New England, Australia

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

New England writers – Introducing Binks Turnbull Dowling’s For crying out loud

Binks Turnbull Dowling’s For crying out loud (published by the author, Dorrigo 1997) is another of those autobiographical memoirs of early life and young adulthood that have so enriched our understanding of New England life and history. It’s also a good if sometimes confusing read.

The book is broken into somewhat overlapping chronological segments. In part, these explore and describe Binks’ life up to her marriage. However, For crying out loud is also an examination of her parents, their personalities and the complexities of relationship, seeking to understand. The book is dedicated to the father that she greatly loved, a father she rarely saw after she was sent to Kotupna at the age of five, a father who died when she was fifteen. Finally, the book centres on life on Kotupna itself, a large station in the Fall country to the east of Armidale and the heart of the large extended Turnbull family.

In some ways, the book is a story of loss, one replicated by other New England writers including Judith Wright and Judith Wallace. Loss of family connection, decline and finally loss of Kotupna itself.

There are sad elements in the story that made me uncomfortable, a reminder of the uncertainties and complexities of life. Apart from the story of her parents, I wondered about the inarticulate nature of the Turnbull men, about the break-ups and relationship failures. Sometimes, it seemed to me that Kotupna had become a devouring beast.

I know that members of the Turnbull family would probably not share that perception. When Binks asked her mother years’ later why she stayed at Kotupna, Jean looked at her strangely and said simply “But I was happy”. The love they all had for Koputna, Binks is no exception, shines through.

The book ends with Binks’ marriage to Ian and the establishment of a long and obviously happy relationship. The book was written because their children insisted. I am glad they did.

In the next post in this series I will look in more detail at the book itself. 

          

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Have you walked the Walcha sculptures?

This is generation stick by Walcha sculptor Stephen King.

For those who do not know Walcha, it is a small town (population about 1,600) on the southern New England Tablelands.

Some time ago, the Council decided to turn Walcha into an open air sculpture gallery.

While I already knew of Stephen King and had seem some of the sculptures,, I had no idea of their extent. In fact, a friend and I discovered all this by accident.

We were coming back from Armidale and stopped in Walcha for breakfast. After breakfast, we went for a short walk and discovered just some of the sculptures.

We had to go, a long drive lay in front of us, but we said that we would come back.

I have still to manage the time, although each time I go through Walcha I find a little more.

My friend and I have agreed and soon. We are coming back for a whole day just to walk the sculptures.


Monday, December 08, 2014

Another New England artist – Bronwyn Oliver (Gum Flat via Inverell)

Australian sculptor Bronwyn Joy Oliver (née Gooda) 22 February 1959 – 11 July 2006) was born at Gum Flat, west of Inverell,  Her parents were Milton, a farmer turned greenkeeper, and WeBronwyn Oliverndy, who worked in a pharmacy. As a child, she attended weekend art classes in Inverell run by Ian Howard. Howard went on to become dean of Alexander Mackie College of Advanced Education, now the University of New South Wales College of Fine Arts, where Oliver would later study and would become her mentor. 

As dux of her school, her parents expected her to go on to university. However, Oliver wished to pursue a creative career. When she told her parents of her plans, her mother replied, "Darling, your father and I are very pleased you're going to art school, but if you'd been a son, I think we'd be a little disappointed.! A rift subsequently developed between her and her family that resulted in her having no contact with them for 25 years.

Graduating from Alexander Mackie, Oliver won a New South Wales Travelling Art Scholarship in 1981, completing a Masters degree at Chelsea School of Art in 1983. Her work was influenced by Richard Deacon, Antony Gormley and Martin Puryear under whom she studied while in England. In 1984 she won a Moet & Chandon Australian Art Fellowship, then In 1988 she was granted a period as artist-in-residence in the city of Brest on the coast of Brittany, where she studied Celtic metalworking techniques.

A sculptor for her entire artistic career, Oliver used paper, cane or fibreglass for her early works. However, she found "fibreglass hazardous and paper Oliver's_Vine_from_upper_leveltoo impermanent", and for most of her career she worked in metal. 

The metals used for her creations varied: the monumental Vine, a 16.5-metre-high sculpture in the Sydney Hilton (photo), was fabricated in aluminium, as was the Brisbane sculpture Big Feathers; however most, such as Palm and the 2002 sculpture Lock, were crafted in copper. All 25 works included in the 1995 publication, Bronwyn Oliver: mnemonic chords, were made in copper, though a handful also utilised other materials such as bronze, lead or, in one case, fibreglass.

Oliver was always preoccupied with "what materials will do". Fink observed that "[f]rom the beginning, Oliver has been interested in things that are made from the inside out, and her works often give cryptic evidence of their manufacture". That evidence of manufacture was not confined to the works themselves: friends and art critics observed the injuries and marks she carried as a result of working with such unforgiving material.

Oliver's sculptures are admired for their tactile nature, their aesthetics, and the technical skills demonstrated in their production. In her later career, most of her pieces were commissions, both public and private. Recognition of her work included selection as a finalist in the inaugural Helen Lempriere National Sculpture Award in 2000, inclusion in the National Gallery of Australia's 2002 National Sculpture Prize exhibition, and being shortlisted for the 2006 Clemenger Contemporary Art Award. Her works are held in major Australian collections, including the National Gallery of Australia, the National Gallery of Victoria and the Art Gallery of New South Wales.

Oliver did not intellectualise her creativity: she preferred to talk about the process of creating her artworks rather than their meanings. Asked about how she approached her art, she stated:

My work is about structure and order. It is a pursuit of a kind of logic: a formal, sculptural logic and poetic logic. It is a conceptual and physical process of building and taking away at the same time. I set out to strip the ideas and associations down to (physically and metaphorically) just the bones, exposing the life still held inside.[40]

While Oliver was reluctant to discuss meaning in her works, critics have identified recurring themes. Hannah Fink, like art critic John McDonald, noted that there is a pattern to the shapes and structures in Oliver's work. Fink described this as "a consistent vocabulary of elemental forms –450px-Bronwyn_Oliver_'Palm' the spiral, meander, loop and sphere – in a repertoire of signature archetypes",[41] while McDonald referred to them as organisms, or their remains.[42] 

Ideas were often first sketched by Oliver, before she moved to construction in three dimensions. When preparing commissions, she would draw on the ideas of clients or the nature of the site. For large works she created maquettes (or models), sometimes in plasticine, on other occasions using copper wire or, in the case of her 2002 sculpture Globe, wood and metal.

Major pieces were created at Crawfords Casting foundry in Enfield in Sydney's inner western suburbs. Although the foundry would fabricate the elements of the sculptures, Oliver would still undertake the initial stages, training foundry staff and supervising their activity. Some of the pieces assembled to create the sculptures were made using copper rod, while others were formed using the lost-wax casting technique. Individual pieces would take up to two months to complete.

Oliver would produce the more delicate works herself. Many were created by crafting and joining wire to create abstract forms. These were built around moulds, twisting the metal into place with pliers, before severing it with wirecutters. Joins were soldered or brazed (though in some pieces, the wire was woven). In Web (2002), copper pieces were sewn together using wire.

In her early twenties, Bronwyn Gooda married fellow sculptor and film maker Leslie Oliver. The marriage ended in what Oliver would describe as a “ a distressing divorce". Later she established a long term relationship with wine writer Huon Hooke.

Oliver was sometimes characterised as reclusive in both the artistic and social worlds.  Her teacher and long-time associate Professor Ian Howard described her as having "an underlying and at times painful distrust of  the relationships that are part of our everyday lives". In the last period of her life she seems to have experienced increasing personal difficulties, becoming  "reclusive, obsessive, anxious" as well as "difficult and impatient, and completely obsessed with her diet."

Bronwyn committed suicide on 11 July 2006. Trying to understand, Ian Howard ended her obituary in this way:

Perhaps I go too far in the writing of an obituary. But you must understand, Bronwyn was one of  COFA's own, one of our very best. And much earlier, she was the brilliant little 10 year-old kid I taught in Saturday morning art classes in rural NSW, already clearly destined for great successes, but not this singular failure.

In 2011, it was announced that a sculpture gallery at the College would be named after her.

Note on sources

This piece draws very heavily from the Wikipedia article on Bronwyn. Other sources are individually identified.  

Friday, December 05, 2014

New England Passings – Remembering Bruce Treloar

TRELOAR TRADITION: Bruce Treloar, centre, with sons John and James at the 120th celebrations for their retailing history in 2011.

Tamworth retailer Bruce Treloar died on Saturday 16 August 2014 aged 88  after a period of ill health ended by a recent battle with cancer and finally pneumonia.

The night before he had shared a  beer with two of his sons John and James. The photo from the Northern Daily Leader shows the three  (John, Bruce, James) in 2011 at the 120th celebrations of the Treloars’ retailing history.

According to his sons, Bruce Treloar’s  defining characteristics were his love and pride for his family, for his school, for his business and for his hometown.

“I think that defining quality was his love and pride for what he became involved in and the words that come together to best describe Bruce Treloar are that everything he loved, he was so proud of,” John Treloar said at the time of his father’s death.

“And that extended to things like rugby, his schools, the development corporation, the chamber, the council.”

Bruce Morison Treloar was born in Tamworth on July 23, 1926, the second son of Thomas John Treloar (Jack) and his wife, Mollie (nee Woodhill). As well as serving in the First World War and running the family business, T J Treloar and Company founded in 1889, Jack also served as the federal member for Gwydir from 1949 to 1953.

From an early age, Bruce was aware that although he had a comfortable upbringing, many others were not so lucky. At Tamworth Public School during the Depression, he used to take his shoes off on the way to school and hide them under a hedge. He would then go barefoot, as many of the other children did, and put his shoes back on, on the way Gordon Fisherhome.

Bruce attended Sydney Church of England Grammar School (Shore) for a short time before joining The Armidale School (TAS) where, under the watchful eye of the headmaster, Gordon Fisher, he flourished. He was appointed a prefect, played in the first rugby and cricket teams and retained a close association with the school for the rest of his life.

Back in 2007, I made a short comment from my perspective on Gordon Fisher’s influence ( The Armidale School - G A (Gordon) Fisher). Interesting to see the influence of GAF on Mr Treloar’s life. 

Amy Ripley records that in October 1944 Treloar left Armidale and enlisted in the navy. I blinked a little at this. Armidale? Surely Tamworth? Then I realised that he must have joined the navy straight from TAS. That was a strange time at the school; many of the boys saw school as an interregnum before joining the services. They were meant to study and comply with rules now, but with the knowledge that soon all bets would be off. This affected every aspect of school life.

Bruce Treloar served on HMAS Warramunga in the Pacific, and was in Tokyo Bay on the day the Japanese signed the Peace Treaty. He never forgot this time, and when the Treloar company subdivided land in East Tamworth, he used Warramunga, Arunta and Eight Bells as street names.

After his discharge in 1946, Treloar headed home to begin his career in the family business. He proved to have a natural aptitude for retail, was committed, enthusiastic and instinctively understood his customers. In 1949, always thinking of the bigger picture, Treloar travelled to Europe to look at the latest retailing trends. It turned out to be a fruitful trip in another way, too, as he met Jan Henderson on the ship coming home. They were married in 1950.

Jack Treloar died in 1953. Bruce, aged 27, became managing director,of the family firm. He was a considerable success, growing the company to become one of the state's leading department stores, holding its own against bigger rivals.

By the mid-'60s, Treloar’s was very profitable with 165 employees. However, Treloar was always thinking about ways to develop the company. Believing that to give their country customers competitive prices, businesses needed to band together, he led the drive to establish buying groups. By 1975, Treloars was a member of seven different buying groups, some of which still exist today, such as Mitre 10 and Frontline.

Again in contextual terms, this was a feature of many country businesses seeking to content with challenges of scale and distance. It was also a special feature of the entrepreneurial climate within Tamworth. The Higginbotham controlled Broadcast Amalgamated was wrestling with the same challenges and responding in similar ways.

Bruce Treloar was also active in industry and community matters. He served as a councillor of the Retail Traders Association (RTA) of NSW for 36 years and was the only country member to have served as president of the RTA. This contribution to retailing was recognised in 1993, when he was awarded the Order of Australia Medal for services to business and commerce.

Treloar was also the founding president of the Tamworth Chamber of Commerce and served as the inaugural chairman of the Tamworth Development Corporation. He was on the board of, and chairman of, the Northern Daily Leader, a director of New England Network Television and the Tamworth Building & Investment Society, and a president of Tamworth Legacy.

Despite his busy professional life, Treloar's heart was at the family home in Raglan Street. He and Jan, who was always at his side, had four children and, as his eldest son, John, said: "He was loving, supportive and so very proud of us."

Bruce Treloar is survived by children Jane, John, James and Bruce and their partners, eight grandchildren and sister Gai. Jan died in 2011.

Sources

This story is drawn especially from Amy Ripley’s obituary in the Sydney Morning Herald of 25 November 2014, supplemented by the Northern Daily Leader report of 19 August 2014. Background interpretation is my own.  

As I wrote it I was thinking especially of James Treloar and Rob Richardson, among others. In 2011, the name Treloar finally vanished from the Tamworth retailing scene in the face of continuing change. We have to adjust to change, but it can be very hard to keep the family tradition of contribution continuing in the face of change. To my mind, James and Rob have done that, as I have tried to. I admire their efforts.

Tuesday, December 02, 2014

Jetgo, Bredereck and the history of New England aviation

Paul Bredereck occupies a special place in the history of New England civil aviation. Now with Jetgo, he is having another go.

The new carrier is based in Brisbane rather than Tamworth, but Paul is still focusing on New England routes including the Tamworth-Brisbane service.

This post is just an entry post. I will add a little of the history and policy context later.

Thursday, November 27, 2014

Northern Rivers Energy – power to the locals

A short note to record something that I don’t have time to follow up now.

The ABC reports that Byron Bay residents are pushing for Australia's first community-owned clean energy generator. I am not sure that it is the first, I saw a reference earlier to a Victorian plan, but it’s still an interesting concept; a regional not-for-profit energy company - Northern Rivers Energy – that hopes to rival the big retailers.

Is a NSW cultural policy possible? How would New England fit in?

At the end of 2013, Arts NSW called for responses to a discussion paper on a proposed  NSW cultural policy. It seemed a very Sydney centric document that also tried to stitch together all sorts of other policy objectives and activities. That’s actually a feature of all the NSW mega agency clusters. They want to integrate what they do into an apparently coherent narrative even where things are in fact not, or were not, connected.  

In January 2014 the New England Writers’ Centre responded. We summarised our approach in this way:

As a broad general comment, we found some difficulty in determining the relevance of the paper to the Centre’s role in the promotion of writers and writing in Northern New South Wales and indeed, more broadly, to the development of arts and cultural activities within Northern New South Wales. Similar issues arose in the context of the various action plans referred to in the discussion paper, plans that are meant to be integrated in some way with an arts and cultural policy.

Part of the problem lies in the division within the strategies between Sydney and NSW, combined with a top down approach that seeks to interlink Sydney and the rest of the state in the form of a cobweb with the different strands centered on Sydney. One consequence is insufficient recognition of diversity within NSW and the way this affects the on-ground patterns of life, including interactions between areas outside Sydney. To pursue the cobweb analogy, there are many smaller overlapping webs within NSW that exist independently of any interconnection with Sydney and may indeed be in competition with Sydney.

The brief comments that follow amplify this point. We have tried to structure them to be helpful to the general intent of the strategy, while also pointing to the deficiencies as we see them in the current approach.

In response to a comment on another blog, I promised to put the paper on line. I have now posted it to Scribd. It’s not a very long submission, a bit over ten pages. I think that its quite good.

If you can find the time, have a browse and give me your reactions.

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

James Harris becomes UNE's ninth Chancellor

James Harris has been appointed as the ninth Chancellor of the University of New England. He takes over from Geoff Fox who has been acting Chancellor since the Hon. John Watkins resigned in June.

Mr Harris owns and operates a large successful grazing operation in the New England and has had a long association with the University, having served on its Council since 1994. He is the great-grandson of Thomas Richmond Forster, who donated the land and homestead from which the University of New England was established. His mother, Anne Harris, also had a long association with the University.

Vice-Chancellor Annabelle Duncan said Mr Harris has made an outstanding contribution to the University while serving on Council and was an excellent choice as Chancellor.

“Mr Harris has the vision, knowledge and understanding of the higher education sector to lead the University of New England in an increasingly competitive, complex and changing environment,” Professor Duncan said.

“His strong commitment to this University is evident through his work on Council, as Chair of various Council Committees and as Deputy Chancellor from 2001-2007.”

Mr Harris said it was an honour to be appointed as Chancellor.

“My involvement with UNE spans two decades and in that time I have seen the University grow and prosper.  The University is an integral part of the fabric of the New England and plays an important role in providing education to people in regional areas,” Mr Harris said.

“I am proud to be part of the UNE community and I am passionate about ensuring this University remains competitive and innovative. I look forward to working with Professor Duncan in shaping the strategic direction of the University.”

Jan McClelland has been appointed as the Deputy Chancellor of UNE Council.

Ms McClelland is an experienced chief executive and senior executive in government administration, management consultant, chairman and non-executive director of organisations in the government, private and not for profit sectors.

She has been a member of the UNE Council since 2000

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

ABC cuts - Newcastle loses metro radio status, jobs and local programming

I wonder if ABC Newcastle's Carol Duncan is still talking to Malcolm Turnbull after the axing of her popular show on 1233 ABC Newcastle ? This photo was taken in happier days.

Under the overall cuts, the ABC will shed almost 400 jobs, close five regional radio outposts, shut its Adelaide television production studio and all-non news television production outside of Sydney and Melbourne.

At local level, 1233 ABC is being downgraded from a metropolitan to regional station. As a consequence, it will lose 9 of its 27 staff plus have shows axed. Carol Duncan's show will be replaced by the James Valentine show from Sydney.

 looking at the Newcastle reaction, I'm not sure which hurts most, the status downgrade or the job and program losses. Whichever way it goes, it is another reduction in the capacity of the media in general to report at local and regional level.  


Sunday, November 23, 2014

Munificence – the Story of the Howard Hinton Collection

Rupert Bunny  A Sunny Day 1922

In today’s short post on my personal blog, How to browse the New England Regional Art Museum (NERAM) collection, I provided a link to a new way to explore at least some of NERAM’s large collection. In this post, I want to look at one current exhibition, The story of munificence. This painting from the exhibition is Rupert Bunny’s  1922 work, A Sunny Day.

The new exhibition is being held to mark the launch of Munificence: the Story of the Howard Hinton Collection. This fascinating book includes essays by Barry Pearce and Caroline Downer, reproductions of over one hundred of the key works from the collection, including paintings, prints and drawings, and a complete catalogue listing of the collection.

A proper book on the Hinton Collection is long overdue. There was one earlier, a somewhat sumptuous piece, but its been out of print for many decades. 

The book is available from NERAM for $39.95.  (Friends of NERAM $34.95). It’s not quite clear how you should buy the book if, like me, you are outside Armidale. I think that the best bet is to contact NERAM via their web site.

As an aside to NERAM and indeed all New England institutions, remember that the New England diaspora is actually far larger than you immediate local audience. Please make it as easy as you can for us to interact with you (and buy!).