Exhibition a time capsule for the Shire
by Sandi Miller
25th April 2022
PUBLIC ART can tell a lot about a community; what it cherishes, what are its hopes and dreams, its fears, and its joys.
For more than 70 years, the Shire of Eltham, now Nillumbik, has collected works into its civic and public art collections.
A free exhibition at Montsalvat is showcasing significant works from across these collections and it offers a window to the past — how we saw ourselves then, and a mirror on the present — how we see ourselves now.
The exhibition, Local|Remix, opened in early April and runs until the end of May.
Opening the exhibition on behalf of Council, Deputy Mayor Cr Ben Ramcharan noted that the collection shows the history of the Shire over many years.
“It highlights the strong artistic heritage of our area here in Nillumbik and the contribution of artists across the Shire.
“It is interesting to see the contribution made over many years and how it has evolved from what it used to be to what it is today.
“The exhibition considers what is local and how we can connect through art and creativity and the importance of this to our Shire’s identity,” Cr Ramcharan said.
He said importantly the exhibition highlights the work of women artists.
Historically often overlooked in accolades, the contribution of women artists to the Shire is significant, and many works in the collection highlight their strong artistic practice.
In a direct response to a recent gender audit of the Nillumbik Shire Art Collection register and to promote the under-representation of women artists, he said this exhibition flips the statistics of the current collection and presents an exhibition featuring more than 60 per cent women artists. Cr Ramcharan also highlighted the Indigenous works that form part of the collection.
“We have some amazing local artists who are Indigenous, but when you look at the history of the works — when you go to the true history of what is now called Australia — a lot of that’s lost, so being able to foster that culture and keep it alive is incredibly important, and it’s a really powerful thing that we are actually able to do that here,” Cr Ramcharan said.
One of the most recent acquisitions in the Council’s collection is from an emerging Indigenous artist. Nicholas Currie says his piece, Scars and Bruises, reflects on his cultural identity.
“The work shows pain — but it also shows healing — there is a mark left and a history there, but there is also a future that we know will be OK.
“Normally, my practice is just about making and being present and acknowledging history and carrying on the traditions of my ancestors, and I am proud to continue making, creating and telling our story,” Mr Currie said.
Built-up by Council and the community over many years, the Nillumbik Art, Civic and Public Art collections now have around 600 works, many with strong connections to the local area and its artistic heritage.
Curator Angela Bailey told M&N Bulletin that the selection process was extremely difficult.
“When you’re choosing anything from such a broad range of works like this, 600 plus works — I just wanted to make it so that there were elements across the breadth of the collection, and more recent works too that people haven’t seen yet.”
In an interesting juxtaposition, she noted that the oldest piece on display was a work by the founder of the Cottles Bridge artists’ colony, Dunmoochin, Clifton Pugh, which is hung beside a 2022 acquisition from current Dunmoochin resident, Fionna Madigan.
The Nillumbik Shire Civic Collection presents intriguing insight into the history and heritage of both the Council and community, and this exhibition includes some fascinating artefacts. One of the highlights, the Tarcoola/Coolamon, is a gift from the Wurundjeri Woi-wurrung to the Shire and is featured as part of this exhibition.
The exhibition is free and will run until Sunday, May 29, at the Barn Gallery at Montsalvat.
For details visit: nillumbik.vic.gov.au/local-remix
Coming up, Montsalvat will be presenting two jazz music concerts on Sunday, May 22 to raise funds to help build back from COVID impacts.
The Barn Gallery will play host to two live performances starting with Jackie Bornstein at 5pm.
Jackie Bornstein is one of Melbourne’s most captivating jazz, chanson and bossa nova singers, known for her rich tones and ability to get to the heart of a tune.
Performing alongside Jackie will be the world-class jazz pianist Mark Fitzgibbon.
Mark’s swinging touch and virtuosity is the reason why he’s one of the most in demand players in Australia.
Enjoy a light champagne supper and then hear piano maestro Joe Chindamo from 7pm.
Joe Chindamo is routinely described as one of the best jazz pianists in the world, though his art transcends jazz, having composed concertos, chamber music and film music.
Sunday, May 22
The Barn Gallery
5pm: Jackie Bornstein
6:15: light champagne supper
7pm: Joe Chindamo
Event concludes at 8pm
Book online via Trybooking or tickets are available at the door.