On Belonging(s) – Opening Speech by Kristen Lang

2 August 2019

IMG_2755

I think we “belong” in multiple and often contradictory ways. A single person may be, for example, an artist, a parent, a spouse, a catholic, a vegetarian, a netballer, a vase collector, an Australian-born Italian, a renovator, a singer, a cook, and so on. This one person may hold attachments to particular objects and places associated with any one and any combination of these identities. And not just attachments – aversions too.

What is clear, I think, is that we do not always know about all of the attachments and aversions we live by, nor do we often acknowledge the conflicts inherent in how and to what we belong.

Our conscious sense of belonging, as merely the skin of things, needs to be dug into, probed, explored. What are we not acknowledging. What are we turning away from. We might not include the ripped couch or the cracked plaster wall in our sense of belonging if our myths and ideals describe such things as signs of abandonment rather than intimacy. We can be blind with our eyes open.

We can be blind for a variety of reasons – over-familiarity, cultural or political bias, emotional bias, guilt, ignorance. We tend not to include Tartrazine in our sense of belonging, despite its presence around us as the yellow colouring of many of our foods and products. It’s not that our senses of self are immune to our incessant immersion in man-made colour. But perhaps it’s nicer for us not to think about the realities of our desire for it – the environmental impacts, the health impacts of our chemical play.

So what does it mean to belong? There are many things all of us belong to – gravity, the sun and moon, Earth itself, thirst, hunger, the urge for belonging, the fact of other life – trees, animals, birds, bacteria. Perhaps humans are too successful at bypassing these commonalities, these truths of the Earth, many of which are increasingly in need of our joint and dedicated care – it would be heaven, I think, if identity and belonging revolved around regard for our shared home.

There are many other experiences and objects the majority of us belong to – electric light, pop music, the principles of modern medicine, atomic bombs, consumerism, slave labour, trash, habitat loss, all the conditions of our current state of being. How do we digest and come to terms with what it is we belong to amid so much and amid such discomfort?

We’re selective. We belong in these large ways – to Earth, to shared knowledge – but we want, it seems, something more particular. In part, we want difference: I belong but you don’t. I belong, we say, to this nation, this religion, this brand, this club; I belong on this side of the wall, on this side of the water… These powerful belongings are at once, of course, powerful conflicts, that we embrace, one way or another, or suffer from, one way or another, through the stories we selectively tell.

To belong need have nothing to do with truth or kindness, with justice or equality, with right or wrong. I might belong to a terrorist organisation as readily as to a flat-earth cult or a football club. I might belong to the idea of the sun-baked Aussie battler, or I might champion the traditions and connections of Country, or I might raise my arm to the concept of an Earth where people are brief visitors in a vastly longer story of life…

There is that we belong to but have forgotten to acknowledge.

There is that we belong to but turn from for the discomfort it causes.

There is that we believe we belong to through our inheritance of certain ways of seeing, even when it clashes with our actual surroundings.

There is that we belong to in one form but not another – in a vase, perhaps, but not in its natural habitat. We belong to ideals, myths, stories, more than realities.

There is that we say we cannot belong to simply through our failure to understand it – wild places, for some, or cultures not quite like our own.

There is that, too, which we are embarrassed to belong to for its failure to meet the fashionable standards of the mainstream, of the cities, of the crowds.

So the list goes on.

In the mess of belonging, in the tangle that surrounds what we think of as our honest connections, art can draw our attention to our blind spots. Art can demand that we confess, that we reconsider, that we look again. It can encourage us to question, to find new relevancies, and to dig for that which is, we hope, genuinely worth sustaining.

I hope you will give this exhibition the time it deserves. I hope you will allow it to ask, of yourself, what it is you belong to. What are the stories inside your belongings? I hope you will enjoy, and be challenged by, the answers you find.

-Kristen Lang, Poet

Visit Kristen’s website here

EXHIBITIONS

On Belonging(s)

Alex Davern, Liam James, Amber Koroluk-Stephenson, Jessie Pangas

On Belonging(s) brings together four Tasmanian artists who are exploring how we attach value to objects, and the role they play in the stories we tell about ourselves, both individually and communally. On Belonging(s) is a reflection on how we construct our identity, connect ourselves to place and engage with our possessions, both nostalgically and idealistically, as extensions of the self.

Main Gallery, Devonport Regional Gallery, 3 August – 22 September 2019

KS-190806080

KS-190806121

________

Threads of Childhoods Past

Jennifer Frost and Jan Larcombe

In Threads of Childhoods Past, two artists with a shared childhood growing up in the remote area of Trowutta in the far North West coast of Tasmania in the 1950’s and early 1960’s have created art works based on their reflections of that time.

Little Gallery, Devonport Regional Gallery, 27 July – 1 September 2019

KS-190806002

*Installation images from On Belonging(s) and Threads of Childhoods Past by Kelly Slater

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

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

It’s a wrap

Well not quite… the end of the year sees the Tidal Award Exhibition on show and receiving great feedback; the Tidal Artisan Street Market opens this Friday 9 December at 3pm and the inaugural Tidal Festival kicks off on the 23 January 2017!

Winding the clock back to the first half of the year, key works from each decade of collecting were presented in the Forty Year Survey of the DCC Permanent Collection exhibition; new paintings and studies by Anne Morrison attracted many visitors to the Gallery and the touring exhibition Katherine Hattam: Desire First provided visitors with the opportunity to view a survey of paintings and sculptures by this renowned Melbourne artist. Evening workshops were fully booked and school groups were inspired by these engaging displays, observing, writing and making art in the exhibition space.

Images (clockwise from left): Curator Emily Kennel speaking about 40 Years of Collecting; Katherine Hattam; install view Anne Morrison: Preservation and Loss

The cold weather did not deter visitors from visiting the Gallery while the Lyons Share exhibition was on display. Featuring photographs of the famous Lyons family made by the Robinson Photographic Business in Devonport, and items on loan from Home Hill – the Lyons’ family home, the exhibition engaged audiences on various levels. Some members of the public relayed fascinating stories about their contact with the Lyons family while others shared their memories of the famous couple attending events in Devonport. Alongside this exhibition was a display of prints from the DCC Permanent Collection presented in conjunction with the Print Council of Australia’s 50th Anniversary. A highlight of the exhibition was a series of prints by Bea Maddock [b1934, d2016].

The 2016 Solo Commission featured large scale B&W photographs and video work by North West artist Lisa Garland. After a huge opening night, the gallery continued to be filled with visitors captivated by the characters represented in Garland’s works – and of course, many of these characters came to view their life-size portraits. Our final touring exhibition for the year was the fascinating Shapeshifters: 3D Printing the Future where the public could witness a 3D printer in action and view the many applications for 3D printing including those used in architecture, building, medicine, furniture making and art. We were pleased to showcase seven emerging Tasmanian artist’s exhibitions in The Little Gallery and were encouraged by many of these artist’s enthusiasm and level of skills when presenting workshops.

Images (clockwise from left): 2016 Solo Commission artist Lisa Garland; install view The Lyons Share; Lisa Garland twilight tour

Punctuated throughout the exhibition program have been many great projects including Reclaim the Lane held as part of National Youth Week, Four 8 Film Festival, film-making workshops, PORTAL community photography project and exhibition; various art-making workshops and talks; Books + Art monthly discussions; early years and school programs and concerts. Outside the Gallery the Droogs completed a street art project on the laneway wall of Devonport Bookshop and participated in Make Your Mark at TMAG while DRG showcased items from the DCC Collection in Hobart on two separate occasions.

Images (clockwise from top left): Droogs mural at Devonport Bookshop; Drawn Home workshop participants; Four 8 Film Festival screening; Nick Parish Trio; 1, 2, 3 Create participants; education programs at the Gallery; Reclaim the Lane; Nightscape Photography.

Of course, the foundation for everything DRG presents is mainly constructed ‘behind the scenes’ and for this I wish to thank all of my staff for their input and commitment to the arts in 2016. With a few weeks left until the end of the year we hope to see you at the Gallery to view Tidal or perhaps we will cross paths at the Artisan Street Market this Friday. In the spirit of the festive season: have a safe and relaxing summer and we look forward to seeing you soon at DRG.

– Ellie Ray, Director

Living Art: DRG undergoes change

A day rarely goes by without a visitor commenting on either the ambience, or the physical attributes of the converted Baptist church in Stewart Street Devonport which is home to the Devonport Regional Gallery. With a series of upgrades over the past decade, the Gallery has scrubbed up well and is recognised widely for its high standard of exhibition presentations. At the same time, space restrictions have limited the scope of exhibitions presented annually and while we continue to present engaging curated exhibitions from the DCC Permanent Collection, cutting- edge touring exhibitions and programs it is done within the confines of this beautiful heritage building.

FullSizeRender

Recognising the needs of the community, visitors to the region and staff Devonport City Council made a decision to fund the extension and relocation of DRG. We are excited to announce that Birrelli Architects have been appointed to finalise the design for the new look DRG which incorporates two major gallery spaces and a third, smaller gallery. Other features include a loading bay and storage spaces at the rear of the building, an education and public programs-workshop space; gallery shop and staff office spaces.

The new gallery will be located in the old Courthouse building adjacent to the Devonport Entertainment & Convention Centre. Initial work on the building will comprise removing false ceilings and walls and opening up closed areas on the ground floor and first floor to facilitate the new design. The gallery spaces will be located on both floors. It is anticipated the gallery will open in early 2018 with an exciting line-up of exhibitions so stay tuned for updates on the design and building phase in our next Living Art installment from DRG.

-Ellie Ray, Director