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Saturday, November 16, 2013

Fred Williams and Weary Dunlop at Benalla

Fred Williams The Pilbara

Walking ramp to Benalla Art Gallery

Yesterday we took a comfortable country drive to Benalla, about an hour's drive away from Corowa. The town itself was graciously set out with a large lake in the middle and an enormous botanical gardens. But this was all extra to the main reason for our journey - an exhibition of paintings by FRED WILLIAMS from the National Art Gallery of Victoria. I've seen Williams paintings before in the National Gallery and the WA Art Gallery so I have been a long time fan. It all started when there were some Fred Williams gouache paintings in an Overland journal I was published in many decades ago. These paintings were even more special because they centred about the Pilbara, a vibrant part of the mining landscape in Western Australia, a state where I have spent the majority of my life. As expected, it was a rich, vibrant collection of paintings celebrating the amazing colour of the ancient earth, and a few showing where man has cut into the surface for his own greedy purposes.

In a second gallery at Benalla there was a mixture of drawing techniques contributed by the Polish Art Exhibition. I didn't catch the full story, but apparently it is an annual competition where artists from around the world roll up their drawings and send them unframed to this competition. This exhibition had artists from Hungary, Slovenia and Japan, plus a few others. From abstracts to super realist work, the collection shows how drawing is used as a contemporary technique in 2013.

'Weary' Dunlop memorial, Benalla

In the front entrance to the Benalla Botanical Gardens there stands a dramatic statue of war hero Sir Edward 'Weary' Dunlop helping fellow prisoners in a POW camp. It is a truly touching memorial, from the detail of his boots to the prisoner attending to the fallen soldier's leg wound.

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