In a forthcoming exhibition titled New Histories, Bendigo Art Gallery has commissioned a group of contemporary artists to re-imagine historic works in the collection including revered classics such as The Arab Blacksmith, The Golden Wedding and the fabled Too late.
In Western art, paintings have been believed to be windows to the world, bringing images of other cultures, places and imaginings to cloistered, pre-globalised audiences.
Museums sought to arrange these artworks as part of a broader chronology or narrative that told the story of the world as they knew it – frequently from a European or Western perspective; Sandhurst (now Bendigo) was no exception.
New Histories seeks to address the idea that by looking back and visiting untold or repressed histories we can open up new views to the present and the future.
Many of the contemporary artists in this exhibition have looked for the ‘hidden’ figures in history– or the veiled narrative at work. Other artists have reimagined the symbolism within the historic works as they play out today or in our living memory.
Once such work examines the life and ouerve of Agnes Goodsir in a collective response to the c1925 painting Girl with Cigarette.
International artists Seecum Cheung, Maike Hemmers, Pilar Mata Dupont, Isabelle Sully, and Flora Woudstra decided to undertake a residency in Paris, visiting and working in spaces Goodsir frequented and treating her as a metaphorical host and tour-guide.
The resulting multi-channel film Attending to Agnes traverses themes of solidarity, intimacy, conflict and friendship across geographies and through the social infrastructures.
Like so many female Australian artists of the period, Goodsir found new cultural and social freedoms in early 20th century Paris and she immersed herself in the bohemian lifestyle of the artistic community.
The female sphere was the main subject of interest for Goodsir; she painted her female friends and, in particular, her lifelong partner Rachel Dunn who casually and confidently asserts her position as protagonist in Girl with Cigarette.
New Histories opens April 13.
On Monday April 16, join these artists during SUM OF PARTS: UNPACKING COLLABORATION. An all-day, free symposium presented by La Trobe Art Institute in collaboration with Bendigo Art Gallery featuring Pilar Mata DuPont, Jon Cattapan and Ben Aitken, The Ryan Sisters, Sara Al-Rawi and Dr Jasim Al-Rawi (School of Molecular Sciences, La Trobe University)
Booking for Sum of Parts through www.eventbrite.com.au