Artists I would like to thank.... Melbourne

I went to three exhibitions in three days last week.

The first was the Archibald  Prize Exhibition at the Art Gallery of Ballarat.

The Archibald Prize, first awarded in 1921, is Australia’s favourite art award, and one of its most prestigious. Awarded to the best portrait painting, it’s a who’s who of Australian culture – from politicians to fashion designers, sporting heroes to artists.

This is my photo of Michael Mc Williams’ stunning painting ‘The usurper (self portrait)’, which is an amalgam of feral animals that are such a problem in many parts of Australia. However, there are other portraits on the Art Gallery of Ballarat’s website.

Michael McWilliams ‘The usurper (self portrait’ (Photo copyright: Anne Lawson,2016)

The next day I headed off to the Bayside Arts and Cultural Centre to look at the works in ‘From the studio: Bayside Artists in Residence’, which is

a biannual exhibition which celebrates the artistic yield of writers, artists and composers, who have completed a yearlong residency as part of the Bayside Artist in Residence program…….The program places participants within the stately environs of Billilla Mansion ~ a heritage listed property incorporating a public garden and magnificent historic house.

For more about the residency look at the website.  There was a range of genre too, from my nephew, Evan Lawson, who is a composer, through novelists like Gillian Barnett, to Kate Just, a fibre artist. The following are my photos, showing a smattering of the high quality work that has been produced.

The third exhibition was Verdant Garden at Bundoora Homestead Art Centre. It is a gracious old house, a perfect exhibition space.


Again a range of high quality works, created by artists who drew

inspiration from the role of the garden on contemporary life, this exhibition celebrates the long, intimate and symbolic relationship between artist and garden. Featuring contemporary artists using a variety of mediums, this exhibition explores ideas of germination and the ways urbanisation has impacted on Australia’s love affair with the garden.

So, I have seen thought-provoking art, of a high quality. Then it struck me that each of these exhibitions were in spaces that relied heavily on the public purse. I don’t know their funding models, but they are galleries that are part of arts programmes of local and other forms of  governments. Without this funding these galleries, and these exhibitions and, therefore, these artists would have no support. *

The Arts are about exploration of our culture, environment, values and philosophies. Artists, in which ever creative form they work, explore and interpret, encouraging us to look at the world in a different way. Of course they also delight and entertain. Art can also be very inclusive. Anyone can pick up a paint brush or a pen, they can dance or compose music. In fact the more voices we hear the more we are challenged and engaged, we are more likely to begin to see the world from someone else’s point of view. In our battered world the more ways we have to show diversity and inclusion the better.

If we take away funding from any level of artistic work we are making our place a poorer and more bland, less inclusive place. In fact our level of Arts funding should be increased.

It is glorious to see these galleries in our midst, and there are many around our towns and cities. They need our support, if only by visiting  the exhibitions they show. That shows the governing funding bodies that we value them and want the funding to continue.

[*I understand that the Archibald Prize Exhibition is different. It is such a formidable part of the Australian art scene that, like Mt Everest, has its own micro-climate. That said, I only paid $15 entrance. Most of the exhibitions at the Art Gallery of Ballarat are free.]

And while I am on the Public Funding Bandwagon, let me do a shout out for local libraries. Mine turned 40 this week. It is a little branch in an old bank building. About 20 years ago the council wanted to shut it down. It was saved by locals protesting and a court challenge. It’s an important hub in our community, as it really does include everyone, from my Fella and me to the Somali mums who bring their toddlers to story time. Yay for libraries!

7 replies on “”

I like the first painting – there are some surprising animals there. Feral sheep? I had to get my magnifying glass out to search for the obvious cats and dogs. I found a cat but no dog – unless I’m missing it of course.
It seems to be the same with libraries everywhere at the moment. All they can do is to diversify. In France, many of the larger ones are now called médiatheques (instead of bibilotheques) to reflect the inclusion of multimedia items. I don’t know what the answer is but it is a sad day when a community loses its library


You made me look closely for a dog, but i couldn’t see one. i don’t think that we think of sheep and cattle as feral, but they are certainly introduced species that have altered the environment. I think it is a very clever painting, with rodent earrings and a camel tiara! Many of these creatures and plants were introduced deliberately to Europeanise what was an unfamiliar and hostile environment. Pity these feral species flourished here.


An interesting take on ‘The Green Man’ – are the plants all introductions too?
We too are very lucky to have museums that are free to enter. I am currently planning a trip to the V&A in London and although the special exhibition we are going to see has an entrance fee, the rest of the museum charges nothing for entry.


I hadn’t made the Green Man connection, but of course it is obvious. Yep, all the plants I can identify are introduced. I was disappointed to learn that one of my botanic heroes, Ferdinand von Mueller (started up the National Herbarium amongst other things) went on walks and spread blackberry seeds as he went!
The V&A is a very special place. However, I remember, when I was in London in the 80s there was a move (by Thatcher?) to charge an entrance fee. There was strong opposition and i proudly wore a badge against it.


Oh our botanical heroes can sometimes turn out to be only too human. Do you know the story of John Heslop Harrison (eminent professor of botany)? It is widely suspected that he introduced species onto the Scottish island of Rum in order to support his theory that the last glaciation did not extend as far south as generally thought. There’s a great little book about it called A Rum Affair… I must dig it out and read it again.


I almost went to the Archibald last weekend, but missed it as I decided to go to Ballarat this coming weekend instead! I agree with much of what you’ve said here about art. If art funding is taken away, it’s not just artists that will be poorer for it, it’s everyone, even though some people don’t realise the indirect ways in which art impacts on their environment and their lives. On libraries, these are possibly even more important than art, so I am horrified to hear that a local council would consider shutting one down! Glad to hear it failed in that attempt.


I agree that libraries could be more important than art, not that you were intending it to be a competition! Our little branch is a hub for the community and seems to be doing a good job of catering to all sorts of interests and needs. The free computers are always in use and lots of people sit around and read or study, except during Storytime, because that generates a lot of happy noise!

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