Grealey's portraits and paraphenalia add life to artists young and old

LIVING IN ART: Hugo's Office In a Small City, by Andrew Finnie.
LIVING IN ART: Hugo's Office In a Small City, by Andrew Finnie.

Maitland Regional Art Gallery continues to offer a wide range of diverse shows, and its staggered exhibition periods guarantee a fresh experience with every visit. The gallery is presenting seven exhibitions, including a major touring show of photographic portraits, a suite of computer-generated digital works and three contemporary installations from interstate artists.

Art Maker, Patron, Lover is 2017 National Photographic Portrait Prize winner, Gary Grealy’s high-quality, photographic exploration of the faces behind the names of some of Australia’s most influential artists, collectors, administrators, gallery owners and benefactors. While a few well-known figures, such as former Art Gallery of NSW director Edmond Capon, are easily recognised, the majority of Grealy’s subjects are known to most of us only as names attached to galleries and foundations.

Important 20th Century Australian artists such as Robert Klippel, James Gleeson, Kevin Connor and Charles Blackman are given refreshed identities, while sensitive portraits of such established painters as Jenny Sages, Euan Macleod, Tim Storrier and Kerrie Lester, along with younger artists like Guy Maestri, Elyssa Sykes-Smith and Nell all help humanise the largely unknown, behind-the-scenes world of art and its makers. For Lower Hunter visitors, the inclusion of portraits of Newcastle artists Peter Tilley, Nicola Hensel, John Turier and Trevor Weeks, as well as Maitland Gallery’s former director Joe Eisenberg, add to this sense of connection.

The accompanying small exhibition of photographs of odd pieces of artists’ paraphernalia, such as Russell Drysdale’s hat, Fred Cress’ chair, Brett Whiteley’s shoes and Fred Williams’ etching tools are presented like holy relics or fetish items, helping restore some of the mystique that the portraits successfully removed. Until March 18

Newcastle artist Andrew Finnie is best known for his ‘en plein air’ paintings of urban scenes and domestic interiors, but for the past several years he has also been working on large-scale digital project The Enlightening Journey of Mr Hugo Ball. Finnie has created a dreamland where Hugo Ball, the MC of the Dada movement, enters, occupies, then departs major paintings selected from the canon of western art. Through the worlds of Fra Angelico, Bosch and Bruegel to Vermeer, van Gogh, and Jeffrey Smart, the protagonist seeks enlightenment through living his life in art itself.

Brisbane artist Karike Ashworth offers a complete change of atmosphere in her meditative installation Lamentation, where stitched and embroidered hospital linen and floating organic shapes express her deepest feelings of personal loss and, in Whisker of Light Melbourne, artists Gracia Haby and Louise Jennison have produced drawings, prints, zines, artists books and 500 collaged postcards that examine the tenuous relationship between humankind and the rest of the natural world. James Hazel and Victoria Pham’s Sonant Bodies is a sound-based installation that explores our relationship with an electronic, sonic world.