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Each piece was created by artists from all over Australia including the regions of Cape York and Arnhem Land in the Northern Territory, Palm Island in Queensland, the Kimberley and Fitzroy River in Western Australia, the central and western deserts, Tiwi Islands, South Australia and Victoria.
Marc came back, showed his team the art he had seen and they were immediately on board, and once Hans had seen the new venue which would showcase his collection, he was sold.
“Jamie was pleased it was going to be in our region, rather than hidden in a gallery in Melbourne, which would hopefully attract more people to the area,” said Marc.
“It’s something a little bit different but it’s also a substantial and important collection that people seem to be prepared to travel to see, from as far away as Sydney and Melbourne.”
The first of an exhibition series changing quarterly at the gallery, all drawn from the collection of Hans Sip, is “Dhungala” featuring Latje Latje and Yorta Yorta artists, Trevor “Turbo” Brown and Craig Charles.
It celebrates the artists’ close, personal connection to the Murray River as well as the friendship they shared.
Jamie Durrant has described the artists’ spiritual connection to Country and its animals as being evident in the paintings, showcasing some of the finest examples of story-telling works produced by both painters.
And as both have passed on, the exhibition also marked a fitting tribute in memory of Turbo and Craig.
Dhungala features over 40 paintings selected from 50 of the pair’s works in the Hans Sip collection and is notable as one of the largest Aboriginal group exhibitions ever to be exhibited in regional Victoria.
Marc said visitors to the new gallery have expressed genuine surprise when they walk through the doors.
“We are showcasing contemporary Aboriginal artwork, rather than the more traditional styles, such as dot paintings, many are used to seeing,” he said.
“And it was important to us to make sure it wasn’t a pretentious space or in any way overwhelming – we wanted even those people who are camping on the Murray, or just passing through town, to feel free to come in.
“I was very keen to emphasise (to the builders) that people have to feel comfortable standing there and I think that has worked.”
Transforming an historic building took time, with a number of challenges encountered along the way, but Marc said he always believed that working with what was already there, rather than rebuilding, would achieve a better result.
“It’s been a long process but it has been an exciting one and we’re really happy with the way it has come together,” he said.
The cellar door has been reconfigured to stretch back from grand double doors toward the rear of the building where the former storage space has been converted into a sizeable, purpose-built gallery space which will have bench seating.
It was a conscious decision to preserve the character of the old building, tidying it up, patching and painting the walls white but keeping the chunky and rustic feature timber. >>