Art in the Mountains: Australia's Bold New Public Gallery

Art in the Mountains: Australia's Bold New Public Gallery
The Blue Mountains Cultural Centre
(Copyright Wyn Jones)

The Blue Mountains region on the border of Sydney’s metropolitan area is one of Australia’s most popular tourist destinations and holiday spots.  A World Heritage Area, the unmatched beauty of its natural landscapes draws visitors from all over the world. 

Since European colonisation, the magnificent scenery of the Blue Mountains has attracted the attention of many of Australia’s greatest artists.  One of the most famous, Norman Linsday, moved to the Blue Mountains in 1901 and remained there until his death in 1969.

Although traditionally known as a “City of the Arts”, the Blue Mountains region lacked a proper world-class public gallery until November last year.  Officially opened on 10 November 2012 in conjunction with the new Blue Mountains Cultural Centre, the Blue Mountains City Art Gallery is Australia’s newest public art gallery.

The inaugural exhibition of the new gallery space, “Picturing the Great Divide: Visions from Australia's Blue Mountains”, will survey two centuries of visual art inspired by the Blue Mountains region. Over 100 significant works comprising paintings, drawings, prints, photography, sculpture and ceramics, by over 50 eminent artists will be featured.

Guest curator Gavin Wilson has sourced the opening exhibition works from over 100 public and private collections to create the largest Blue Mountains focused survey to date. Through the display of major works by historic and contemporary Australian artists, the exhibition will trace the constant hold the Blue Mountains region has had on the imaginative and cultural life of the nation.

According to Wilson, “A central theme of the exhibition will be an investigation of evolving landscape perceptions that have been inspired by the sheer physicality of this renowned Greater Blue Mountains World Heritage Area. The visual catchment for the exhibition extends from the Nepean River in the east, to the Fish River at Oberon in the west, to Newnes in the north and south to the Nattai River.”

One of the highlights of the exhibition is Alphonse Pellion’s 1819 pencil study which depicts Aurang-Jack, head of the tribe of Aborigines at Springwood, with his two wives Betzy-Natiwoe and Merey.  Other highlights include romantic landscapes by the great painters of the colonial years such as Conrad Martens and Eugene von Guérard which reflect the ideas of the sublime and the sense of nature’s wonder that were popular at the time.

Moving on from the colonial years, the impressionist influence on Elioth Gruner and Howard Ashton is evident before modernist visions inspired by the Blue Mountains were created in great variety by artists such as Euan Macleod, Fred Williams, John Wolseley, Margaret Preston, Bette Mifsud, Harold Cazneaux, Peter Kingston, Adam Cullen, Colin Lanceley, Rosemary Laing, and Brett Whiteley.

“Picturing the Great Divide: Visions from Australia's Blue Mountains” is on show until 3 February 2013.  For more information visit the Gallery website here