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RECENT PAST & NEAR FUTURE – WIM CHRISTMAS CELEBRATION 2011 (By Crystal Andrews)

RECENT PAST & NEAR FUTURE – WIM CHRISTMAS CELEBRATION 2011 (By Crystal Andrews)

This year saw Women in Media tackle some hard-hitting issues in the industry, but the last night of November proved to be a more light-hearted and fun affair. Among peers, colleagues and friends, WIM members took the opportunity to ring in the festive season, enjoy some Australian art, and celebrate another successful year.

Warm smiles, gourmet nibbles and Lamont’s wine greeted 110 guests at the Lawrence Wilson Art Gallery, the cultural heart of the University of Western Australia’s lush campus. Guests had a chance to view the latest exhibition, Recent Past, hear about the UWA’s new Cultural Precinct and preview plans for the relocation of the Berndt Museum collection. As WIM committee member Liz Carey said, “Australian art is the Christmas gift” on this night of merriment and networking.

Recent Past showcases paintings and prints from 1969 to 1990, by Australian artists including Sydney Nolan, Carol Rudyard and Jeremy Kirwan-Ward. Each is an impressive and unique representation of Australia, born in a time of change, not only within the artistic world, but also in wider Australian society.

Nolan’s Flower Panels [Paradise Garden] print series provides a large scale burst of colour and visual texture. The representation of Australian wildflowers covers three gallery walls and attracted the most attention on the night. From kangaroo paws to herringbone ferns, each distinctive Australian flower is represented by a set of four individual pieces. The series grounds the collection by providing a well-established and recognisable link between Australia, its flora and nature.

Later paintings in the collection use more abstract and surrealist styles. Fete III (1978) by Susan Norrie renders Donald Duck in oil paints, and the scattered, colourful work The Lonesome Traveller (1989-1991) is still more abstract. Each artwork, bold in its own way, contributed to an interesting, colourful backdrop to the end-of-year festivities. The curatorial result of the collection reflects the Australian aesthetic of the era and cultural change over the 21-year period.

UWA’s Deputy Vice Chancellor for Research, Professor Robyn Owens, said an engagement with culture underpins the academic work of the University of Western Australia. “It is such a uniting force across all of our disciplines, and is such a source of inspiration and creativity,” she said.

As the media is such a significant aspect of modern culture, she said media professionals have an important role to play. The media is vital in publishing new knowledge so that it can be useful to society – a process she calls “socialising” knowledge.

“A lot of young scientists know how to work, most of them don’t know how to finish, and almost all of them don’t know how to publish,” Professor Owens said. “For our researchers to get knowledge out into the community, I’m encouraging them to think about other ways of socialising what they do. This is where you are my colleagues in this venture.”

Dr John Stanton, Director of UWA’s Berndt Museum and representative of the new Cultural Precinct (which includes the Lawrence Wilson Gallery), shares this opinion. “As the media, you are at the interface … you are the prime conduit for the information exchange,” he said. “We rely on you, the professionals, the help us develop the way we tell the story.”

Dr Stanton said the real value of the current exhibition and the Berndt Museum collection is in community relations, and the purpose of the UWA Cultural Precinct is to involve and engage the WA public. The Janet Holmes à Court Gallery, within the Lawrence Wilson gallery, will become a dedicated, accessible public space for the Berndt collections. Six monthly exhibitions, drawn from the 13,000 Indigenous artworks and cultural artefacts in the collection, will show a variety of what the Berndt museum has to offer, rather than being hidden away in storage.

The relocation of Ronald and Caroline Berndt’s collection was a painstaking process, Dr Stanton said, and this process will become the basis for the first exhibition in February 2012: Relocate and Rediscover.

But even the Janet Holmes à Court gallery will only be a temporary home. Well-known architect Gus Ferguson will design a purpose built facility to permanently house the Berndt museum on the UWA campus. He said the space will allow a wider audience to share in the extensive Indigenous collection.

A collection of never-before-seen Jimmy Pike illustrations will form the second exhibition, opening in the second half of 2012. Dr Stanton called on the media to help share the experience of this “special exhibition of 50 exquisite drawings” from the prominent artist. “You [media professionals] are a resource for us, but we [the university] are also a resource for you. We’ve got lots of stories, and we need your help to tell them to the public.”

These plans for the Berndt collection contribute to what Professor Owens referred to as “a way to use the entire campus as an environment that fosters creativity and innovation.”

The plans for the Cultural Precinct offer many stories worth telling, and a gallery full of Australian art is just the beginning. Both WIM and UWA strive to encourage collaboration, publish and socialise knowledge, and develop the next generation, philosophies that are sure to make 2012 a fruitful year for both.

Door prizes provided by WIM’s sponsors
Secrets Sssh solid 14ct gold or white gold stud earrings, valued at $200, each went to Deborah Spittle, Miriam Borthwick and Kara Jecks.
Designer, leather-look handbags and wallets from Sassy Duck went to Hazel Bailey, Alana Buckley-Carr, Amanda Banks and Jeanette Murray.
Two free tickets from the Summer Supper Club at the Old Bakery, featuring intimate readings and acoustic performances, went to Ali Martin.

For photographs by photojournalism student Nicole Pfeifhofer of the evening, visit the Photo Gallery.