Saturday, 1 July 2017

Colonial Art Exhibition at Campbelltown Arts Centre


A new exhibition of colonial artworks from the permanent collection of the Campbelltown Arts Centre and Campbelltown and Airds Historical Society was launched recently at the gallery.

Ruth Banfield guest curated the exhibition They Came By Boat at the Campbelltown Arts Centre. Ruth was one of the original members of the Friend of Campbelltown Arts Centre. She has also helped the Arts Centre bring together other exhibitions works.
The exhibition called They Came By Boat was guest curated by Ruth Banfield and runs from 30 June to 15 October 2017.

The highlighted colonial artists are:  Gracius Broinowski; Joseph Lycett; Arthur Willmore; Joseph Backler; Thomas Kirkby; John Scarr; and Samuel Bradshaw.

The enthusiastic audience at the recent launch of exhibition of colonial artworks They Came By Boat keenly listened to guest curator Ruth Banfield give an account of drawing the works together and her role in puting the exhibition together.

The art works highlight the Macarthur area, particularly the Cowpastures, in its role as both a government reserve and a regional identity.

The exhibition theme and promotional material states
During a period where art was a tool to both elevate status and possibly gain freedom for those punished under the Convict regime, They Came by Boat draws focus to early settler families who journeyed over oceans, arriving to Australia and eventually settling in what is now known as Macarthur; the houses they built and the landscape they inhabited.
Of particular interest are lithographs of wildlife by Polish artist Gracius Broinowski who settled in the Wedderburn area in the late 1880s.

There are etchings by Joseph Lycett, a convict transported for forgery, completed in the 1820s including Raby, The Property of Alexander Riley, Esq, New South Wales (1825) and View Upon the Nepean River at the Cow Pastures, New South Wales (1824).

IMAGE: JOSEPH LYCETT, VIEW UPON THE NEPEAN RIVER AT THE COWPASTURES, NEW SOUTH WALES, 1824-1825
One of the engravings in the exhibition of colonial artworks The Came By Boat which gives on idealised interpretation of the Cowpastures landscape and the Nepean River. 

There are stunning colonial portraits of the Scarr and Edrop families by artist Joseph Backler who was transported to New South Wales convicted of forgery. There are the Reddalls, who were relations of the first paster of Campbelltown's St Peters Church of England, Thomas Reddall, by artist Thomas Kirkby.

Colonial artworks such as these  provide a valuable documentary role for historical research at a time when they were the only recorded images of a locality, particularly the Cowpastures, in a settler society. 

The landscape images of the Cowpastures provide one way of viewing the countryside managed by the Dharawal people for thousands of years. Usually there were two ways that the Cowpastures landscape was viewed by colonials: the countryside and its visible features and the aesthetic appeal of neat rows of paddocks and fences; the other by artists like Lycett as an idealised aesthetic pictorial representation. Grace Karskins has given an account of how the early colonists in New South Wales viewed the new colony in the her book The Colony.

The exhibition is complemented by an informative catalogue which gives historical extracts for three of the engravings for the Cowpastures area. With ample illustrations the catalogue is  a valuable historical document in its own right.

While these colonial artworks were aimed at the metropolitan centre in England and provided an 'idealised view of Australia' they are valuable record of our region.

The cover of the catalogue of the exhibition of colonial artworks They Came By Boat at the Campbelltown Arts Centre.


These artworks highlight the valuable historical role played by the Campbelltown Arts Centre in telling the story of the local area.

This exhibition is a must for anyone interested in the colonial history of Macarthur region, the Cowpastures or the wider Cumberland Plain.


See:
Campbelltown Arts Centre and the exhibition The Came By Boat.

Read more about the aesthetics of the Cowpastures landscape and representations of how it reflected an English landscape.

For another interpretation of the Cowpastures landscape see:
Ian Willis, On the edge, settler colonialism on the Cumberland Plain 

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