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Indepth Arts News:

"We Are Australian - A Major Exhibition by 300 Leading Artists"
2000-05-15 until 2000-06-12
Volvo Gallery
Sydney, , AU Australia

A major touring exhibition in which 300 leading Australian Artists salute and honour the diversity of our land and culture. The exhibition is a showcase of contemporary Australia and Australian Art.

This exhibition ...is not only an important and timely expression of our harmony in diversity, but is also a colourful expression of what we are today Rt Hon Sir Zelman Cowen Governor General of the Commonwealth of Australia, 1977-1982.

We Are Australian visits Sydney May 15 to June 3, 2000 at the Volvo Gallery, cnr York and Barrack Street.The Exhibition then moves to the Adelaide Festival Centre where it will be hosted from August 17 to October 2, 2000.

The exhibition is featured online at www.visualartforum.com as a series of monthly exhibitions on specific themes on Contemporary Australia.

Writing about Australia in the Sixties, Donald Horne called his book The Lucky Country. How right he was . People from all over the world, with our original inhabitants, the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples have gathered here to creat a culture so full of ethnic variety and richness that it is without parallel. Together, we are uniquely Australian. Yet, within this mixture of languages, beliefs, styles, creations, and customs, each retains its own individuality.

The idea for the exhibition came from Geoff La Gerche, born out of concern over the divisiveness being sown by a pathetic but vociferous few. It was time, he reasoned, for Australian artists to show their hands and state their opposition to racism, and to affirm their unity in diversity.

Young and old, emerging and established artists, all of very diverse backgrounds, were selected and invited by their fellow artists.

Among the big names and the small there was to be an equaliser - each work was to be of the same size, if not format - a panel of thirty by forty centimetres being given to each participant. Create what they will - paint on it or draw, cut into it, around it, or stick onto it - each artist was working on a level playing field. Moreover, by keeping each work to the same size, this in itself became a metaphor for unity in diversity. The conditions of entry were also direct and meaningful. Artists had to be Australian citizens or residents of Australia; and thier entered work was to celebrate Australias cultural diversity.

The response was enormous, spontaneous and enthusiastic. It was a humbling and yet sustaining experience which, within itself, proclaimed the success of the venture. Nonagenarian Louis Kahan, born in Vienna in 1905, and Octogenarian David Dallwitz, born in 1914 in Freeling. South Australia, joined with other artists born in Melbourne and Sydney two decades ago. A short roll call of some of the major artists includes Rick Amor, Davida Allen, Karen Casey, Judy Cassab, Peter Clarke, Aleks Danko, and John Davis, through John Firth-Smith, Deborah Halpern, Robert Jacks, Inge King, and Colin Lanceley, to Jan Senbergs, Wendy Stavrianos, Jenny Watson and John Wolseley.

Painter and international fashion designer, Pru Acton, pointedly titled her landscape, The land shapes us, the land colours our imagination, the land marks our experience. By contrast, Italian born Wilma Tabacco painted a curvaceous yet strikingly blunt word wog across her board. Its joint meaning is its message; a statement of fact. As a child, she was taunted with the word. Now she reclaims the word as a more sensitive statement, for nowadays it is not derogatory, when used within a community; only when used outside. Tabacco saw the exhibition as being as good moment for alerting the public to the issue.

David Thomas - Curator

Title: The Land Shapes Us The Land Colours Our Imagination The Land Marks Our Experience
Artist Name: Prue Acton

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