleece is intriguing. It was the perfect foil for The Country Show and gallery visitors are absolutely loving it.’

‘And there was a surprise bonus – a marvellous inlaid wooden piece was found hanging behind the horse panel. Apparently when the Man from Snowy River was installed somebody decided that the ‘plaque’ was no longer of any value or relevance and so just covered it over. Which is lucky, really, because it’s been protected from the sun for all that time and remains in fair condition.’

‘There’s an inscription on the back – from Pedro to Happy Manning – and we’re rather hoping that people might come forward and fill in the mystery gaps in the story. Who, for instance, was Pedro?’

‘The show is running for another 4 weeks, so we’re hoping to garner all sorts of information during that time. Already we’ve had a number of people who remember seeing it in the old municipal chambers when they were children. It certainly provides a great point of local interest.’

The exhibition is open until the 23rd of March; entry free, all welcome.



the wild bush horses 

Photograph: Gallery staffer Jenny Greenwood with the recovered inlaid wooden ‘plaque’ and ‘the wild bush horses.’

The Grad season: opening salvo….

20 11 2012

Well, it’s now officially on; Grad Season 2012. And first cab off the rank (in our orbit, anyways) was the Bega Valley Regional Gallery with the HSC  Visual Arts Students from Eden Marine High, Bega High and Lumen Christi, augmented by the graduating class (ceramics) from the Illawarra TAFE.

Great turnout for the opening – and the big excitement of the evening was Dr David Sequeira, who kindly did the honours of launching this latest wave of regeneration across our artistically fecund(!) corner of NSW…



He held the crowd in utter thrall – which was, of course, precisely why Megsie asked him to open the show…



Everybody loved him.

Meanwhile there’s some seriously classy work in this exhibition, from Shannon Reynold’s Ideal Reality (Lumen Christi)



(which picked up the Bega Valley Art and Craft Society’s Linda Deighton Youth Encouragement Award) to Harrison Balodis’s astonishing Ring-a ring a Rosie, We all fall down (Eden Marine High)…



And how fabulous to see the craft scene thriving – just get a load of this sweet occasional table (North Queensland Red Carabeen) from Eden Marine High student Grover Gillespie…



…and this amazing slide guitar…



…which maker Kane Gardayer (also from Eden Marine High) will be taking to his audition at the Sydney Conservatorium of Music in a couple of weeks.

And then there’s Argentinian Ernesto San Juan’s gorgeous stoneware…



Too cute for words.

The future of the local arts community clearly augurs well. More highlights here.

Get in quick though, folks – it’s only up until the 8th December.

And then hold on to your hats – next week is the EASS Patrons Day/Grad Show at the ANU School of Art…whacko the diddlee…oh oh.

Birds from a New World, and more…

10 10 2012

Last weekend was pretty perfeck from the classic country/culture/lifestyle perspective…

Granny and Minnie travelled from Melbs and the ‘Berra respectively for Nicky Dickson’s opening at the BVRG on Friday night; now that’s dedication for you – and neither was even faintly disappointed…



Too divine for words…



Birds from a New World was inspired by the Ducie Collection in the National Library of Australia. This collection of 56 illustrations created in 1788-9 is attributed to George Raper, a midshipman aboard the First Fleet. It forms part of a substantial body of drawings and maps made by several people in the early years of European settlement of Australia. Unlike the Cook voyages, there were no professionally trained artists aboard the First Fleet. Amateur artists, like Raper who drew birds and plants, knew and obeyed fewer of the usual restrictive conventions of formal natural history illustration. Instead they revealed glimpses of their personalities and tastes in the way they composed their illustrations. This means that the body of First Fleet art exists as a record of cultural tastes and interests as well as the birds and plants found in the young colony.

In this exhibition the subjects of Raper’s paintings have been quoted and re-presented in a different context. The paintings aim to convey the wonder and fascination experienced by Europeans when they were introduced to Australia’s flora and fauna. The gun, sword and navigational equipment are also included in the paintings and refer to the fact that colonisation of Australia occurred due to the development of technologies that enabled Europeans to spread over the globe and exert their will.

Nicola Dickson 2012



Bird lovers, ignoring the turning weather, flocked to the gallery for Helen Maxwell’s official launch of the show…



Actually, peeps had been streaming in long before it was open to the public – despite the ‘gallery closed for changeover: beware of curator’ signs!! – so we anticipate it’s going to be immensely popular. Fair enough and all, it’s gorgeous.


(Taxidermied specimens courtesy of the Bombala National Parks and Wildlife Service)

Seriously worth the drive. More snaps here.

Saturday was cold and rainy – perfect reading/movie weather…



…and from there on in it was total indulgence. We’ll spare you all the galloping gourmand-o-rama (for once!!) bar this treat of a snap of High Tea in the Banksia, spotted through the bathroom window (yep, here at the Hideout!)…



Oh, and maybe a little more slab wetting…



[This could go on for a while… n(Ed)]

A touch of class at the BVRG…

4 10 2012


Opening tomorrow night.

Beyond the Garage, at last…

4 09 2012

We thought we’d give you a break from the interminable slab-o-rama, and finally post the opening of Beyond the Garage. This is a fabulous exhibition, featuring the work of artists with disabilities from Tulgeen’s Art in the Garage Project.



It’s a highly anticipated, enthusiastically supported event that drives the community into a veritable frenzy of retail therapy; in part as a gesture of support for the program but more particularly because of the universal appeal of the work. There’s a sense of joy in the room that’s impossible to miss.

Although this year had a regrettably sad beginning when long time member of the group, Michael O’Dea, passed away unexpectedly – barely a week before the opening.  Michael will be sorely missed by community and canny collectors alike.


(You’ll have to excuse the reflections!!)


He did a fine line in Kamahl paintings – none, alas, this time around.

The rest of the exhibition is beyond splendid and visitation gratifyingly high. Congratulations to Project co-ordinator Matthew Perry and to Jen and the amazing support crew who make all of this possible.



Peter Fay opened the exhibition with customary aplomb and a thoroughly entertaining night was had by all. Go here for the highlights.

…and we’ll leave you with Megsie’s wonderful buy: Graham Henkel’s Constable Runstable […the perfect addition to a cop shop. n(Ed)]