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Stories spring to life at Devonport gallery

A woman standing next to a wall which features portraits.

Stories spring to life at Devonport gallery

Spring has sprung in the Devonport Regional Gallery for September, with three brilliant exhibitions showcasing plenty of stories from all walks of life.

In the Upper Gallery, an exhibition of photographic portraits from the Devonport City Council’s Robinson Collection and three contemporary Tasmanian artists, opened on Friday.

Curated by Council’s Ellina Evans, the Attempted Portraits exhibition explores the layers of storytelling in a portrait and features works by artists Lisa Garland, Patrick Hall, and Ilona Schneider. The exhibition has been supported by the Contemporary Art Tasmania Touring Program Exhibition Development Fund.

Evans said the Robinson Collection is a trove of over 80,000 images taken by Devonport commercial photography studio, Robinson and Son, between 1927 and 1975.

She said some 24,000 of these images are portraits, many of which were commissioned by local families to commemorate occasions, milestones, rituals, and rites of passage, or to showcase their wealth, beauty, and social standing at a particular moment in the subjects’ lives.

“The Robinson Collection gives us a remarkable glimpse into how people wanted to be seen in mid-20th century regional Tasmania,” she said.

“Most images in this exhibition date from the 1930’s. Compared with today, photography during this era was far rarer and more precious.

“Imagine that if you were allowed only one photo of yourself this year, what would you want it to convey? What would you wear? How would you pose? Because of this scarcity, every object and gesture is laden with intent and meaning, lending each image a theatrical air.

“These portraits from the Robinson Collection demonstrate people’s desires and attempts to control their own narrative through the medium of photography.”

Evans said curating Attempted Portraits revealed a contrasting selection of portraits to the original Robinson Collection, with three very different contemporary Tasmanian artists on display.

“You can gain insight into the role the artist or photographer plays in creating each story,” Evans said.

“As a commercial studio, Robinson and Son were obligated to fulfill each client’s expectations and wishes.

“Garland’s works, on the other hand, show a much more sympathetic and intimate relationship between photographer and sitter, who are given power and agency in the images, and appear as equal authors.

“Schneider’s remarkable portraits demonstrate yet another approach, showing fleeting moments between the artist and strangers.

“And Hall’s photosculptures show a fascinating reimagining of the photographic portrait in which the subjects’ voices can be quite literally heard in the work. 

“The exhibition also invites new stories to be created by you, the viewer, who will find meaning based on your own memories and experiences. You are invited to let your mind wander and imagine who each photographic subject might be and what their experience of being photographed might have been like.

“Portraits are attempts in that they are always incomplete, providing only brief glimpses into worlds which can be endlessly reimagined and infinitely recoded by new eyes, losing much of their original intended meanings, but sparking endless new stories.”

Attempted Portraits will be open until 12 November 2022, at the Devonport Regional Gallery, Upper Gallery.

Photo: Devonport Regional Gallery Curator Ellina Evans with her latest exhibition Attempted Portraits, which features works from three contemporary Tasmanian artists Lisa Garland, Patrick Hall, and Ilona Schneider.

How it started by Jane Menzies (Little Gallery)

In the Little Gallery, arts practitioner and worker Jane Menzies exhibition title references one of the most popular memes of 2020, How it started vs. How it’s going.

Menzies said what originally started as a new year’s resolution to do a portrait a day, took on new meaning when the pandemic hit.

“Within a few months, my circumstances had changed. Returning to paint brought me joy, discipline and a sense of purpose in these uncertain times. Then there was the instant gratification and connection that came with posting to social media,” she said.

“The resulting works are whimsical visual diary entries of myself, friends and family as we ate our way through the pandemic. Two years on, despite a number of changes and an interstate move, how it started isn’t too dissimilar to how it’s going.”

Having lived in Argentina, Sydney, Perth, Tasmania, and worked with Aboriginal artists in Warakurna and Kalgoorlie, Menzies said she is interested in how art can provide a mechanism for experiencing place and rendering form to the intangible.

“Working with Aboriginal artists in Warakurna and Laverton, and more recently tutoring art to prisoners at Eastern Goldfields Regional Prison, has ignited a desire to create again,” she said.

“I’m drawn to the immediacy and agility of paper and watercolour, using this medium to create visual journal entries which document life amid a pandemic. The resulting works are straight forward auto biographical and self-effacing accounts of my day, acutely aware of the privilege and platform they are created from.

Menzies’ exhibition is presented under the annual Little Gallery Program for early career Tasmanian artists. The Little Gallery Project Space is available to emerging and early career contemporary Tasmanian artists and promotes experimentation in 2D and 3D art, critical thinking and engaging concepts.

How it Stated will be open until 24 September at the Devonport Regional Gallery, Little Gallery.

Stories of Home by Sharifah Emalia Al-Gadrie (Foyer space)

Stories of Home explores individual and collective experiences of belonging and home.

Community members from across Tasmania were invited to share their own personal memories of home/homeland/hometown and what “feeling at home” means to them.

Using these personal memories as prompts, Sharifah Emalia Al-Gadrie responded with visual artworks which capture moments that she found evocative in the memories. Each piece also incorporates some of the writing that community members shared.

“Memories are always fragmentary and sometimes fractured; memories of home can be even more so – the layering of migration, movement, place and people creating ephemerality in how ‘home’ is interpreted,” she said.

“Viewed together, individual stories of home intersperse and overlap, voices merging to create a collective story of home. Whether it is specific to a place or places, transient and undefined or perhaps tethered to the people around us – home is something that is cherished and sought by.”

Stories of Home will be open until 23 September in the Devonport Regional Gallery, foyer space.

Two women standing near each other trying to erect art work on the wall.
Stories of Home artist Sharifah Emalia Al-Gadrie (right) with Devonport City Council’s Creative Learning and Public Programs Officer Erin Linhart.
How it Started Jane Menzies
Jane Menzies, How it Started, 2021 (watercolour, 29.7 x 31 cm). How it Stated will be open until 24 September at the Devonport Regional Gallery, Little Gallery.

Media contact: Tahnia Creedon | Communication and Engagement Officer | Devonport City Council  
03 6424 0562 | [email protected]