Reflections on the Collection

Siggins on Brack

John Brack’s Surrey Hills floats high on a blue wall in Melinda Harper’s current exhibition at CAM, adding to its curious perspective and abstraction. No stranger to CAM Reflections, here Phillip Siggins discusses one of the collection highlights.

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Wheat on Lindsay

CAM Guide Chris Wheat has a way of bringing paintings in the collection to life - in the gallery, and in times of lockdown - on our screens. Knowledgeable about artists and their methods, in this playful reflection Wheat invites us to look more carefully at a small oil on board of nighttime Kowloon by Arthur J Lindsay.

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Rigg on the Experimental Print Prize

In this reflection, Michael Rigg, patron of the Experimental Print Prize discusses two outstanding works exhibited in the inaugural 2019 prize. A champion of printmaking in Central Victoria, he explains his motivation in creating this unique exhibition and prize for the Castlemaine Art Museum. Entries for the 2021 Experimental Print Prize have been extended to 26 September 2021 due to the lockdown.

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Capper on Riley Munduwalawala and Kuntiwa Pumani

In reflecting on approaches to landscape in contemporary First Nation’s painting, Chris Capper declares the exhibition Ginger Riley: The Boss of Colour (15 January-19 April 2015)―commissioned by CAM’s then Director, Jennifer Kalionis―and the work of Betty Kuntiwa Pumani as hugely significant in rethinking the landscape tradition in Australia.

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A Still Life and a Recipe

In this novel Reflection on a still life by Elma Roach featuring pomegranates, Peter Perry, previous Director of CAM (1975-2014), writes about the artist while his son Alexander Perry, renowned Castlemaine chef, creates and shares a pomegranate recipe. Here CAM celebrates two outstanding features of our region: the art and the cuisine.

Pomegranate trees are found in many established gardens across Central Victoria planted one imagines, for their beauty rather than for their fruit. In his note about the recipe Alexander writes, "I have put together a cake recipe using pomegranate and pear, two fruits which grow abundantly around Central Victoria and are often left neglected in front lawns."

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Scott on the Castlemaine Brewery Clock

It was a fortunate day that Horologist Brian Scott visited CAM and Buda and left us his business card and a request to examine two clocks in the museum. So delighted were we, that we invited Brian to write a Reflection. Brian writes on a magnificent utilitarian clock which has for many years been located towards the back of the museum. Do any of our readers remember this clock in situ, in either of its previous esteemed locations?

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Brack on Beckett

In this elegant and playful reflection, Clara Brack touches on looking at and writing about art, about colour and the serendipity of being drawn to a particular artwork. Clarice Beckett's Wet Evening was also the subject of our first Reflection, written by art historian Helen McDonald.

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Rayson and Cathcart on a stuffed quoll

Of the many reasons to travel to Castlemaine and visit CAM, this reflection is particularly delightful. Some months ago, distinguished Australian playwright Hannie Rayson was photographed in the museum standing in front of a display of taxidermy animals. Taking the photograph was her husband, equally distinguished Australian Broadcaster, Michael Cathcart. They were celebrating Rason's recent international award for her radio play about an attempt to save the Otway tiger quolls, entitled Extinction, 2013. We invited Rayson and Cathcart to write about the two modest cases of Australian wildlife, each featuring quolls in the foreground. Sadly, we were not able to provide any information regarding the provenance of these popular displays.

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Moussa on The Unquiet Landscape

With the launch of CAM's new website, we have included an exhibition archive, documenting as many of CAM/CAGHM’s past exhibitions as we can. This archive is still in development, and will grow over the coming months.

As a museum and gallery, we have a responsibility to collect and share stories reflecting the world outside CAM, but it is also important for us to reflect on our institutional history. CAM's exhibition history is a narrative within itself, reflecting changing social tastes, beliefs and values. The temporary nature of exhibitions also means that the dense curatorial content of exhibitions can be lost in the folds of time. You can explore our past exhibitions here. If you have further content, installation photographs, or stories to add to any exhibitions, please get in touch.

To launch this exhibition archive, local writer and performer Wahibe Moussa reflects on an exhibition from CAM’s recent past - The Unquiet Landscape (11 October 2019-11 October 2019); an exhibition that refuses to be forgotten.

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Hamilton on Wolfhagen

In this response to a large oil painting in the collection, poet Allis Hamilton recalls her poem Hare, as having ‘writing itself onto my page’ after viewing Philip Wolfhagen’s Southern Vista I. As Allis describes, "there is no visible hare in Wolfhagen’s painting yet to me it felt like it was there, or could quite easily be there, in among the shadowy hedges of the landscape."

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An Interview with Melinda Harper

During the lockdown as part of the Reflections series, CAM published several email interviews with local artists. Of particular interest was how an artist's daily studio routine was impacted by the lockdown. Here we republish the interview with Melinda Harper in celebration of her major exhibition Melinda Harper: in conversation with the collection currently on view in the Higgins Gallery.

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Soumilas on a mourning cape

In reflecting on a costume in our collection Annette Soumilas, explores the social history and meaning of this striking black cape.

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Siggins on Ramsay

In art as in life, hands can tell us something of an individual's age and possibly of their station in life. In this reflection on a portrait by Hugh Ramsay, Phillip Siggins shares with us the reaction of the portrait's famous commissioner, donor, and daughter of the sitter, Dame Nelly Melba to the artist's depiction of her father's hands. In 2019 Ramsay's portrait of David Mitchell was lent to the National Gallery of Australia for their major Hugh Ramsay exhibition.

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Walton on Ellis

CAM’s decorative arts collection is a proud component of our museum collection, much admired by staff and visitors alike. Melinda Harper, too, has selected many items by Stan Ellis to include in her upcoming In Conversation exhibition. In this week’s Reflection, Castlemaine-local Robyn Walton examines the influences on, and influence of, Stan Ellis and his enamelware.

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McArdle on Scott

Through the Digitisation Roadshow program, CAM has unearthed treasures to feature in publications and exhibitions. Six astonishing early photographs of Castlemaine from the local firm Verey Brothers have been digitised and three are currently showing in the Whitchell Gallery. Local artist and academic James McArdle brings his expertise in photography to shed valuable light on two cloudy ‘moonlight’ panoramas.

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A Conservation Mystery Uncovered

Diane Frape-Linton has made a substantial contribution as a volunteer to museums and collections across Central Victoria. A longstanding CAM volunteer her knowledge of the museum is prodigious and her skills are wide ranging. Recently, Diane uncovered a fascinating story about Russell Drysdale’s Desolation whilst cataloguing historical documents relating to gallery acquisitions. Diane has used a letter from Drysdale to the gallery to solve this mystery.

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Conway on Rees

A great joy of CAM's Reflection series has been the response we've received from our extended community, the many people who have contacted us to offer follow-up thoughts, to provide further recollections, to add details about collection items. Kerry Conway is one such reader, inspired to share her thoughts on a Lloyd Rees image. Here, she explains why his work resonates so strongly with her.

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Loos on Platypus

CAM's taxidermy platypus, carefully composed within a purpose-designed vitrine, draws a range of reactions from viewers. Local naturalist and writer Tanya Loos invites us to better understand the object, its history and meaning, posing some important questions about its original purpose.

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Murdoch on frames

In the midst of Central Victoria lives one of Australia’s eminent frame makers, Rob Murdoch. In this broad-ranging reflection, he discusses the changing fortunes of period frames in public and private collections and poses an intriguing conundrum to professionals and visitors.

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Siggins on Blackman

CAM guide Philip Siggins reflects on one of his favourite paintings in the collection - Charles Blackman’s Dream Image. Purchased by the gallery in 1964, this tender yet mysterious image of a sleeping Barbara Blackman reflects the artist’s exploration of innocence and foreboding.

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Bews on looking at Green

In this powerful and personal reflection, local writer and theatre artist Samantha Bews explores her response to a series of hand-coloured photographs of teenagers by Janina Green.

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Pilgrim on the Leviny Women and Mrs Larritt

Artist Catherine Pilgrim mines historical collections and objects for lost and hidden stories. Skilled across many artforms and crafts - from printmaking through to textiles - observation and drawing is at the heart of her practice. In this reflection Pilgrim shares with us her longstanding engagement with the lives of local women, particularly the Leviny women, so central to the cultural history of Castlemaine, and to her own artistic practice.

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Connor on Shmith by Millowick.

CAM holds a significant collection of photographic portraits of Australian artists. In this Reflection Angela Connor considers Julie Millowick’s striking portrait of Athol Shmith. Connor selected this photograph to bring to light the work of women artists of Central Victoria.

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Kaptein on Longstaff

Central Goldfields Art Gallery curator, and Castlemaine local, Helen Kaptein examines a portrait by John Longstaff of his wife Topsy.

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Reflections on historic photography in the collection

CAM’s Honorary Conservator, Deborah Peart, returns with another insight into the historical collection, this time considering CAM’s historical photographs. You can read Deborah’s earlier pieces on Footwear and Frames. This reflection is supported by the Victorian Government through Creative Victoria’s Digitisation Roadshow program.

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Donehue on being an intern at CAM

As museum professionals, many of us commence our careers working as interns. Even practicing artists intern and volunteer, and many an exhibition at CAM is installed by practicing artists who bring valued perspectives to the installation. In this delightful reflection, La Trobe University intern and local artist Emily Donehue shares her experience working at CAM.

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Reid on Canning

As a celebrated writer on gardens, local author Christine Reid is drawn to the work of painter Criss Canning. Here Reid writes on Canning’s delightful study which contrasts the dark textures of coloured glass, the vibrant petals of partially opened water lilies and the play of light on water. Readers might like to view Christine’s current exhibition, please see details below.

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Onus on repatriating First Nations knowledge

In recognition of NAIDOC week, CAM Board member Tiriki Onus (Yorta Yorta, Dja Dja Wurrung) proposes a new way of thinking about First Nations artefacts held in museum collections. Onus brings a remarkably broad range of experience as a visual artist, musician and educator to leading a discussion about the role of objects in the proud repatriation of Indigenous knowledge.

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Sinclair on the ‘Castlemaine Hermit’

Local writer Kacey Sinclair has a gift for bringing history to life through her careful reading of documents and material culture. Last year she wrote an influential article in The Conversation on Castlemaine resident Fanny Finch, Australia’s first known female voter, following her research in CAM’s social history collection. Here Sinclair weaves a wonderful local story from photographs in CAM’s Bale Photography Collection and contemporary reports in The Mount Alexander Mail.

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Zilles on Buda and CAM

Loretta Zilles is as intimately knowledgeable about the Castlemaine Art Museum as she is about Buda Historic Home and Garden, where she is the house manager and curator. Earlier this year we invited Zilles to digitise aspects of the Buda collection as part of the Digitisation Roadshow program funded by Creative Victoria, continuing a long and fruitful relationship between Buda and CAM. In this reflection, Zilles sheds light on the fascinating formal, informal and creative interconnections between these august Castlemaine institutions.

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Bunbury on Thake

Writer and curator Alisa Bunbury was an Honorary Fellow at the State Library of Victoria in 2018, where she researched their rich holdings of Eric Thake material, including paintings, gouaches, prints, bookplates, photographs and design projects. Here she turns her attention to a delightful watercolour in the CAM collection, one that seems prescient in this time of social isolation. This follows an earlier Reflection on Eric Thake by Christine Bell.

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Smith on Boyd

In this erudite reflection, Geoffrey Smith writes about Penleigh Boyd. Smith weaves Boyd’s biography with his rousing use of wattle, reminding us of the symbolic role wattle played in Australian in the lead up to Federation and beyond to the post war years.

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Reflections on orchids in the field and in the CAM collection

Flowering season is well underway in the forests and bush around Castlemaine and will continue until early summer. In this reflection, naturalist George Broadway is inspired by three watercolours in the collection. Through CAM’s Digitisation Roadshow project, we are now able to share these beautifully observed orchid studies by local artist Alice Cherry (nee Brotherton,1861–1898), possibly the elder sister of Miss Winnie Brotherton. A gifted amateur poet and painter, Cherry was the first woman elected to the prestigious Buonarotti Club in 1883. This Melbourne-based club for professional artists was important in advancing the careers of many female artists, including May Vale, also represented in the CAM collection (see Stephen F Mead). Here, George Broadway invites us to venture into the field and explore Castlemaine’s magnificent wildflowers.

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Theobald on Miss Brotherton

Local historian Marjorie Theobald reflects on the life of the remarkable Miss Brotherton, one of a small group of local women who imagined and then worked towards establishing an art gallery and museum for Castlemaine.

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Goodman on Leason

Percy Leason’s remarkable portrait of his children Jack and Jean, is one of CAM’s most intriguing treasures, here discussed by local artist and writer Andrew Goodman.

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Laird on Staffordshire Mantle Dogs

Local artist and writer Tessa Laird brings fresh eyes to a pair of porcelain mantle dogs in the CAM social history collection, which are currently on display in the museum and awaiting your return. Her response to these seemingly benign decorative pieces is a spirited reflection, mindful of our current times.

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Aunty Julie McHale on Bush Tucker

Aunty Julie McHale (Palawa) shares with us her deep knowledge of Bush Tucker, particularly on Jaara country. Aunty Julie is a passionate advocate for Bush Tucker in many ways, from teaching and presenting workshops; her engagement with renowned Indigenous catering service Murnong Mummas, through to the significant new project of establishing a Bush Tucker farm at Harcourt, a short drive from Castlemaine. Accompanying this Reflection are images from the CAM collection of First Nations' art and material culture.

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Millner on Flint

Writer and academic Jacqueline Millner sheds a critical light on the winner of the 2016 Len Fox Prize, a study of a woman washing at her basin, by Prudence Flint.

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Felstead on Fairweather

Local artist Ken Felstead reflects on three wonderful works in our collection by Ian Fairweather. Weaving together aspects of Fairweather’s biography, Felstead introduces some of the philosophical and artistic influences on Fairweather’s work. Felstead will be known to many visitors as a finalist in the last two Len Fox Painting Award exhibitions at CAM.

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Tribute to John Nixon (1949–2020)

Castlemaine has many links with the artist John Nixon, who died in August. In 2017 CAM presented John Nixon: Experimental Painting Workshop, curated by Emma Busowsky Cox; CAM has three Nixon works in its collection; and many of Nixon’s colleagues and friends live locally. In this tribute, fellow artists Melinda Harper, Clayton Tremlett and Justin Andrews, and curator Busowsky Cox share their memories of John Nixon, each writing with affection, respect and a profound sense of loss. Here you will learn something of the artist, celebrated not only for his work but also for his generous contribution to the sector through publishing, curating and supporting other artists at all stages of their development. We extend heartfelt condolences to Nixon’s wife, Sue Cramer, and daughter, Emma Nixon, and to John’s wider art family.

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Reflections on the nature of cracks

From behind closed doors, CAM invited celebrated painting conservator Caroline Fry from the Grimwade Centre for Cultural Materials Conservation to write on an issue which can affect both historical and contemporary art. Far from an exact science, Fry discusses some of the considerations made before working on a painting. In her engaging reflection Fry foregrounds some of the dilemmas conservators face on a daily basis.

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Grant on Atkinson

It is a pleasure to read this reflection on a spirited gift from the artist Yvonne Atkinson in 1977, written by the curator and writer Kirsty Grant. Through a Community Heritage Grant from the National Library of Australia (see below for full list of supporters) Grant is undertaking a significance assessment of CAMs art collection. As part of her assessment, Grant has undertaken community consultations and we look forward to sharing the results of her work later this year.

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Bell on Bookplates

Amongst many areas of research, Christine Bell has taken a special interest in Bookplates. A great supporter of CAM, Bell has been assisting us in identifying and housing CAMs fine collection of Bookplates. In this reflection, Bell places this most fabulous bookplate by Eric Thake within a brief introduction to this longstanding art form, the artist and his subject, the dynamic Jean Daley. Thake’s Bookplate is currently exhibited in The Unquiet Landscape, curated by Jenny Long in the Higgins Gallery.

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Vale Colleen Ruth Anne Smith

CAM is indebted to our guides for the warm and intelligent welcome they give visitors of all ages. They are nimble in responding to the interests of visitors, including giving formal tours. CAM guides are a high functioning group of local volunteers who come from many walks of life. New guides undergo a rigorous training provided by the more experienced guides, and participate in professional development programs with other galleries across the state. Guides also provide important support to reception staff. Unfortunately, Guides have not been able to work at CAM due to the pandemic however, we look forward to their return in the not too distant future.

Our community was saddened to learn of the recent passing of Colleen Smith, one of CAM’s valued guides, who unexpectedly passed away last week following surgery. Judith Staudte, CAM Guides Training Coordinator, spoke to Colleen’s colleagues across the country to compose this tribute to Colleen’s skilful and longstanding contribution to the public understanding of art.

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Reflection on rehousing CAM’s Footwear collection

Some of us are just crazy about shoes — new shoes, old shoes, those in good order, those worn down through use and time. Quite aside from thinking of footwear as fashion items, we can see shoes as something like a short story which a skilled reader can interpret. In this delightful reflection, CAM honorary Conservator, Deborah Peart discusses some treasures in the collection: an astonishing shell work by First Nations artists from La Peruse in NSW as well as other small treasures in the local history collection. As part of CAM’s Digitisation Roadshow (supported by Creative Victoria), Peart introduces some of the issues around the care and housing of our footwear collection. Peart also invites members of the community to contact us if they have information to share about the items she is rehousing.

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Barclay on McCubbin

In a personal and erudite reflection, local writer Jill Barclay shares her thoughts on a favourite in the collection by Frederick McCubbin (1855–1917), Heath Paddock, Hawthorn, 1886.

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Morden on Brack

Here is something to lift your spirits: Castlemaine Secondary College students Verity Morden and Lulu Carolan share their reflections on a striking gouache by John Brack (1920 -1999). Morden and Carolan responded to a digital file of Ray and Judy,1969 whilst CAM was temporarily closed due to the pandemic. These reflections form part of VCE Unit 1, presented by local artist Clayton Tremlett in which Year 11 students develop written skills in analysing works of art.

I invite you to share this reflection with friends and family, particularly young people who wish to develop their writing skills. Young writers are invited to contact us if they too would like to write a Reflection for publication, we will assist in the process.

Check out our home activities for the school holidays based on works at CAM, created for young people and the young at heart.

Naomi Cass
Director CAM Renewal

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Reflection - Sequeira on Moon

What gesture should galleries adopt to celebrate the opening of an exhibition in the time of Covid-19, when social distancing precludes the delightful tradition of an exhibition opening? While nothing can replace the conviviality of gathering in the Sinclair Gallery with the artist and a glass of wine, today we offer a thoughtful reflection on the key work in Moon’s exhibition, by artist and gallery director, David Sequeira as our opening gesture. We also launched CAM Collectables, our new retail project in the McKillop Gallery. Moon is the first featured artist and will be followed by artists and makers from the region and beyond.

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Gaynor on de Maistre

In this delightful reflection, art historian Andrew Gaynor writes on a work by Roy de Maistre (1894 – 1968). Gaynor speaks from a position of respect and knowledge as de Maistre is the subject of his forthcoming PhD dissertation.

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On the Castlemaine Art Gallery and the ‘Museum Movement’

Local academic Ian McShane explores why a British MP sponsored by one of America's most influential philanthropists was singing the praises of the newly opened Castlemaine Gallery in 1933. We look forward to learning more about this relationship following Dr McShane forthcoming research in the CAM archives. It is interesting to note that the photograph of the Whitchell Gallery below was taken prior to the Higgins Gallery being built and that the benches which are still in use, also date from this period.

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Siggins on Teague

In this reflection, Phillip Siggins, one of CAM’s stalwart guides, writes about Violet Teague’s (1872–1951) gritty Portrait of a Pioneer, 1917. This was an important and prescient gift of the artist in 1940. Castlemaine women had a pioneering role in establishing CAM, and the museum’s first director, Beth Sinclair (appointed in 1962), was the first female director of any public gallery in Australia.

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Busowsky Cox on Waller

Here is a treat, a reflection on the work of a much-admired local artist Christian Waller (1894–1954), written by a much-respected local curator and writer, Emma Busowsky Cox.

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Dober on Williams

Today, Local artist Mark Dober writes on a key work in the collection by Fred Williams (1927 – 1982). CAM has twelve works by Fred Williams, ranging from 1948 through to 1980, including two oil paintings and works on paper. As a landscape artist, Dober offers a welcome perspective on this iconic and much loved painting from the late 1960s.

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Reflections - On the significance of frames

Surrounding CAM’s celebrated collection of artworks is an equally intriguing and important collection of frames. Last year, CAM honorary conservator Deborah Peart conducted a frame-cleaning workshop with volunteers to prepare works from the collection for the upcoming exhibitions: The Unquiet Landscape and Janina Green in conversation with the Collection.

As frames are to the work of art, volunteers are to cultural organisations: offering critical support however, volunteers are not always as visible. In this, National Volunteer Week, we are pleased to bring you Deborah Peart’s reflection on the significance of frames. Peart is driving CAM policies and practice around caring for frames. As part of CAM’s Digital Roadshow (supported by Creative Victoria), Peart introduces some of the surprising issues surrounding the new-found respect, research and care given to frames.

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Perry on Shore

In this edition of Reflections Peter Perry writes about Arnold Shore’s delightful painting Farmyard, Mt Macedon, 1941, with reference to Shore’s pioneering role as a foundational Modernist. Former Director of Castlemaine Art Gallery & Historical Museum 1975–2014, Perry was pivotal in securing CAM’s strong representation of fourteen works by the artist.

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Annear on Watson

Stepping forward in time to 2008, in this Refection renowned curator and writer Judy Annear writes about an enigmatic and delightful painting in the collection by celebrated painter Jenny Watson.

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Milford on Smart

In this Reflection, George Milford shares a personal reading of one of CAM’s jewels, Hide and Seek III 1969–70, by Jeffrey Smart (1921–2013). Castlemaine holds not only this painting but also a preliminary sketch from the same year. Here, Milford reflects on how his interest in art intersected with his work. You can catch up on earlier reflections by clicking here.

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Lit from above: on not being able to visit Damon Moon’s exhibition in the Sinclair Gallery

Is not the Sinclair Gallery one of the most sublime small galleries? Consider its almost domestic proportions (save for the ceiling height), its stylish Art Deco footprint but mostly, its glass-paneled ceiling illuminating the space. So tuned are we to the slightest changes in light, that it is quite a wonderful experience viewing art under natural light. Slight changes in the sky dramatically alter this 'lightbox', shifting how we feel and how we see the artwork. In using a very limited palette, Moon’s objects take up the changing shadows cast through the space and across the day. Indeed, the changing light challenges making a consistent set of installation photographs, as you may note in the images here.

Contemporary ceramicist Damon Moon visited CAM late last year to discuss his forthcoming exhibition, Cast Recast: Damon Moon for the Sinclair. Moon spoke of his love of CAM’s Art Deco facade and ways he might create a new series of work for the space, whilst weaving throughout the language of historical Bendigo Pottery, where his studio is now based.

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Reflection no. 1

During this period of temporary closure, we will invite members of the CAM community to write brief reflections on aspects of CAM art and museum collections, which we will share on a regular basis.

This series, entitled Reflections, commences below, with an inspired coupling: one of CAM's most loved artists, Clarice Beckett, and brilliant art historian Helen McDonald, who has elected to write about Wet Evening c1927. This work currently hangs in the Higgins Gallery in the exhibition Janina Green in Conversation with the Collection. Here, the sombre mood of Beckett’s small dark painting resonates formally and in spirit with Green’s equally bleak, hand-coloured photographic study of a massive road train.

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Womindjika Woorineen willam bit
Willam Dja Dja Wurrung Balug
Wokuk mung gole-bo-turoi
talkoop mooroopook

Welcome to our homeland,
home of the Dja Dja Wurrung people
we offer you people good spirit.
Uncle Rick Nelson

The Jaara people of the Dja Dja Wurrung are the Custodians of the land and waters on which we live and work. We pay our respects to the Elders past, present and emerging. We extend these same sentiments to all Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander First Nations peoples.

Enter here