Celebrating 75 years of Modernist art and living at its Emu Plains site, Penrith Regional Gallery & The Lewers Bequest
presents a suite of exhibitions and associated programs titled Emu Island Modernism in Place that are open to the public this Saturday, 26 August until 19 November 2017.
Once the home and studio of artists Margo and Gerald Lewers, the Gallery site was - and is today a place of lively debate, artistic creation and exhibition at the foot of the Blue Mountains on the banks of the Nepean River.
Patrick White's evocative recollection of the lives that Gerald and Margo Lewers lived at Emu Plains, Penrith: In the house at Emu Plains ideas hurtled, argument flared, voices shouted, sparks flew. It was a place in which people gathered spontaneously, to eat, drink and discuss
Along with the paintings and the sculpture, the mosaics and the watergarden, an ephemeral dish of food wore the expression of a work of art.' For Patrick White, the Lewers home represented a haven in which creativity flourished and intellectual challenge and enquiry was encouraged and where, consequently, some of the diverse strands of endeavour and thought that combined to form a modern and distinctly Australian culture were able to develop.
The Gallery site was an island of modernism in the Australian suburbs. The Lewers home was founded on the principles of modernism - they lived, worked and entertained like-minded contemporaries set on fostering modernism as a holistic way of living. Curated by Dr Shirley Daborn together with consulting curator Dr Cassi Plate, Emu Island Modernism in Place highlights the cultural significance of the Gallerys history and site to Modernism in Australia.
Emu Island Modernism in Place in the Main Gallery showcases the work of the Lewers and their immediate contemporaries over the four-decade period of their residence (1942-1978). In this place, artists and friends gathered and were inspired by the energy and experimentation of the Lewers home, and beyond, by a rapidly changing world. The exhibition features works by those at the heart of Sydney Modernism such as: Margo and Gerald Lewers, Frank and Margel Hinder, Judy Cassab, John Olsen, Tony Tuckson, Carl Plate and Robert Klippel among others.
Elsewhere on the site the legacy of Sydney modernism is being highlighted within the original historic home of Margo and Gerald Lewers, now known as the Lewers House Gallery. The work of eight young contemporary artists who continue to grapple with modernist ideals is being showcased in Young Moderns. These Artists include: Emma Beer, Terrence Combos, Sanne Koelemij, Mason Kimber, Nadia Odlum, Helen Shelley, Kael Stasce and Kate Tucker.
In Ancher House, now known as the Modernist Research Centre, the work of the Gallerys 2017 artist in residence Ian Milliss is being exhibited in Shifting Dirt. The artist takes his place as the youngest member of the legendary 1960s artist venue, Central Street Gallery, which revolutionised abstract art practice in Sydney. Having access to the Gallerys modernist art collection and archive, Millis has produced an extraordinary text based exhibition which reaches into a workers history of place based modernism.
Through the Gallerys Modernist Research Centre, leading scholars have been commissioned to write on distinct perspectives of Australian modernism. Their contributions investigate the differing dynamics of modernism and Australian Abstraction and will be published within an online publication in conjunction with the exhibition program.