A big day of culture

Judge Michael Aird photographs encouragement award winner Russell Meehan and his artwork, which Mr Aird says “is simple and understated yet stands out as a strong and confident work”. Image: Geoff Helisma

Geoff Helisma

The artworks two Aboriginal artists were publically acknowledged at the Big Day of Culture held at the Grafton Regional Gallery last Thursday November 2.

Kylie Caldwell’s work, Carry On, was named the winner of the 2017 Clarence Valley Indigenous Art Award (CVIAA), which earned her the $5,000 acquisitive prize.

Russell Meehan’s artwork, Willingness (State of Mind), was the winner of the $1,000 encouragement award.
Mayor Jim Simmons told those gathered that the biannual award “evolved from the Baryulgil Art Prize and it is now in its twelfth year”.

“This is due to the support of Baillieu and Sarah Myer through the Yulgilbar Foundation.

“… And the Clarence Valley Council has also supported this through the Grafton Regional Gallery, I must say.”
Michael Aird, a research fellow and adjunct associate lecturer at University of Queensland’s Faculty of Humanities and Social Sciences, judged the award.

Mr Aird, who has worked full time in the area of Aboriginal cultural heritage since 1985, told those gathered that “art awards and events like this are very important, both economically and socially”, given that “most artists [are] trying to survive financially”.

“It is called a competition, but it is not just about who wins,” he said.

“It is a chance to bring the arts community together; a place where artists can share their ideas and techniques, while also encouraging and enthusing each other to keep producing art.”

He said the award is “an example of government making this happen in a regional area”.

The mayor officially opened four exhibitions at the event: Photographs Are Never Still, featuring the Lindt photographs; Indigenous Art in School, the result of artists Deborah Taylor and Kerrie Howland conducting the gallery’s education program at four schools in the valley; YiiY (pronounced yi-ee) A Method to Decolonise, a solo exhibition by Penny Evans, winner of the 2015 CVIAA; and, an exhibition of 34 artworks by the 20 artists who entered the 2017 CVIAA.

The exhibitions are on display until December 9.

Above: Yaegl woman Rosie Vesper says “It has been a privilege to have been a part of the [research] group”. “Our ancestors are in those photos; it really lifts you within yourself,” she says. “To achieve what we have; the outcome is really awesome. I hope it can break down barriers between all cultures and their people [of all races].” She says the event has brought “the wider community together as one”. Image: Geoff Helisma

Above: Wollongbar-based artist Kylie Caldwell (left), the winner of the Clarence Valley Indigenous Art Award, with Grafton Regional Gallery’s curator Jude McBean. Judge Michael Aird says “Kylie has used traditional basket making techniques to weave a simple bag form”. “This work makes me think of the traditional bags and baskets that appear in the photographs taken by John William Lindt…. “It is good to see younger generations of Aboriginal people acknowledging the importance of traditional artistic practices.” Image: Geoff Helisma.

Above: The South Grafton High School dancers entertain the audience. Image: Geoff Helisma

Above: (l-r) Ken Orchard, Elizabeth Smith and Kate Gahan played important roles in producing the book Photographs Are Never Still. Ken Orchard wrote sections in the book that explore the Grafton years of photographer John William Lindt, specifically the landscapes he took in the Grafton region. Kate Gahan wrote about Clarence Valley’s history during colonisation of the region and about each of the portraits produced by Lindt, including those of timber-getters, miners, stockmen and shearers. Yaegl Elder Elizabeth Smith was a member of the research committee. Image: Geoff Helisma

Left: (l-r) Kylie Caldwell, winner of the 2017 Clarence Valley Indigenous Art Award and 2015 winner Penny Evans, whose exhibition, YiiY – A Method to Decolonise, is open until December 9. Image: Geoff Helisma.