Exhibition highlights 50 years of artistic engagement

2 October 2014

As one of a number of special displays in celebration of the University’s Golden Jubilee Year, the Macquarie University Art Gallery in collaboration with Memory (University archives) have married historical and contemporary artistic links, together with new artistic commissions, to showcase the power of art on campus in CREATIVE REVISIONS: Retracing 50 Years of Responses to the University Campus.

The new exhibition showcases a myriad of aesthetic responses that have celebrated and characterised the institution as innovative, enlivened, fresh, vibrant, modern, daring and different.

“From the halcyon days of the 60s, 70s and 80s, artists of the caliber of Alun Leach-Jones, David Rankin, John Rhodes, David Humphries, David Boyd, Martin Sharp and Carol Jerrems have both reveled in and revealed a campus potent with vigor, promise and the will to succeed,” says curator Rhonda Davis.

Paintings, prints, wall murals, photographs, sculptures, installations, and textiles populate the campus today, the results of both artistic programs such as the Artist-in-Residence program, and a conscious collecting program.

Whilst undertaking research for the exhibition fresh insights and undertakings arose, including:

  • Archival material revealing that a Martin Sharp commission – a portrait of Tiny Tim (his largest work) – was not indeed the original colour of the work  – a more subdued blue/purple palette of the original commission was transformed in both colour and content at a later date.
  • The recent recovery of drawings by Walter Abraham – the University’s first Architect/Planner – of the original Macquarie University Coat of Arms. This threw new light on the early development and structure of the institution. Never before seen on public display, the brilliant manifestation remains powerfully symbolic – “the Macquarie (light-house), Tower (on South Head), and the ‘dog’ star Sirius” – key to the university’s future aspirations

“The University was leading the charge in avant-gardism during the sixties, as evidenced by Foley-Fogg’s Sexual and Cultural Revolution and the first light show to arrive on a university campus. The mandala, Madam Lash, whips and explicit posters were designed to shock and still retains an edge today,” says Davis.

A documentary film was also commissioned, recording the highs and lows of renovating a major mural work, Sydney Summer, by Alun Leach-Jones painted when he was artist-in-residence at Macquarie University in 1977.

The exhibition points out how the resuscitation of the Artist-in-Residence program throughout the higher education sector would be a significant step in bringing the creative dimensions alive to a university campus. As Leach-Jones recalls his presence on campus back in the 1970s:

“It was a signal to the community,” says Leach-Jones, “that there was an artist on site who is a working artist and who is going to contribute to the appearance of the university. He was sending a larger signal to the community that there should be an artist in residence all the time, doing things here.”

CREATIVE REVISIONS, Macquarie University Art Gallery, Building E11A (northern end of Eastern Rd), 10 September – 24 October 2014. artgallery.mq.edu.au

Artists include: Effy Alexakis, David Aspden, Fabien Astore, Vanessa Berry, David Boyd, Daniel Mudie Cunningham, Lexodius Dadd, Erol Davis, Rhonda Dee, Roger Foley-Fogg, Alan Gamble,  Michael Gillings, Pro Hart, David Humphries, David Jensz, Carol Jerrems, Alun Leach-Jones, Rocket Mattler, Timothy Moore, Ron Oldfield, Cedar Prest, David Rankin, Jon Rhodes, Martin Sharp, Jan Shaw, Jo Simpson, David Sudmalis, Teong Eng Tang, Betty Thorn, Josh Tobin, Jozef Vissel and Kayo Yokoyama.

Filed under: Campus news Faculty of Arts