Victoria Cooper+Doug Spowart Blog

Posts Tagged ‘Regional art

HABITAT OUT WEST: Environmental Art of the Darling Downs Exhibition

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Curated by Ashleigh Campbell and Anne Keam.


When, how, and why did the locality Darling Downs come to be known as the Surat Basin? This question informed the exhibition curators Ashleigh Campbell and Anne Keam and with it came the recognition that such a shift was deeply important to the region’s connections and perceptions of their place.


Habitat is a word that accommodates the presence of life beyond the human shaped and perceived landscape. In any given habitat the living and the nonliving interact to the rhythms of the earth and the cosmos. As both observers and inhabitants, artists and scientists help shape human perceptions of and relations with the broader global environment. This includes the economy of the earth’s resources that supports humanity.

Campbell and Keam researched a broad range of influences including the natural and human habitat of the Darling Downs from colonial history to present. Through the eyes and minds of the region’s colonial and post-colonial artists, along with some scientific documentation and social artifacts, they sought to reflect on shift and its implications on the regions environment.



John Mullins Memorial Art Gallery entry – Dogwood Crossing, Miles.

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John Mullins Memorial Art Gallery interior


This exhibition brought together a diverse collection of works including: prehistoric fossils and other historical artifacts, references and narratives of the pastoralists struggle with the invasion of prickly pear cactus and other pests, floods and droughts. The artists represented in the show came from many disciplines. Paintings representing this landscape covered a range of movements and styles from romantic colonial pastoral period to impressionism, abstraction and modernism. Well known artists names: Kenneth Macqueen, Sam Fullbrook and Joe Furlonger are representative of the depth of creative work in this exhibition.



Joseph Furlonger Round Up Ready Field, near Dalby 2012 Acrylic bound pigment 91 x 122 cm Courtesy of The Hughes Gallery, Sydney


Some artists reflected on living with the natural environment as found in small corners of Patricia Hinz’s back yard in the work, Sanctuary (2014). Palpable in the drawing of Allan Bruce’s Stanthorpe, Late Winter (2008) is the feeling of being in the grand sun-soaked landscape of the Downs, and the relationship of small towns with the surrounding country. Bruce observes: “Stanthorpe is one of those towns where the natural and built environment coalesces almost seamlessly.”[1] The inventiveness and creativity that pervades every farmer’s shed and bushman’s camp is embodied in the sculptural work of Dion Cross’ Grass Harvester (2014), that highlights the competition for pasture between man and animal during periods of drought. The fine drawings of flowers and fungi by botanical artists and illustrators through scientific documentation reveal a deep understanding and investigation of the natural life forms found in this region.


Dion Cross Grass Harvester 2014 Steel sculpture 150 x 60 x 180 cm Courtesy of the artist Image: Spowart + Cooper

Dion Cross Grass Harvester 2014 Steel sculpture 150 x 60 x 180 cm Courtesy of the artist Image: Spowart + Cooper


Phil Bazzo’s painting, Miles: At the Crossroads (Triptych, 2008) presented two concepts: the physical nature of the intersections of roads in Miles including the dynamics of heavy road vehicles and the metaphor of crossroads to infer change and concerns for the future. Both found natural and manmade objects and materials were also utilized as the visual language of protest. This was evident in the mixed media works of Jennifer Wright (Summers): Searching for Life in the Anthropocene 1 (2014), using tea bags, feathers, fabric pen & ink, watercolour and Anthropocene Nest (2014), that was made from plastic bags and pelican bone. Nicki Laws’ Habitat Gone (2014) collaged and embroidered the materials found in the fluoro safety barriers widely used in the industries found in the region.



Gillian Scott Grevillea x ‘Robyn Gordon’ 1993 Watercolour on paper 25 x 35 cm Courtesy of the artist


The solastalgic plea for a balance with man and the land was also deeply felt when viewing the work of Barbara Hancock’s Brigalow Landscape (2014). Working with the land, technology and energy needs was also strongly referenced in the work of Sylvia Secomb (Mann), Synergism – Towards Regeneration I (2010), but also reflects on the question “What will we be leaving for those who come after?”[2]


Sylvia Secomb (Mann) Synergism - Towards Regeneration I 2010 Acrylic and medium on canvas 91 x 213 cm Courtesy of the artist

Sylvia Secomb (Mann) Synergism – Towards Regeneration I 2010 Acrylic and medium on canvas 91 x 213 cm Courtesy of the artist


For the city viewer who ventures out into the region to connect with this show, there is a unique experience: to be in the space and place of the exhibition, Dogwood Crossing, Miles, within the Habitat it references. This site-specific exhibition presents rare opportunity to engage with the historical and contemporary issues of living with the land through the creative energy and perception of those who chose to live and work in this region. The curators have also published an extensive and informative online catalogue to accompany the exhibition: Habitat_Catalogue or online at http://issuu.com/ourwesterndowns/docs/catalogue/1

Beyond the facts and information, the presence of a growing connection and love of the Australian environment pervaded strongly throughout this extraordinary show. Through visual story telling and lived experience, the artists and the curators have constructed a layered topology of the Darling Downs. A telling image of how the effects of a changing human condition: technology, energy and food production can be identified and chronicled through the artist’s vision.


Victoria Cooper


I am also privileged to have my work, 7 Gates (two forms: artists’ book, 2009; digital media presentation 2014), included in Habitat.


[1] Page 11, ibid.
[2] Page 21, Habitat: Environmental Art of the Darling Downs, 2014. The online catalogue for the show of the same name. See http://issuu.com/ourwesterndowns/docs/catalogue/1



Anne Keam and Ashleigh Campbell at the opening.








Set-up: COW ART – Year of the Farmer

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Cow Art setup in progress

The cows came back to Toowoomba to form a herd of 800+ artworks expressing the support of the 2012 Year of the Farmer. Organised by Paul Blinco and Debbie Nawrotzky from Pacific Seeds the corflute cows were decorated by artists, school kids and interested contributors to the project.

On Friday we took our artwork, the CondaMINE Cow, Variety: Thylacine (SEE previous post) out to the paddock to join up with the herd. Here are some images of the setup underway…

Vicky and our cow with Lindsay and Paul Blinco

‘The CondaMINE Cow – Variety: Thylacine’  verso and recto (SEE background to the artwork – Click here)

Setting-up the Cows

Laying out the cows

A montage of Cow Art

More images+audio from the COW ART Facebook Page, the Toowoomba Chronicle and ABC Radio interview


Imagine you know: Emerging artists in your community

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Imaging you know, the 2012 Toowoomba Biennial Emerging Artists’ Award

Awardees names and works are listed at the end of this post…

September 16 – October 14, 2012

At the Biennial Emerging Artist’s Award

It is hard to measure the vitality of a community’s emerging art practice. For Toowoomba, the Biennial Emerging Artists’ Award provides a survey creates an opportunity to see the artists and their work. And from this year’s exhibition it appears that Toowoomba’s art scene is truly alive and vibrant. Eighteen artists were selected as finalists and at the award opening 11 artists had 20 of their works selected for purchase by the Toowoomba Regional Art Gallery.

TRAG – Emerging Artist Award panorama

The title ‘emerging’ implies the younger artists however this show provides evidence of the ‘older emerging’ artist.

9 of the awarded artists

A detailed catalogue accompanies the show with an essay by Sue Lostroh and artist’s statements and images. From my point of view considering the ubiquitous nature of photography that few photographs were in the show. The selected works will form part of a travelling exhibition that tours the region under the title of Crates on Wheels Travelling Schools Exhibition.

Evan Hollis opens the Awards

Elysha Gould with Award letter

Yseult Taylor with her selected photographs

Ultimately, what is exciting about the award is the diversity of approach to the process, media and visual communication that art is and can be. Significant to this is the role that the Toowoomba Regional Art Gallery plays in providing the vehicle by which this work can be given a space for it’s appreciation and enjoyment.


Doug Spowart

17 September, 2012

Eleven Artists and twenty works selected for the Crates on Wheels Travelling Schools Exhibition in 2013.

 (Information supplied by TRAG)


Miles ALLEN  2 works

Marrakech 4

Stacking carrots


Elissa BELLERT 1 work

Red elephant


Elysha GOULD 1 work

Nuclear power plants


Sandra JARRETT  3 works

Objects of worship series 1

Shifting sands #1 and #2


Nicki LAWS 3 works

A rich industrial past

When the mining boom ends

Old buildings are full of stories


Ian McCALLUM 1 work

Beyond seeing


Kelly-Marie McEWAN  3 works

Fairy-ring, Emergence part 1, part 3 and  part 5

Tarn McLEAN 2 works

Topography #9

Topography #9—Globe


Chelle McINTYRE 1 work

Rash analogy


Donna MOODIE 1 work



Danish QUAPOOR (The Alter ego of Daniel Qualifchefski) 2 works

i am my hair

hanging by a moment

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