A lovely time had by all at the exhibition opening at the Rustic Gourmet in Kent Town Adelaide. Emma and Kate the owners of the Rustic Gournet were so generous and know how to put on a party. My special thanks to Gordon Harvey for playing double bass and providing logistics support with Mark O’Brien. And of course to all those who came out to join us for the evening my thanks and gratitude. The South Australian Living Artists Festival is on for the whole month of August and there is so much to see and do it is a great festival. Enjoy.
Twenty three paintings of a few of my favourite South Australians are on their way to Adelaide. I have just finished painting Robert Hannaford’s 1995 self portrait and will have to take it with me. What a journey it has been; working out which plants were in flower that I could paint, finding out some that were not actually from SA, having to sand the wooden boxes to reduce the colour changes due to light exposure, making the time lapse videos and QR codes to give more interest for the Rustic Gourmet patrons, varnishing, wiring, packing and now I am ready to go.
Gordon Harvey whose beautiful music you’ll hear on the time lapse videos will accompany me on double bass for a couple of songs at the opening and a glass of South Australian bubbles.
Hoping to see you at the Rustic Gourmet.
Well it’s a wrap. The Keys To Our Country Portraits have come down from the walls at Deloitte and been dispersed to their new owners around the country to keep creating positive conversations about Aboriginal Culture.
This project has been rich with learning, new friendships, greater empathy and the joy that comes from being engaged in something you believe in. There have been hopes raised and dashed too which feed the learnings of how to do better next time.
I had three objectives for the series. To acknowledge and say thanks to individuals who are teaching others about Aboriginal culture; to create more positive conversations about Aboriginal culture and to raise funds for Yalari. It has been richly rewarding, exhausting and fun.
Again I would like to thank the participants. It takes guts to put your head above the parapet, to being singled out for honour, but every time someone does all of their pack feels the honour.
Bruce Pascoe Major Lancelot Sumner AM Waverley Stanley AM Deborah Cheetham AO Veronica Barnett Leila Gurruwiwi Tyrone Bean Tiffany Garvie John Patten Gina WIlliams Den Fisher Jamie Marloo Thomas
And thank you too for following the project and being part of it’s progress. My next series of portraits Leading Women’s Profile is focused on gender balance and was hung on the day these portraits came down - International Women’s Day 2019 March 8. It is up until April 8 and is almost all sold to raise funds for Bridge of Hope who help vulnerable youth.
I regularly catch up with Den Fisher for a coffee. It was his request to paint him after I said ‘I paint natives’ Meaning flora - oops) that got the whole project going. Den’s portrait with his keys pride of place is up at ‘3KND Cool n Deadly’ where he has worked as a DJ since the stations inception over 20 years ago. Den has some ideas for further artistic work together so the project could continue to grow in some form …
The exhibition had it’s first showing at the Women in Rotary International Women’s day breakfast at Crown. There were 1,200 in attendance and this video was shown at the breakfast.
Celia talking about art and gender balance
The portraits were warmly received and I particularly loved talking to all the school groups who came to study them and discuss women’s paths to success.
With the help of some Rotary volunteers we got the portraits over to Deloitte for their IWD morning tea on March 8. I asked the 200 strong audience to read and discuss the 3 key success factors of the leading women painted that were listed in the catalogue. I wanted them to reflect on what success means to them and what they need to build it.
The portraits acknowledge those painted, their efforts, their success and how they by succeeding - help all women. Acknowledging others is something we can all do. It is a skill worth developing. May 2019 be a year of being really good at acknowledging others - particularly women.
Conrad Liveris released his Gender Equality at Work 2018 exploring the gender pay gap, sexual harassment and female education.
There are more ‘Andrews’ leading ASX 200 companies than women CEO’s
Female representation on ASX200 boards is at it’s highest level of 26.6%
Women tend to run support functions 70% HR, 46% General Counsel, men hold 90% of business unit roles. 41 major companies have no women in executive management.
If you want to highlight a need for change first start with the facts.
The fact that in Australia we have only 12 Women CEO’s in the Australian Stock Exchange top 200 companies was the hook that got me started on this project. I then became aware of the research showing that companies with gender balance have better performing share prices. So there is compelling evidence for change. Despite the fact that female graduates outnumber males at record levels they can still expect to earn less than their male counterparts.
To champion change you will have to build a case. If you want to be able to quote the statistics of interest in your area have a look at these excellent resources.
A great thing about painting on site is the reactions of people passing by. The staff loved Marnie’s portrait. One women said “It makes me feel so proud.” Her organisations’ leader has been chosen to stand alongside Australia’s leading women and as a staffer she holds her head up with pride because of it. Marnie talks of coming from a dairy farm in Cohuna Victoria to let others know “Anyone can do it.” This raises a really important point about leadership.
CIndy Hook CEO of Deloitte Asia Pacific said to me that throughout her career she had been asked to do interviews as the first woman partner in the firm to achieve X, she said no, because she wanted to stand on her performance not have her achievements questioned because gender could have played a part. Now however, she realises she was wrong. Cindy now understands that standing up to take that leading role helps others, gives them role models, lets them know we can do it.
Dame Elizabeth Murdoch also learned this lesson after a lifetime of giving anonymously she could see that she had to go public in order to lead and encourage others to give.
In My family this is also a lesson. My Papa was the only man to win three Magarey Medals in a row (SA Football). Catholic’s were heavily discriminated against at that time. but I have met his peers who told me that when Papa was accepted and welcomed by every level of society - it changed their lives. They held their heads up high. He was playing footy, not being political in any way, but the result of giving his best and winning was shared by many.
Breaking through to the front of the pack takes a lot of consistent hard work and excellent performance. It can be hard to step up and take the lead, but as pack animals we need leaders. Remember to acknowledge those who stand up to lead.
My latest portrait project is officially launched this week - Leading Women’s Profile.
The purpose of Leading Women’s Profile is to:
Offer recognition to leading women
Raise funds for vulnerable women
Build awareness of the need for action to create gender balance
The global ratio of women to men today is 1:1. However, women’s access to resources and opportunity is not equal with men.
We know that diversity and gender balance create stronger communities and higher performing companies. Research shows that organisations with better gender balance have a higher performing share price. However, only 12 of the ASX200 have women CEO’s.
Think of a continuum of women’s power from the strongest to the most vulnerable. All the way along that continuum women experience difficulty related to their gender.
Portraits of Leading Women aims to build on strengths to support those most vulnerable. The project will create a gallery of peers providing recognition to women in high performing roles and fuel discussion around women’s success. Each portrait is accompanied by that persons 3 key success factors in order to fuel conversation about what we can do to assist more women to stronger positions.
At the other end of the spectrum are young women without a home, work, or the wherewithal to get them. These vulnerable young people are supported through Bridge of Hope’s Bridging the Gap program into accommodation and pathways to security.
Identifying actions we can all take to work toward gender balance is critical for change. My work for over 20 years as a communication facilitator, has taught me that the shortest path to success is to focus on strengths, on what is working and build on that. I want to inspire conversations about women’s strengths and paths to success. The other conversations we need to have are about those most vulnerable in society and how we can help.
The background for the portraits is a blue sky - meaning - endless possibilities.
Art helps us understand ourselves. Art can lead conversations about the future and in this case the areas of positive action.
“…the difference between success or failure is determined by nothing more than our sense of what is possible…” (de Botton A., Armstrong J. Art as Therapy 2014)
The first portrait is of Georgette Nicholas CEO and MD of Genworth Mortgage Insurance Australia. You can read about Georgette’s 3 key success factors here www.leadingwomensprofile.website
It was raining and I scored a lift home with Rob McGuirk from our friend Glenda Lindsay’s memorial service and after we had talked about the life of our inspiring friend he asked me, “What’s your next project?”. My exhibition Keys To Our Country - portraits celebrating Aboriginal Australians who bring their culture into their work, was hanging at Deloitte in Melbourne (and still is) and going well, so the next project was brewing. I explained gender balance was really important to me and I was thinking of painting women CEO’s to highlight the statistical fact that there are so few. Rob, immediately thought of the Rotary Women’s breakfast and putting me in touch with it’s organiser Kerry Kornhauser and we started talking about likely candidates and ideas. From a whim, to a spark, to excitement.
Ideas are just shells until life is breathed into them. When you have friends who also love ideas, are doers, take risks to make things they believe in happen, it gets easier and more fun. Glenda was one such person, so it is fitting that the idea for Leading Women’s Profile got going while thinking of her.
Later I explained to Kerry and Rob that I wanted to use the portraits to raise funds and as Kerry was associated with Bridge of Hope and I have years of experience volunteering in the homelessness space, it seemed a good fit.
This created the link between the most powerful and most vulnerable women, all experiencing greater challenges due to their gender. Twenty years as a communication facilitator means I like to have an impact, to inspire others to action and to get better outcomes. It is the same with my artwork.
The Herald Sun article from September 2018 explaining that the ASX200 had only 11 women CEO’s was a great statistic to get started with. I began sending out invitations and getting the wheels turning.
The women CEO’s I have met so far have just been stand out lovely people. Georgette Nicholas was the first to say yes and one yes means ‘it’s on’ so I am grateful for her open hearted commitment. Each portrait will be painted against a blue sky, signifying endless possibilities. The paintings will be part of the Women in Rotary International Women’s Day Breakfast on March 7, 2019 and then go to Deloitte Melbourne to be exhibited at their client Centre at 550 Bourke St. The portraits will be sold for $3000 to support Bridge of Hope’s - Bridging the Gap program that helps youth coming out of child protection and state care get on their feet.
While in residence at ‘All that We Are’ in Hobart I went to the Hobart Gallery and Museum’s “The National Picture - The Art of Tasmania’s black War”. The exhibition is built around Benjamin Duterrau’s painting The Conciliation – showing George Robinson meeting with the Palawa - local Aboriginals, to end resistance and accept government protection. The Museum of Australian Democracy at Old Parliament house recognises this painting as one of Australia’s founding documents. This “Friendly Mission” by Robinson and the Palawa people Woorady, Trukanini and others, who travelled the island on a Christian mission seeking out tribes who were resisting colonial expansion. They were successful in persuading hostile tribes to give in and accept government protection – giving up their land and moving to Flinders island (a move thought to be temporary). This ended the Black War.
With this exhibition is the work of Thomas Bock who was commissioned to paint 14 local Aboriginals. Of course having just spent a year painting portraits of Aboriginal people today who I see as champions of their culture I was fascinated. What was going on when Bock an ex convict painted the portraits?
“The national picture: the art of Tasmania’s Black War places Duterrau and Robinson at the centre of the memorialisation of the ‘conciliation phase’ of Tasmanian colonial history, which did not represent a fresh start but rather, signalled the beginning of the end.”
Paintings from this period of decimation of the local inhabitants by British forces and settlers show the gross discrepancy between rhetoric and reality. The locals both call for land at any cost and others are appalled by the measures taken. As you can see from the timeline I have constructed (in order to get it straight in my head) things were out of control and high ideals and land grabbing were at constant odds. What really grabbed my attention were the Proclamation boards showing equal treatment for black or white and an integrated society - how could these boards have been hung in public at the same time as the black war?
Van Diemans Land -Tasmania was settled in 1803. By mid 1820’s settlers and land grants have increased and conflict between settlers and original inhabitants is spiralling out of control.
1828 Lieutenant-Govenor George Arthur publishes a Proclamation in The Hobart Town Courier which begins: “Whereas, at and since the primary Settlement of this Colony, various acts of aggression, violence and cruelty have been, from different causes, committed on the Aboriginal Inhabitants on the Island by Subjects of His Majesty…”
The Black War
1828 in April the government declares all Aboriginals who entered the settled districts as criminals and could be killed with impunity. The settled districts were not marked. By November this escalated to martial law – effectively declaring war on the aboriginal people anywhere.
1830 the Black Line is staged - 2,200 men at a cost of half the annual budget of the colony 30,000 pounds were to drive the Aboriginal population from settled districts to Forrestier Peninsula and then to be sent offshore. Only 2 people were captured. The Aboriginal population of 6,000 at settlement was now down to a few hundred - They still resist.
1831 Field Map of the military operation of the black line (above) is published in England. Showing belief that the English straight line could dominate even topography - the militia groups were undisciplined and didn’t move in a coordinated line.
Concurrently - The “Friendly Mission”
1828 Robinson is appointed to convert a ration station on Bruny Island as a mission to civilise the Aboriginal people. It was a failure with many dying from disease. Despite this, Robinson convinces Arthur to support his more ambitious plan to move Aboriginal tribes in stages to Flinders Island for two years while things settle and then bring them back.
1829 Frankland the surveyor who in his travels noted Aboriginal paintings on trees and in huts (including pictures of colonists) had the idea of using this pictorial method to influence both Indigenous and settlers (who were often illiterate). The picture boards refer to L-Gov Arthur’s proclamation and show black and white families arm in arm, black women holding white babies and white women holding black babies, and that punishment for killing was killing regardless of skin. A story of integration.
1830 L-Gov Arthur offers ‘a handsome reward to any individual who shall effect a successful intercourse with any tribe.’
1830 L-Gov Arthur agrees to fund Robinsons plan of conciliation and taking Aboriginal tribes to Flinders Island
1831 Robinson meets with the Big River mob (a group of numerous clans who have held on to living on the land) to effect their surrender. The Oyster Bay mob are also brought in.
Between 1831-5 Robinson commissions Thomas Bock to paint 14 Tasmanian Aboriginal people – who had been brought to Hobart in Robinsons conciliation project. (These paintings are currently on loan from the British Museum.)
1833-4 Duterrau paints large portraits of Aboriginal people in oils.
1840 Duterrau’s painting of ‘The Conciliation’. He referred to this as preparation for a later painting ‘The National Portrait’ that he apparently sold to a scotsman but no image of it exists.
1835-1840 Robinson is heralded as the conciliator or the pacificator and awarded trophies and painted by many artists
Despite killings for 25 years, the Black War, disease and maltreatment the Aboriginal people of Tasmania would not give in – they fought a bloody war for their land and their people. The conciliation meetings, commissioned and paid for by the government of the day represent a treaty to end that war. Neither the war nor the treaty are recognised in our history. The War Memorial in Canberra should hold this picture.
Robinson later came under criticism for duping the Palawa – they were never returned to the mainland but died of disease and starvation. Although many Aboriginals had been gathered up from the sealer’s islands during the ‘Friendly Mission’, fortunately some were not.
I want to take this opportunity to explain who this exhibition is dedicated to and why. Marlene McAuliffe was the best of friends to me for over 30 yrs, enfolding me into her family. Marlene died in 2017. She was a person who valued friendship; who listened; who was curious and loved beauty; who made each person she spoke to feel important and cherished; who made friends into family. Those of us who new her know that we were lucky, that our lives are richer for it and always will be.
Marlene's spirit embodies what this exhibition is about. Being curious, seeking beauty, being willing to learn, to cherish and to welcome.
This time last year I had not even conceived of anything like this exhibition. It is exciting to see the exhibition up looking beautiful . Tiffany came and photographed the portraits for the exhibition booklet and for the posters on each floor of Deloitte Melbourne that showcase the portraits and their stories. Clients at the Deloitte visitor Centre are giving great feedback. People are learning more positive stories about Aboriginal culture in action today.
The portraits have the story of the person painted posted next to them and a QR code so the viewer can watch the time lapse video of the picture being painted and listen to the singing of that person or music by Gordon Harvey and Aquiline.
As I have said before reconciliation is complex. One part is recognition of history as it happened. The part this exhibition focuses on is on applauding those Aboriginals who are helping us build stronger futures through bringing their culture into their work and being open to helping the broader community learn more about Aboriginal Culture.
I hope that more people will take an Aboriginal Heritage Tour at the Botanic Gardens, or the Museum, or seek out books like Bruce Pascoe's Dark Emu to learn more about history as it happened. Learning more about the land on which we live can have unexpected benefits. Try it - you won't be disappointed.
My thanks to Deloitte for their generosity in hosting the exhibition and joining their RAP - Reconciliation Action Plan, with mine. Special thanks to Adrian Gardiner and Rob Pluchinotta for their energy and great work in getting the exhibition up. May their community actions go from strength to strength.
Well, we are almost there. I am on my twelfth portrait and have to have them all ready for being photographed by Tiffany on the weekend. Really I couldn't have worked any harder but nothing could have been so rewarding. I have met such amazing people and learned so much about Aboriginal culture. This is my RAP Reconciliation Action Plan. I hope it inspires others to embark on their own. If only to be curious and learn more about our Aboriginal culture and shared history.
Deloitte the international Financial and Consulting Services Firm are hosting the Keys To Our Country exhibition in NAIDOC week here in Melbourne. The Exhibition will go up at the start of July.
Currently the portraits are getting framed and we are in event organising mode with a wonderful Team at Deloitte from their RAP committee organising the event. I'll keep you posted of the official details soon.
What a journey this has been. I have met such amazing people. It has been wonderful.
Waverley Stanley's wife Llew saw my email asking Waverley to join the project and we met almost the next day. I presented his painting to he and Llew and the Yalari yr 11 camp at Queens College in Melbourne. The kids faces lit up as they clearly love Waverley so they loved his portrait and the fact that they were all the little Bunya pines that he is planting.
Coincidences continue to drive the project - or as Den tells me the old people are watching. Like my choosing Bunya pines for Waverley's painting and it turning out to be his peoples special tree. Waverley introduced me to Uncle Moogy in Adelaide and he invited me to a corroboree. My brother Peter and I went down to Dupang on the Coorong and I was blown away by the stories of how Uncle Moogy and dance have touched and change so many lives. His energy to share and teach shows seemingly endless compassion.
I was singing jazz with Caz Mclennan and she connected me to the beautiful Veronica Barnett from Torres strait and Cape York and her wonderful weaving and art. From that meeting flowed the intro to Tiffany Garvie award winning photographer from Arnhem land. We roamed the lanes of Brunswick looking for good graffiti at sunrise.
As I was painting Veronica live in the Melbourne Museum I found myself surrounded by children from the Kimberley and people doing a Wayapa course - go figure! The teacher of the Kimberley group was Tyrone Bean, the first Aboriginal teacher at Wesley College, an activist in Australian rules footy and first Aboriginal Support person at Queens College. Jamie Marloo Thomas who runs Wayapa had been at the Dupang festival but I just missed him. Tiffany recommended him and I am now learning about Wayapa Wuurrk the Aboriginal Wellness program. Wayapa Wuurrk is going from strength to strength with more and more qualified instructors all over the country. Having lived at a Dojo in Japan, done courses with the North American Indian Shaman I am excited to find the healing arts from my own country. Seeing the Ngangkari healer from the APY lands was one of the things that got this project going.
I am just finishing Tyrone and Jamie's portraits off this weekend before I head to Adelaide to develop my painting skills with Robin Eley. The day I get back I will meet with John Patten, incredibly talented, artist, writer, playwright, manager and life long learner.
I need more women on board, so hopefully will meet the right ones soon. Please tell your friends about the project and help grow the Keys to Our Country Community.
Bruce Pascoe is a crusader. He researches history to tell the right story, grows crops to create commercial futures from native plants, researches language to maintain the flame for future generations and to help them know the strength of who they are.
Bruce is an Aboriginal Australian writer, from the Bunurong clan, of the Kulin nation. He has worked as an award winning writer, teacher, farmer, a fisherman and an Aboriginal language researcher. Bruce is the author of Dark Emu. Dark Emu challenges the claim that pre-colonial Indigenous Australians were a hunter gatherer society. The journals of early explorers, newspapers and records show the agricultural scope and sophistication of Aboriginal Australians when the explorers arrived - illuminating our past in order to light the future.
Bruce is involved in cultivating murnong yams and other indigenous crops to promote their commercial distribution. Did you know that the first bread was baked in Australia over 30,000 years ago, 15,00 years before the Egyptians used flour to bake bread? Norman Tindale documented aboriginal grain crops covered most of the Australia continent but contemporary grain areas make up less than a quarter of that area. What might happen if we explore those traditional grains and how they were grown in areas we now call desert? There is much to learn from our past to help build a stronger Australian future.
"You can't eat our foods if you can't swallow our history."
Please have a listen to Bruce as he tells you of the records of the explorers and early settlers regarding the sophistication of crop and aquaculture management.
Listen, have a read of Dark Emu and talk about it. Start a conversation …
Time lapse video of the painting of Bruce's portrait.
The launch of ‘Keys To Our Country’ was a moving and happy event. Den Fisher presided with a smoking ceremony that gave the event gravitas – it drew people in to the meaning of the project – all Australians celebrating aboriginal heritage and being part of that culture.
Den’s portrait was unveiled and the project explained to the group assembled. It was very encouraging to hear the comments of support and well wishing. All present were encouraged to sign up to the Keys to Our Country website in order to get updates as each portrait is done. Each update will explain the work of that individual and help us all learn more and be able to create meaningful conversations around the strengths of Aboriginal culture.
We all shared lemon myrtle muffins and tea and those congregated took away a Celia Moriarty Art 2018 calendar.
I have begun a new project that combines art, community and education Keys to Our Country
Painting the portrait of Den Fisher who leads Aboriginal Heritage Tours at the Royal Melbourne Botanic Gardens, spurred an idea. Paint a series of Aboriginal Australians who bring their heritage into their work today (I explain more about that here In the Beginning ). Thereby, celebrating their actions and engendering conversations about the work of each person as the portraits unfold. Those who subscribe to the project will get newsletter updates as each portrait is done.
I am immensely grateful to the The Royal Melbourne Botanic Gardens who will hold an unveiling for the painting and launch for the project on Nov 1.
I'd love you to join the journey - watch the portraits emerge and become part of a community having conversations about Aboriginal Heritage and culture in Australia today. Please subscribe
This is how the portrait begins - with music composed by my friend Gordon Harvey. There are no keys in the portrait at this early stage. When I said to Den I wanted to include them he immediately said - 'I know what to call it - Keys to my country, No, Keys to Our Country. And so it is.
There are so many coincidences and stories that collided to make this project begin.
As a painter of Australian Native Flora I am regularly at the Royal Melbourne Botanic Gardens keeping an eye on the new blooms in the changing of seasons. Last summer to my delight the sacred lotus had emerged and bloomed in the lake right by the cafe. I saw some gardens staff and applauded them for this new planting, explaining that I am an artist who paints native flora. Den Fisher then said "paint me".
Well I didn't paint portraits, but at that time I enrolled in Robin Eley's oil painting course which turned out to be portraiture. As I applied his tecniques, there was Den's face, so I thought I had best find him again and paint him.
I went on the Aboriginal Heritage Tour at the gardens and Ben Church taught us about the three plants used in the smoking ceremony. One to represent the past ancestors who lived on this land, one for today and one for the past. The smoke of all three mingles to cleanse, heal and strengthen.
I have learned from my work over 20 yrs as a communication facilitator of issue resolution and persuasive communication that success in these areas is based on connection and recognition. Many people are like me and don't know how to connect to the indigenous heritage of our land because we don't know much about it. Our history books didn't tell us much, but this is beginning to change. I am not an Aboriginal Australian but I am a lifelong learner and educator and applaud those who are helping us learn.
When I painted Den's portrait I new through many little signs that I was on the right track. The work Den and Ben do at the botanic gardens teaching visitors about Aboriginal Heritage is important. It seeds many conversations in the broader community. Through learning we build understanding and can begin those conversations that help us to connect our diverse talents and strengths. Without those conversations Australia holds a weakness of not embracing the rich culture of it's past and turning it to advantage.
As an artist I can use my art to acknowledge these individuals who are conduits of change and broadcast it further. Please subscribe to the project to learn about the ways dedicated individuals are focusing on what can be done and bringing Aboriginal culture into their work today.
I am immensely grateful to the The Royal Melbourne Botanic Gardens for hosting the unveiling of Den Fisher's portrait and Launch of Keys to Our Country the Project on November 1 2017.
This is how the portrait begins - with music composed by my friend Gordon Harvey. There are no keys in the portrait at this early stage. When I said to Den I wanted to include them he immediately said - 'I know what to call it - Keys to my country, No, Keys to Our Country. And so it is.
Spring is here! I have just had a wonderful time in Perth seeing the spring wildflowers – magnificent. Kings Park, the Perth botanic garden has a great focus on the big fabulous blooms of key eucalyptus. The plantings of Eucalyptus youngiana, Eucalyptus kingsmillii and eucalyptus macrocarpa are breathtaking. I have not seen them used to such advantage in any other setting. Not to mention all the paper daisies and wildflower ground coverage in yellow, pink, blue and orange. We had a focused and productive time in my 5 Steps to Painting Australian Wildflowers course - many thanks to the dedicated participants.
Here in Victoria this month I am exhibiting at the Contemporary Art Society annual exhibition in Richmond and next week head down to Korumburra in Gippsland for the opening of “The Art of Spring”. Federation Art Gallery Sunday 2pm. Hope to see you there.
I have been popping in and out of the Royal Botanic Gardens Victoria to paint Den Fisher who has lead Aboriginal Heritage Walks for the past seven years.
As a frequenter of the gardens I was thrilled to see a new planting of the Sacred Lotus - Nelumbo nucifera in glorious flower in the lake earlier this year. I started chatting to Den about it and my paintings and he suggested I paint him.
About that time a friend suggested I participate in Robin Eley’s oil painting workshop. As I painted the class exercise, Den seemed to step out from the page – so I went and asked him to sit for me.
Den is a very spiritual man. When asked what he loves about the job, he told me that the spirits have given him this job and a local radio job and he could ask for no more. He is called to strengthen aboriginal culture, especially respect for women and to help young people. Leading the walks helps him to connect people to the land. I feel strongly that we need to learn more about First Nation heritage to bring it into our lives in a meaningful way.
Den's friend and coworker Ben supports our painting get together’s and other staff are enjoying seeing the painting unfold. The painting is full of little messages that tell me we are on the right track. An aboriginal man working to bring traditional heritage to today’s world is a strong constructive message for the future. Thanks Den and Ben.
Who owns this country?
Where do they come from?
Are they Australians?
Are they Poms?
What did they bring here?
What do they speak?
Do they speak English?
Do they speak Greek?
They bring trouble
They bring guns
Shoot you dead
You’re nothing but a bum
They say you’re a no hoper
You’re no good
You’re just nothing
You’re just a boong
Where can we go?
Where can we stay?
Stand up and fight
Kneel down and pray
We have to do something
We have to together
We can’t do it alone
We can make it better
So, come on you people
Let’s come as one
Bring your family
Children, Dad and Mum
Bring all your friends
Bring all your relations
This is what we call!
R e c o n c i l i a t i o n.
© Den The Fish.
No? You are not alone.
The most celebrated Australian artist who was once a household name is not mentioned in today’s version of Australian art history.
Ellis Rowan – The Flower Hunter 1848- 1922
Ellis Rowan was consistently recognised for over 50 years as one of the best artists of any genre in international exhibitions and competitions - she was not seen by the international stage as a mere flower painter.
I was familiar with some of her gentle botanical water colours but thought her a botanical artist who was a great adventurer. However, as you look at her work particularly the New Guinea oil paintings that show the flower boldly bursting from the page, I saw my own work and what I am trying to achieve 100 years later – thinking it was new. She worked as an impressionist producing a vast volume of work and was often compared to the new technology of photographs.
It is surprising that Heidi Museum did not include her in the recent exhibition with Georgia O’Keefe as Georgia's work is so like Ellis's. Ellis travelled extensively in USA for twelve years documenting flora and illustrated three books of botanical texts that Georgia may well have seen.
I am going to list some of her accomplishments here, just so you can see how extraordinary her achievements were as she travelled in outback Australia for months on end and through so many countries , deserts and jungles alike to capture her subjects on paper and canvas – in a corset, immaculately dressed with praise and respect (except from the male artists) from those around her.
Ferdinand Von Mueller the appointed Victorian Government Botanist and Director of the Royal Melbourne Botanic Gardens used the young Ellis Rowans paintings to identify unknown species, but her work was to gain international acclaim far beyond botany.
When the Melbourne Exhibition buildings opened in 1880, with exhibits from 30 countries, she took gold and silver. To give you some context The Victorian Artists Society was outraged and protested to the international jury who later conceded a silver medal to Louis Beuvelot. By 1900 Ellis Rowan was so well known in Australia that she was apparently a household name.
1883 Gold medals were awarded to Ellis Rowan in Calcutta, St Petersburg, Amsterdam and Denmark the following year.
1888 Ellis scooped the Centennial Art Exhibition Prizes. Held at the Melbourne Exhibition Buildings and said to be the grandest ever held, it included every country in the British Empire as well as Europe, America and Japan. A second silver award was given to Tom Roberts and third prize to Fred Mc Cubbin. The male artists and Victorian Artists Society were again furious and called a meeting to contest the judgement. You will be pleased to know that they were ridiculed for it by the international jurors. Norman Lindsay was another male artist who ridiculed her work calling it "vulgar" as she was being sought and acclaimed internationally in a way these men could only dream of.
1889 Adelaide Jubilee Exhibition she one five firsts and Gold.
Here in her hometown Ellis was invited to paint 12 large panels for the Australian Club – a men only domain and other such hallowed turf as the Victorian Racing Clubs govenor’s dining room.
1893 World Columbian Exhibition in Chicago – entered 99 paintings and took Gold.
Queen Victoria collected three of Ellis Rowan’s paintings as well as other royal family members. Lord Leighton, ex President of the Royal Academy attended her solo London exhibition in 1896 was also her fan. With these two in her court London was enchanted by her Australian Wildflower paintings and Australia was in the news for something other than Ned Kelly..
Around this time the German Chancellor offered to purchase Ellis’s collection for 15,000 pounds and invited her to remain in Germany as it’s botanical artist. - she refused apparently on patriotic grounds. Ellis then set off to America and the West Indies and collaborated on 3 books that became standard botany texts.
1901 Clausen’s Fifth Avenue Gallery showed 500 of her paintings of American wildflower paintings.
Kalgoorlie next, where her show of local flora was praised only to find that in Perth she was criticised as not local.
1916 at 68 Ellis set off to New Guinea and painted the flora and birds. She lived in primitive conditions, bribing the locals to bring her birds. They had to be caught to paint them.
“The large ones I tucked under my arm and held in that way while I painted them. Some were fierce and hard to hold… I covered the heads of others with handkerchiefs or table napkins to keep them a little quieter while painting the body.” I so often work from photos - so cushy!
Although the SA Gallery purchased 80 works, The National Gallery of Victoria holds 5, The QLD government bought 100 (Rowan gave them a gift of an extra 25) the purchase of her collection was debated in Parliament with Billie Hughes PM as her advocate, but the purchase was not made before her death in 1922.
I have been using her work to help me create depth in my paintings but did not realise that she had been feted as one of the great artists of the world for 50 years. Shame on the art schools of today that miss the opportunity to show such an individual spirit, passionate adventurer, prolific documenter of nature and astoundingly creative talent.
2002, The Flower Hunter – Ellis Rowan , Patricia Fuller Published by the National Library of Australia
2009, Women of Flowers - Botanical Art in Australia from the 1830s to the 1960s, Leonie Norton Published by the National Library of Australia
What a great exhibition opening at St Michael's in Collins Street. Kate Hudson who also works with Australian natives is a superb printmaker and our work was a great balance together. Many thanks to Erin and the generous community of Mt Michael's. Included were the time lapse movies of me creating some of the paintings - just to add some fun.
For two long years I have been chasing the Eucalyptus Macrocarpa in bloom. I had never seen one. Travelling between Adelaide and Melbourne I kept my eye on the plants at the Arboretum and Royal Botanic Gardens Melbourne. On more than one occasion I just missed the bloom. Although the flower is meant to bloom in Aug - Sept I found them in both locations in December. Success. Here is the first project painted from the blooms I discovered on Christmas day. You can see how large the bloom is.
Very excited to receive this flyer today for my next exhibition. Erin from St Michael's follows me on instagram and invited me to exhibit with them early in the new year. Of course I was excited but now I see I am exhibiting with Kate Hudson - Wow! Just love her Australian native prints - my whole family love them and we spot her work wherever we go. What a Christmas present. Woohooo
Have already spent weeks on this wattle and think I have just as long to go - but it will be good. This is our last open studio day at the old Art Room before the opening of new premises this Saturday.
Have really been trying to focus the viewers eye on the foreground and push the background back - I am pleased with this one. Feels like progress. It is on display now at the Royal Botanic Gardens Cranbourne - Australian Garden, for the Kangaroo Paw Celebration in the month of November. I included these smaller examples in the exhibition.