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In Your Words – The Robinson Project

Catalogue essay by Erin Wilson, from the exhibition In Your Words on at Devonport Regional Gallery until 24th February 2019

In Your Words grid
Photographs by Bert and Albert Robinson, from the Robinson Collection

If I was to ask anyone familiar with the Robinson Collection to describe to me what it was, I believe most would say it is a collection of historic black and white photographs. This has been the public face of the Robinson Collection over the past twenty years, as photographic prints of the collection have been displayed annually in the Gallery. However, as the Curator of this magnificent collection, I would describe it slightly differently. To begin with, I would say this is a collection of photographic negatives – because it is in fact an archive of tens of thousands of negatives, rather than photographs, from the Robinson & Son Photographic Studio.

There is something special about archives, which rouses an entirely different experience than viewing fragments of archives, already interpreted, arranged and presented in a museum or gallery. While the photographic prints can be highly evocative, I have witnessed how viewing the archive itself can evoke an entirely different reaction. When the Robinson Collection is described by the period or region it covers, or the number of negatives it contains, it is still somewhat abstract. However, standing in front of row upon row, shelf upon shelf of archival boxes each containing hundreds of negatives; holding original, yellowing Kodak boxes; or catching the distinct smell of the nitrate negatives, has a power of its own. It is only when going to the source of the archive that you can get a sense of the magnitude of this collection, both in its scale and historical value.

For each negative selected and displayed in the Gallery, there are thousands of others that have only been seen by a few sets of eyes. My interest as the Curator of this collection lies in what is hidden and what is absent, and the potential of bridging these gaps. As this collection is cared for and displayed in an art gallery, there is a tendency to treat the photographs as fine art objects – particularly when so many are visually powerful and beautiful. However, these photographs were the snapshots of the day when owning a personal camera was rare, and this task lay with commercial studio photographers. It is significant that the Robinsons were commercial studio photographers – their aim was never to holistically capture life in the region, and as such the collection is not a complete or comprehensive historical record.

However, I do not see this incompleteness as a shortcoming, but as a starting point with immeasurable potential. What this incompleteness means is that the value of this collection is not limited to the physical archive. This collection already extends beyond the Gallery’s archive. Each of these negatives existed to produce an original print, and these original prints can still be found in countless photo albums and on living room walls across the region. What has become clear to me in considering this incompleteness is that the Robinson Collection is not only an amazing resource for the community, but likewise, the community are an invaluable resource for the Robinson Collection. These photographs capture snippets of a time now passed, but the knowledge of those times lies in the experiences and memories of those who lived them.

As such, I have begun a project which aims to strengthen the connection between the Robinson archive and its community. Traditionally, a Curator will select pieces from a collection for display in a gallery, and community members will visit the gallery to view the selected pieces. My aim is to disrupt this linear approach, so that the archive itself becomes more accessible, and the gallery is as much a site for the community to share their knowledge as it is for gaining knowledge. This desire is taking form in the design of a series of collaborative curatorial experiments under the banner of ‘The Robinson Project’. The first iteration, this exhibition, is titled In Your Words. This exhibition has been the first step in connecting members of the community directly with this archive: members of the community who lived and worked in Devonport and its surrounds in the period the Robinsons were photographing, whose knowledge and memories of this period are invaluable – and need to be recorded.

As I mentioned earlier, for every photograph displayed, thousands are not. It is important to critically examine what is shown, what is not, and how this process of selection could be approached differently. As such, for this exhibition I engaged nine members of different parts of the community, and their stories, as the starting point: simple stories from each about their lives and experiences in Devonport, which will be beautifully familiar and nostalgic for some, and a unique insight into a time now passed for others. After sharing these stories, each went through the archive to find photographs to pair with these stories; photographs which then played their own role, eliciting more memories and details to add to the richness of the stories told.

The experience of approaching the collection in this way, through the stories and perspectives of those who lived the archive, reinforced for me the limitations of individual curators such as myself speaking on behalf of the collection. There are countless simple, but important examples. If it were not for this process, I would have believed the Fruit Palace was simply a fruit shop – a reasonable assumption given the window display of fruit in the photograph. Without speaking with Judy and Joe I would never have known that there was a milk bar out the back that was the place to be for local high school students on a Friday night in the 60s. Similarly, without speaking to Janice about the fire station or Arden about the Haines whistle, I wouldn’t have any awareness of some of the sounds of Devonport which could never be captured in a photograph – nor would many others viewing these photographs.

The experience of gaining different perspectives on life in the region is also an invaluable result of this approach. This could be as simple as two perspectives of the same photograph or event, such as the Devonport Show, which Bill called for 17 years, and Stephen recounted attending as a child. Or more broadly, insights into the different experiences of Helen in East Devonport, Pat in Quoiba and Jim in William Street, who despite the differences in their childhoods each vividly recounted fond memories of Saturdays spent at the Star Theatre. Each of these personal recollections are made more vivid because of the Robinson photographs, yet also bring these images to life in a new way.

As you walk through the exhibition or read through the following pages, viewing these Robinson images and listening to the voices of those who have shared their stories, I hope you too are moved by the power of these simple but beautiful stories, and see the potential that lies in activating this archive as a site of shared memories, stories and the self-representation of the people of this region.

– Erin Wilson

*The Robinson Project is a series of collaborative curatorial projects involving community members and Curator Erin Wilson

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Responses to tidal.2018

Come and visit our creative space to see the new display of artworks made in response to the exhibition tidal.18. Collages were made by our Tuseday and Wednesday nights Create and Make classes, as well as by grade 2 students from Our Lady or Lourdes Catholic School. Many students from Our Lady of Lourdes went back to school and wrote about their artworks , and these statements have been included in the display under each artwork. They are an absolute treasure to read!

On the move

It is obvious, the local community is greatly attached to the Gallery at Stewart Street. I have been asked countless times why it needs to move. The saying goes, “if I had a dollar for every time I was asked.” The answer is quite simple. Undeniably, the Stewart Street Gallery is a striking building with outstanding features such as the vaulted ceiling, but it is severely lacking in the most practical aspects for an art gallery.

When receiving one recent exhibition, Play On: The Art of Sport / Ten Years of the Basil Sellars Art Prize, two of the crates did not fit through the door. To make matters worse it was raining. Unpacking crates on the street is not a good look at the best of times and is simply out of the question in the rain.

Stewart Street has no loading bay on the street frontage, let alone attached to the building. Delivery vehicles hope that there is an empty space out the front or risk a fine by parking in the bus zone. There are no amenities in the building and patrons are asked to use the public toilets outside. There is no storage and the entrance would be non-compliant by today’s standards. Unseen by patrons, is the cramped office environment that is either sweltering in summer or freezing in winter.

When I worked at the Gallery in 2009, a feasibility study was being undertaken for an extension. This was not the first study. Vast improvements have been made to the building, but not to the extent to resolve some of the fundamental requirements for a regional gallery.

The move to the paranaple arts centre in Rooke Street is a giant leap forward. Not only does it address the shortcomings of Stewart Street (access, climate control, storage, public amenities, etc.) it also results in significant gains in exhibition space – which is really all the patron should be concerned with. The patron does not want to know about loading bays…

Stewart Street has approximately 140 square metres of floor space and with the built alcoves out of ‘temporary’ walls, has approximately 70 running metres of running wall space. The new Gallery will have just on 300 square metres of floorspace and approximately 116 running metres of wall space.

In addition is a 60 square metre room we are calling the Creative Space. It is a serviceable space to conduct workshops, hold meetings or use an exhibition space if necessary.

I have the pleasure of wearing a hardhat and safety vest to undertake a fortnightly site-visit. It makes an arts and culture guy feel rather manly. Each time I visit the construction site I get a better sense for the space. Last week the walls were lined. Soon it will be painted throughout. Then the carpet, joinery and finishing touches.

We will open on Friday 2 November with the opening of Tidal: City of Devonport Art Award. I cannot think of a more appropriate exhibition. Tidal is a highlight of our calendar that brings some of the most interesting contemporary work from throughout Australia to public view in Devonport.

The exhibition responds to the theme of tidal coastal living, characteristic of our region. We will also be opening with an exhibition from our Robinson Collection. Our Curator Erin Wilson has been working diligently to collate a series of fascinating oral histories in relation to images from the Robinson Collection.

In Your Words: The Robinson Project contains over 100,000 photographic negatives capturing the social and commercial life in the region during the 20th century. It has opened this extensive collection to members of the Devonport community, who have explored the archive, selected negatives that resonate with them, and recorded oral histories elicited by these photographs.

In Your Words exhibition will bring together thirty photographs selected by nine members of the Devonport community, presented alongside oral history excerpts, both text and audio, through which they share their memories and stories of the region, in their own words.

I am looking forward to the move. It will bring together staff from our Gallery, Theatre and Visitor Information Centre into the one building and operation. It will result in a team of people capable of delivering unknown potential. The possibilities for the future look very exciting.

~ Geoffrey Dobson, Convention & Arts Director

Paranaple Arts Centre

Images:
Allan Francis, Baptist Church once; Art Gallery now 1987, from Homes of Devon 6: Open House, b&w photograph, DCC Permanent Collection, acc. 1987.029
Courthouse, Devonport, n.d. The Robinson Collection, R5844, DCC Permanent Collection

Tribute to Dr. Ellie Ray, Gallery Director 2008-2018

Guest post: Dunja Rmandić, Former Curator of Collections, Devonport Regional Gallery.

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A few years ago when I came to Devonport for my second interview for the position of Curator of Collections, I was greeted at the airport by a small curly haired woman, Ellie Ray, driving a huge white van. The contrast was stark but I quickly came to realise that Ellie’s task at the Gallery was, like the van, huge. She needed a Curator to help her relocate the whole collection to a brand new facility. Ellie had lobbied for this new facility and ran the whole process steadily and diligently for a number of years, because she knew that the Devonport collection was a special one, and it needed to stay that way. When I saw the facility I knew Devonport Regional Gallery was going to be the envy of Tasmanian and other regional galleries. And so it was.

Ellie went part time to get a curator dedicated to this relocation project. I think she was the only part time director in Australia, and was still doing her job in the same exceptional way as before. She knew how important it was to do the relocation with a dedicated focus and it is because of her foresight and determination that Devonport’s collection is in the best possible facility for us and for future generations.

Ellie didn’t stop there and in amongst securing excellent exhibitions from the mainland and generating exceptional ones herself (Felt Presence was both stunning and important, as were many others), she kept thinking about the longer-term future for the Gallery. And she did that on her first day at work when she pulled down the hessian walls all those years ago!

Dunja and Ellie

I have worked in quite a few places but Ellie is the best Director I have worked under. Her genuine dedication to the local community, above and beyond all else, above and beyond ego, made our jobs easier, better focused and deeply meaningful. You knew why you were coming to work every morning but most of all you knew that everything you do, be that installing exhibitions, putting on a Friends’ lunch or printing invitations, must be done with the utmost professionalism and highest of standards.  When you did turn up to work, you would hear Ellie signing in the kitchen or in her office or while changing the lights on the giant ladder. This is what I love the most, this combination of professionalism and warmth with Ellie, and though she may occasionally lose a piece of jewelry or leave her phone at home, don’t let that fool you, she’s sharp, energetic and determined; know that the Gallery is losing one of the best arts professionals in Tasmania.

In my mind Ellie had long ago joined the Devonport greats Jean and Daniel Thomas; her knowledge and deep engagement with ideas and art are infectious and her deep love for the collection and Tasmanian art are inspirational, the testament to that are the annual Robinson Collection shows. How great have they been?

I am sorry I can’t be there to celebrate this moment with you Ellie, but I’m sure I’m not alone in wishing you all the best to you for the next chapter of your creative endeavour, and from the bottom of my heart thank you for the best two years of my professional life.

Dunja

 

Thomas Thwaites: He Doesn’t Act the Goat

     When navigating the social landscape, one discovers there are certain topics that spark conversations, and others that kill them entirely. “I want to live as a goat” tends to fall into the latter category.

     For designer Thomas Thwaites, however, this social rule didn’t apply. Astonishingly, it secured him a Wellcome Trust grant to live out his dreams as a goat. Citing his angst and dissatisfaction with the state of the world as the reason for such a venture, he hoped that life as an animal would be simpler. After studying goats and building a prosthetic goat suit, Thwaites found a herd of goats in the Swiss Alps to join. After such aspirations, he found himself somewhat challenged by the experience. The suit was uncomfortable and the lifestyle physically demanding. While the emotional experience of being a goat did not see Thwaites fully entering the mind of a goat, he did find a certain peace.

New Alchemists, 9 Dec 2017 - 7 Jan 2018-17
I, Goat, 2015. Sculptural armature, digital prints. Dimensions variable, video 16:06 mins. Installation view.

     Many might view Thwaites as mad, however, his project holds a certain dignity. The desire to be a goat is deep rooted and philosophical, while his explanation is down to earth. He acknowledges the humour in his concept, but seriously explores the boundaries between human and animal. His hypothesis that living life as an animal would be better than as a human is juxtaposed with a quote in his artist statement for I, Goat (2015):

It is better to be a human being dissatisfied than a pig satisfied; better to be Socrates dissatisfied than a fool satisfied. And if the fool, or the pig, is of a different opinion, it is only because they only know their own side of the question. (Stuart Mill, 1879)

Here, Thwaites retrieves the viewer from their inclination to believe he is mad, and forces them to think. Beyond the prosthetics, the mountains and the goats, there is a deeper answer being sought: what is humanity?  Is it an entity entirely separate from the animal kingdom? Does technology render humanity superior? Or is humanity equal to their evolutionary family, including goats?

     Each individual takes their own view with this philosophical dilemma. For some, the existence of the dilemma itself defines humanity by its thought. Others see inter species equality. Thwaites believes it is the faculty for stories that marks the divide between homo sapiens and other animals (Barkham, 2017).

     Thus, Thwaites tells his own story about living as a goat and one is fascinated. In New Alchemists, curated by Dr Alicia King, Thwaites’ endeavor finds solace with other artists who push biological boundaries. Perhaps his herd is comprised not of goats, but instead of experimental and revolutionary artists.

 – Eleanor McCormack, DROOGs

 

New Alchemists, 9 Dec 2017 - 7 Jan 2018-15
I, Goat, 2015. Sculptural armature, digital prints. Dimensions variable, video 16:06 mins. Installation view.

References

Barkham, P. (2017). No kidding: what I learned from becoming GoatManthe Guardian. Retrieved 4 January 2018, from https://www.theguardian.com/science/shortcuts/2016/may/15/no-kidding-what-learned-from-becoming-goatman

Myall, S. (2016). Man ate grass and lived as a goat after giving up on stressMirror. Retrieved 4 January 2018, from http://www.mirror.co.uk/news/real-life-stories/i-fed-up-life-went-7956015

Ramsey, L. (2016). This man just won a very special award for turning himself into a goatBusiness Insider. Retrieved 4 January 2018, from http://www.businessinsider.com/thomas-thwaites-goat-man-ig-nobel-2016-9/?r=AU&IR=T/#after-six-days-thwaites-completed-his-journey-across-the-alps-as-a-goat-but-he-says-hes-not-done-yet-hes-been-invited-to-hang-out-with-other-goats-this-summer-when-he-can-hopefully-push-his-prototype-further-i-just-think-id-like-to-continue-iterating-this-thing-to-get-to-this-dream-to-actually-gallop-he-said-15

Stuart Mill, J. (1879). Utilitarianism. 7th ed. London: Longmans, Green, and Co.

Highlights from the DCC Permanent Collection – Paul Boam

Boam 1
Paul BOAM, Untitled, 1971, oil on canvas

Paul Boam was born in Derbyshire, England in 1938. He remembers having a desire since childhood to be an artist, though not coming from an artistically inclined family. Instead, Boam attributes his interest in art to his being frequently ill as a child, yet being able to draw and paint while alone. Boam went on to train at the Nottingham School of Art where he found himself surrounded by like-minded people, and discovered artists such as Piet Mondrian and Paul Klee who stimulated his fascination with geometry. Following his studies Boam moved to Tasmania, where he remains based today, and began teaching at the Tasmanian School of Art in 1964.

Boam is known for his abstract paintings, which although often highly structured, also frequently contain elements of movement and fluidity, through the organic components often found in his grid-like structures. These organic forms are drawn from the themes Boam explores in his paintings; namely the Tasmanian landscape and its more abstract elements, such as considerations of light, and the weather events like bushfires as subjects. The artist has stated ‘The landscape almost always plays a part in my work but as a feeling, a sense of place, rather than a depiction.’ He has described his early works as ‘very tonal’, as they were based on more industrial landscapes than his later works. This shift demonstrates how the adjustment to life in Tasmania and its natural vistas impacted Boam’s practice. The artist also credits his teaching role at the University of Tasmania, which focused on colour theory at this time, as having played a vital role in the changing direction his practice took after moving from the UK to Tasmania.

Boam 2
Paul BOAM, Song before Sunrise, 1980, oil on canvas

Boam’s exploration of the Tasmanian landscape is neither strictly literal or figurative, rather his works often explore more ephemeral natural qualities such as light. Usually, Boam has undertaken these works in the studio, but at times he has also worked directly from the landscape. Although primarily recognised as a painter, Boam’s practice is more diverse. He has considered drawing to be a fundamental part of his art making process, this becoming apparent through paintings such as Untitled (1971) and Song before Sunrise (1980) from the DCC Permanent Collection. These works and others like them have distinctly structured geometric designs underlying the more fluid, overlying paint. In this way, Boam’s paintings walk the line between formal abstraction and a more expressive painting style.

Boam’s practice has also seen a material change over a period of several years, following a diagnosis with cancer which has limited his ability to work at an easel. The artist has since adopted the medium of collage as an alternative to painting, which has allowed him to continue to explore the concepts that formed the basis of his painting practice, while experimenting with the potential of this new medium. These collages sustain Boam’s distinctive style of abstraction while also containing more figurative elements, albeit often comprising disjointed details.

This shift in process over recent years reflects the approach Boam has taken to each of his paintings over the years, as reworking canvasses has been central to his art making. These interactions between the old painting, the new, and the artist are referred to by Boam as a dialogue, essential to the process. Boam has commented ‘My paintings are usually made over a period of time, reworked, overpainted – changed. I wait for the painting to start talking to me.’

Erin Wilson – Curator

You can view more of Paul Boam’s works on his website

View more works from the DCC Permanent Collection here

Highlights from the DCC Permanent Collection – Edith Holmes (1893 – 1973)

Edith Holmes was born in Hamilton, Tasmania in 1893. While spending the majority of her life living in Moonah, Hobart, Holmes grew up in Devonport as the third of five children. Both of her parents were teachers; her father William N. Holmes a schoolmaster from Ireland and her mother Lilla Edith Homes a Tasmanian-born school teacher. Edith’s father had abilities in calligraphy and drawing, and Edith also showed an interest in art from an early age. It has been suggested that her first painting tutor may have been Annie Cocker, who is also represented in the DCC Permanent Collection.

Holmes later continued her art studies at the Hobart Technical College, where she completed a year-long course titled ‘Still Life Oil Painting’ in 1918. From 1930 to 1931, she studied at the Julian Ashton School of Arts in Sydney, alongside George Lambert and Thea Proctor. During the 1950s and 60s, Holmes travelled overseas, where she was exposed to new artistic influences. She would paint throughout her life, from her first documented work Still life with strawberries (1906), continuing into the early 1970s, shortly before her death. As well as notable artist, Holmes was widely recognised as a philanthropist and environmentalist.

The DCC Permanent Collection holds nine works by Holmes, seven of which are portraits. While painting across portraiture, landscape and still life, in her later years Holmes focused more on portraiture. It is undoubtedly her portraits for which she is best known, and over the years Holmes’ paintings were included in eight Archibald Prize exhibitions.

Portraits from the DCC Permanent Collection:

LEFT: Edith HOLMES, William Lassan Holmes (c1930s), oil on canvas board, RIGHT: Edith HOLMES, William N. Holmes Esq. (c1936-40), oil on canvas board

William Holmes, depicted in the two paintings above, was Edith’s father. The portrait on the left was included in the 1935 Archibald Prize, the first of the artist’s works to be accepted into the exhibition. William Holmes was a school teacher, who migrated to Tasmania in 1881, and he was known as a strong athlete, particularly in cricket. This portrait was displayed in the dining room of the family home Dilkhoosha, where Edith usually painted.

LEFT: Edith HOLMES, Mother (c1936), oil on canvas board, RIGHT: Edith HOLMES, Mrs Lilla Edith Holmes (1947-51), oil on canvas board

There are four known portraits that Edith painted of her mother, Lilla Edith Holmes, three of which survive, and two of which (above) are held in the DCC Permanent Collection. Edith’s mother had five children including Edith, and worked with her husband William as an assistant teacher. She was said to have a keen sense of colour, and to be very supportive of Edith’s artistic pursuits.

LEFT: Edith HOLMES, Joan (1952), oil on canvas board, RIGHT: Edith HOLMES, Patsy Adam Smith; OBE, AO (c.1960-69), oil painting

Joan Dabrowski, depicted in the portrait on the left, was Edith’s niece. Joan’s mother died when she was young, and following her death Joan spent a substantial amount of time with Edith either at Dilkhoosha, or out sketching, and the two remained close in the later years of Edith’s life. Patsy Adam Smith (1924-2001), depicted in the portrait on the right, was a celebrated author who grew up in regional Victoria, and would at times stay in Hobart while working as a trading vessel radio operator.

Holmes’ portraits were almost always painted at Dilkhoosha, her Moonah home, where until 1940 she primarily worked in a garden shed. Later, after the death of her father, she would work primarily in the home’s drawing room. Often these portraits, including those held in the DCC Permanent Collection, were of her family and friends, with Holmes stating that she sought to ‘convey their character in her art.’

-Erin Wilson, Curator

View more works from the DCC Permanent Collection here

 

Devonport Regional Gallery moving in 2018

The Devonport Regional Gallery is currently situated in a re-purposed Baptist Church. It is a stunning building complimented by engaging exhibitions, programs and events. However, we have outgrown the building and next year we will say ‘farewell’ to Stewart Street when we relocate to Rooke Street.

The new location is yet another old building, the former Devonport Court House.  The Court House was opened in 1903 and has undergone both minor and major alterations and additions since that time from 1939 to 2000. Birelli Architects have determined to remove several of these additions to the building in order to revitalise and expose many of the original features and combine them with contemporary materials to create the new galleries. The two-story building will house a ‘touring’ gallery downstairs, and a ‘collection’ gallery upstairs. The smaller upstairs gallery will be used for emerging Tasmanian artists exhibitions and exhibitions of children’s artwork. Work on the new gallery is due to be completed by mid 2018. Other areas will house education and public programs, a gallery shop, offices and a curatorial work space.

As work commences on the new gallery, we will post regular updates and photographs. Meanwhile, exhibitions and related programs will continue to be presented in the current building until the relocation in 2018. Currently we are hosting the 2017 DRG Solo Commission by Troy Ruffels, ‘Between Fire and Flood’ which continues until Sunday 22 October.

Ellie Ray, Gallery Director

Highlights from the DCC Permanent Collection – Michael Schlitz

2005.005 Michael Schlitz
Michael SCHLITZ, Explore the Sea II, 1998-1999, diptych, handmade print on paper

Michael Schlitz is a Tasmanian printmaker, who lives in the Huon Valley. He studied a Bachelor of Creative Arts at the University of Southern Queensland, and a Bachelor of Fine Art (Hons) and Master of Fine Art at the Tasmanian School of Art, University of Tasmania.

Schlitz is an artist whose lifestyle, practice and artworks each sensitively engage with ideas about our relationship with nature. As with many Tasmanian artists held in the DCC Permanent Collection, Schlitz explores the natural environment through his work, however his approach is distinctly holistic. The artist lives and works in relative seclusion, and often without luxuries such as electricity and running water, and the influence of this sustainable, low impact lifestyle is evident in his work.

Through his prints, Schlitz engages with the emotions humans experience in nature, particularly in isolation. These range from our psychological connections with our natural surrounds, as places of quiet contemplation and revelation; our tentative wariness of untamed landscapes; and our continual, communal disregard for the fragility of nature and the impact we have upon its systems. In this way, Schlitz’s work is both highly personal, and politically significant.

The lone, secluded figure is often the subject of Schlitz’s works, including Explore the Sea II 1998-99, held in the DCC Permanent Collection. In this work, the figure is only partially visible. He leans forward, his stance emulating the exploration referred to in the title, which also gives the only other hint as to his surroundings. The image is separated into two halves, which are placed out of alignment, leaving the figure disjointed. He is also only partially visible, most significantly his head remaining outside of the frame, placing the viewer at a voyeuristic distance from this explorer’s scene.

The thick, black outline of the figure in this work, along with the simplistic form and muted colours, reflect Schlitz’s distinctive style. His works have a raw quality that is echoed in the artist’s relief woodblock printing process. Schlitz prints by hand, and often on a large scale. He draws his forms on to the woodblock with a water based ink, before gouging a series of parallel lines across the surface of the block, using only a v-gouge as a tool. This process gives the image a unique textured appearance with a breadth of tones, rather than placing a distinct emphasis on positive and negative spaces.

Schlitz has discussed the complexity that can come from working simply, and how it can be difficult to reduce an idea to a simplistic form; a philosophy which he applies both to the composition of his works and his printmaking process. Schlitz has also referred to this process as being a meditative experience, and viewing and contemplating his works can elicit a similar response in viewers.

-Erin Wilson, Curator

You can view more of Michael Schlitz’s work on his website 

View more works from the DCC Permanent Collection here

Past & Present Tense : 20 years of the Robinson Collection

Bert Robinson Studio, Circa 1930, Robinson Collection R2735.1
Bert Robinson’s Studio, c.1930, R2735.1

Susan Sontag, in her discussion of the inventory of photography since 1839, noted that seemingly everything has been captured in a photograph. This must certainly have seemed the case when twenty years ago, in 1997, Keri Whiteley set about curating the first exhibition of photographic prints from the Robinson Collection, Robinson & Son: A Photographic Studio, for Devonport Regional Gallery. This inaugural exhibition provided the public with their first glimpse into the tens of thousands of photographs taken by Bert and Albert Robinson in North-West Tasmania, over a 50-year period during the mid-20th century.

Over the past twenty years, Devonport Regional Gallery has held sixteen Robinson Collection exhibitions that have collectively served as a window into life on the North-West Coast of Tasmania during the 20th century. Through these exhibitions, the Robinson Collection continues to be a source of intrigue, nostalgia and reverence for Gallery staff, community members and visitors alike. Past & Present Tense features a selection of photographic prints from each Robinson exhibition to date, accompanied by reflections from artists, curators, researchers, volunteers and others who have come to know the collection over the past two decades. Past & Present Tense also prompts visitors to reflect on the value of this collection, and share their ideas for the next chapter of the Robinson archive.

-Erin Wilson, Curator

Each of the images below has been selected by someone who has come to know the collection; each sharing why this photograph has resonated with them.

 

Bert Robinson, date unknown, Robinson Collection R1360
Bert Robinson, date unknown, R1360

‘This beautifully framed photo of Pop was taken by my father; it captures a relaxed Bluff Beach with his lifesaver mates. I’m unsure if Dad orchestrated his father’s quizzical look or pop heard noises behind him, but I love that in 2017, I am still able to access this intimate moment.’

-Dave Robinson, son of Albert Robinson

 

R1643.1North Fenton Street, Devonport, 1942 cat
North Fenton Street, Devonport 1942, R1643.1

‘Some of the most fascinating images are those cloaked in obscurity – such as this funeral procession along one of Devonport’s suburban streets. We can look at such images as something outside of and beyond our own reality, but equally, they permit a personal, and at times confronting, avenue through which to consider social assumptions and cultural practices. ‘

-Alison Savage, Guest Curator, Tales from Suburbia 2011

 

YORK, 1930, Robinson Collection R82
YORK, 1930, R82

‘The act of art making and what we respond to, that image that makes one stop, fascinates me. This image reminds me of my grandmother, her garden, and the energy she would deliver to this space.  The last time I saw her I was four. She was a kind, generous person.  That is why I remember her so vividly.’

-Lisa Garland, Artist ReViewing 2015

 

Rodneys Bus Line_09-06-17
Motors Pty Ltd, Russell’s Buses, 1948, R3190.6
(Left to right) Taxi Driver; J.E. (Jack) Russell, Bus Drivers; Stan Willie, Raymond Russell, Jim Blanche, Ralph Williams, Billy Marquis, Leo Smith, Gordon Russell.

‘The photo is of my grandfather John Russell with his fleet of buses and hire car. The photo was taken at the Bluff together with two of his sons and other drivers. Typical of the time the drivers are wearing dust coats. Note the stone border in the foreground, long gone.’

Rodney Russell, Robinson Collection volunteer from 1993

 

R4494 Car travelling along road, orchard area, 1936 cat
Car Travelling along road, orchard area, 1936, R4494

‘Seeing this photograph for me recalled Lloyd Rees’ painting The Road to Berry (1946–47). The elevation, the angle of the road and the framing of Rees’ work stayed with me as an exercise of precision and poetry, and was recalled many times in the North-West Tasmanian landscape. For me, the Robinson image is its precursor.’

-Dunja Rmandic, Curator of Collections 2013-2015

___

Past & Present Tense : 20 years of the Robinson Collection is on display at Devonport Regional Gallery until 27 August 2017.

For more information on the Devonport City Council Permanent Collection, visit the Devonport Regional Gallery website.