Several arts projects are exploring international conflicts and their impact globally and on communities of western Sydney. On Saturday, May 28, at 3pm, Penrith Regional Gallery and Lewers Bequest launches its Winter Suite of Exhibitions, which all explore themes of conflict, turmoil and displacement. The centrepiece is a touring exhibition developed by Hazelhurst Regional Gallery & Arts Centre. I Witness is the first major survey in Australia of the work of leading Australian artist and filmmaker George Gittoes, above. I Witness presents a chronological journey through Gittoes’ career beginning in 1970 when he co-founded the Yellow House in Potts Point. There are more than 90 works: paintings, drawings, printmaking, and artist diaries from the fields of war, as well as installation and film.
George Gittoes will open the exhibition and says, “I believe in art so much that I am prepared to risk my life to do it. I physically go to these places. I also believe an artist can actually see and show things about what’s going on that a paid professional journalist can’t and won’t do, and can show a level of humanity and complexity that they wouldn’t cover on TV”. Conflict zones where he has worked include Rwanda, Cambodia, Bosnia, Afghanistan and Iraq. He has a special concern for speaking to young people about war and conflict through the medium of film. On Sundays in July, George Gittoes’ documentary films will be shown at 2pm. Above is a work from his 2011 exhibition No Exit from Afghanistan.
Complementing the main exhibition will be a display of works by Norman Hetherington, the creator of television’s Mr Squiggle. Norman Hetherington was a soldier in an entertainment unit during World War II. His daughter Rebecca has curated Heth, an exhibition including some of his pen and ink drawings of the life of a soldier produced while on duty in Northern Australia, New Guinea and the Pacific.
Also opening at the gallery on Saturday, May 28, is Zwolowa – A Celebration of Lofa culture and community. Members of the Western Sydney Liberian Lofa community, Mamre House and visual arts students from Caroline Chisholm College have worked together to create this exhibition revealing the life of Lofa refugees in Australia and celebrating the continuity of their culture. On Sunday, June 5, there will be a special Liberian Beat and Market Day, from 11am to 2pm. Everyone is welcome to all the exhibitions and events and admission is free. The gallery is set in beautiful gardens at 86 River Rd, Emu Plains, where the Winter Suite continues to August 21.
Education is a vital part of this series and of the overall work of Penrith Regional Gallery. The gallery recently announced the recipient of its new 12 month paid education internship program. Penrith is the only gallery in Sydney to offer such an internship and Christine Ghali is the first recipient. She majored in ceramics at the College of Fine Arts, UNSW and completed a Masters of Arts Administration course. Christine’s research paper Is There A Place for Art Education in Western Sydney? An Investigation on Its Importance for the Development of Children and At Risk Youth, is of great interest for the gallery’s education program, where she will be mentored by Naomi McCarthy, the gallery’s education manager.
Christine’s own art practice is informed by her cultural heritage as a Coptic Christian and the conflict and persecution they have experienced in their homeland of Egypt. Left is a figure from her ceramic work Hear No Evil, See No Evil, 2011, which she describes as representative of the suffering of people living in situations of religious, political and cultural intolerance. The hand built ceramics of Buff Raku Trachyte are bandaged with earthen ware slip and partly glazed. She says “Many of the figures have dates of recent attacks inscribed into them as well as the words ‘Lord Have Mercy’ in Arabic, Coptic and English script.”
Hear No Evil, See No Evil, will be on display in Penrith Library throughout the period of the Winter Suite of Exhibitions at the Penrith Regional Gallery. At the same time, Christine Ghali will be developing and delivering a regional youth project in response to the gallery’s winter exhibition suite.
Coming up on June 10, as part of Vivid Ideas 2016 is Pop Culture, Migration and Revolution – Transnational Responses to Injustice. Part conversation, part performance, party and revolution, the event brings together “some of the most exciting artists from the transnational Australian underground hip hop scene, to perform and share conversation with the audience.” Organised by Fairfield’s Powerhouse Youth Theatre (PYT), Australian Theatre for Young People (ATYP) and the Religion, State & Society Network (University of Sydney), the event is a lead up to the development of a new activist hip hop musical. To be produced by PYT and ATYP, WATAN will explore the lived experience of young migrant Australian poets and musicians from western Sydney.
Then on June 22, you have the opportunity to experience the next stage of the multi-year, multi-artform project Colony, which is gathering stories across western Sydney and worldwide around the themes of climate change, social division and restricted social freedom. Riverside Theatres and Curiousworks will present an audio-visual concert by Kurinji (Aimee, above). Colony – When the Tide Comes In continues the story of Sam, a young woman living in a 22nd century Australia struggling under the impact of these changes. Colony draws on the largely unknown stories of western Sydney’s multicultural communities and moves across the region’s precolonial past and into its unfolding future. Bookings and information.