Heroes and villains feature at the Grenfell Art Gallery

Regionally based artist, Rebecca Wilson will exhibit her latest body of work, A Portrait of Landscape and Time in Hill End: Myth-making, Heroes and Villains at Grenfell Art Gallery from this week until February 24.

An artist talk will be held in February (a date will be confirmed). 

Originally from Forbes, Wilson recently returned from a London trip where she was invited to exhibit her previous Kate Kelly narrative works as part of the Parallax Art Fair and present a talk at Kensington Library in London about her paintings, book and research on the sister of Australia’s most famous bushranger.

A Portrait of Landscape and Time in Hill End: Myth-making, Heroes and Villains is an exhibition of paintings and research, with an accompanying book.

The works unearth lesser known stories of the remote and iconic town of Hill End.

They disrupt common narratives of the region, questioning who the real heroes and villains are in recorded history and how we create myths and icons.

“The line that divides good and evil cuts through the heart of every man,” is a quote from Russian writer Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn which introduces the viewer to the artist’s narrative works.

These span from early white settlement to present day, avoiding a normal sequence of time, allowing events from 200 years ago to co-exist with events from the 21st century, highlighting the constant presence of ghosts from the past in contemporary Hill End.

The artist’s paintings and research introduce Bathurst War hero and Wiradyuri leader, Windradyne and the shameful declaration of Martial Law in 1824. The events around this time are a significant, but often ignored, part of Australia’s history. It was a devastating attempt at genocide against Aboriginal people. 

Featured at the beginning of the book is a poem entitled “This Land” by Kalmadyne Goombridge, a proud Gamilaroi man who is Wiradyuri sung. He generously contributed his work as a symbol of our communities working together, to tell the truth about our shared histories.

There are further tales of murder and racism in the gold rush era featuring Sammy Poo, also known as Cranky Sam, Australia’s only Chinese bushranger, who eventually hanged at Bathurst in 1865.  The journey through time acknowledges artists who have visited or lived in the region from the 1940’s and 1960’s, including such lesser known figures as Jean Bellette, who remains the only woman to have won the Sulman Prize more than once. Wilson makes reference to the imagery of Brett Whiteley, Michael Johnson and other artists. She also raises questions about the apparent lack of consequences for Donald Friend’s paedophilia, his activities in Hill End and beyond and why special allowances have been made for unacceptable, criminal behaviour from specific male artists.

Wilson’s book features a foreword from Kerry Negara, maker of the documentary “A Loving Friend”, a work that is now on curriculum lists in main universities across Australia, Indonesia and in New York.  She writes of Wilson’s work;

“I am simultaneously fascinated and upset by the extraordinary amount of misinformation and myth making that our societies operate on. Rebecca’s offering here (A Portrait of Landscape and Time in Hill End) is a perceptive collection of the highest order. I am gratified that within it she has picked up on some of the themes in my film, ‘A Loving Friend’. I find that the truth is always more interesting - which is why Rebecca’s in depth work on Kate Kelly is so valuable to a country obsessed by the mythology of the Kelly outlaws.”

Wilson has also created images based on photographs of nooses and gravestones that were installed in Hill End after it was gazetted as an historic site in 1967. Public protests were aimed at National Parks & Wildlife Service, whose staff recall (in a NPWS report, circa 2001) having their tyres slashed whenever they came to town. No locals would talk to them, such was the resistance to the government intervention. By the 1980’s many residents had lost family properties as the government resumed houses and land from Tambaroora to Hill End. The protesters referred to NPWS as totalitarians who ignored their rights.

Don't miss this unique exhibition, book and talk.