I have only just seen The Revisiting Exhibition – Lorraine Maggs in the Stein Gallery, Fairfield City Museum and Gallery, so I’m sorry I couldn’t encourage you earlier to visit. The show closes February 27. Even if the notice is short, it’s well worth making the visit. Lorraine has just celebrated her 75th birthday. The Revisiting Exhibition is a selection of works created over more than 50 years, beginning with Self Portrait 1961 in oil on masonite and ending with two sculptures in cardboard, wood and metal made in 2012. It offers a deeply personal insight into her life and allows us to see the importance of her art in finding balance and resolution through some of its more difficult passages. In fact, there is frequent humour and whimsy in her work as she investigates serious social issues, or needles the balloons of power and pomposity.
Like so many women artists of her generation, her early interest in art as a career was actively discouraged. It took strength and confidence to persist and develop a lifetime of learning and exploration. Lorraine, left, became an art teacher at Canley Vale High School, established a studio practice at home and became an advocate for contemporary arts in south west Sydney. Her skills in a wide range of media are well known and she moves easily between painting, drawing, delicate prints and assembled sculptures.
Lorraine’s life journey through her art traverses universal themes and profoundly personal and poignant narratives. Although I was too late to get a copy of the colour booklet about her exhibition, the list of her notes on each work offers valuable explanations. They detail the allegorical nature of some of her paintings and drawings, which helped her work through the distress of her husband’s struggle with mental illness and finally her grief after he took his own life. Top, is A Leap of Faith, 2004, one of a series of three about a Jack in a Box, “where he acts out a variety of situations from his box.” Lorraine says, “The idea being, that we can all sympathise with Jack and feel hemmed in at times, but is there a position of unfettered freedom where barriers never exist?”
In Nuzzling In 2014, above, she says, “Up close and cheek by jowl with my husband’s portrait is a fabricated, winsome sea lion pup; a deliberate counterbalance to the otherwise more fearful and controlling forces of schizophrenia. The central positioning of the inquisitive nose is to be seen as a dark blot on the ‘cheek of reason’.”
Her fondness for her own neighbourhood and of teaching and sharing come together in The Drawing Fairfield Mural, which was created with a team of artists, left, during the exhibition and is now proudly displayed within the show. There is clear satisfaction for Lorraine and her audience in looking back over such a productive and fulfilling life, knowing that even its misfortunes and disappointments offer encouragement, new skills and enrichment to those whose lives she touches. See The Revisiting Exhibition, Lorraine Maggs, at the Stein Gallery, Fairfield City Museum and Gallery, 632 The Horsley Drive, (corner of Oxford Street), Smithfield NSW 2164 – Phone: (02) 9609 3003.