WORDS BY MICHAEL DART
Unlike performing artists, visual artists often let their work speak for itself. They enjoy a degree of personal anonymity where you may recognise their name or their work, but maybe not their face.
Shielded by their creations, preferring sometimes to remain behind the scenes, many local artists have achieved national and worldwide success. Their accomplishments are often only known by those in close-knit artistic circles.
Ann Grocott might be a name familiar to some, but did you know her work appeared in a famous Hollywood blockbuster Nim’s Island? Additionally in 1999, Ann was one of five artists chosen to represent Australia in Our World in the Year 2000, the Winsor and Newton Worldwide Millennium Exhibition. Her painting New Generation – Ancient Land was shown in London, Stockholm and Brussels. The London showing was opened by Prince Charles. As part of the United Nations Millennium Art Exhibition it was also shown in New York.
Her father, artist Noel Wood, has works in the National Gallery of Australia and was one of the first painters to depict far north Queensland in works of fine art. He was known as ‘the Robinson Crusoe of art’. In 2017, the Bloodline exhibition at Bundaberg Regional Art Gallery (BRAG) featured works by Ann, Thomas Wood (her great-grandfather), Rex Wood and her father. Controversially at the time a number of “fakes” were slated for sale at an auction house in Melbourne as part of an art scam discovered by local art sleuths.
The Bundaberg Region has a long history as the birthplace or homebase for artists of all genres, culminating in the creation of the Bundaberg Art Society in 1939. The society’s history is kept alive by gifted contemporary painter, ceramics and bronze artist, Marilyn Batty who has helmed the society as president for many years.
With celebrated artists Charles and Sheena Hazzard as original members, the group would hold exhibitions in the heritage-listed School of Arts Building built in 1888, before moving to its current home at Hazzard Gallery in the Walker Street Arts Precinct.
It was the Bundaberg Arts Society, with local support, that were instrumental in the creation of what is now BRAG. The original Bundaberg Arts Festival at one point saw almost 1000 entries across 29 sections – a precursor to the now successful Bundaberg Art Prize.
Jenny McDuff is an acclaimed artist and teacher with decades of experience including a stint as Head of Arts at Shalom College and CQU. In 1992 Jenny explored printmaking and her subject was ‘One Man’s War’, drawing on the experience of her husband’s PTSD and his time in Vietnam as a conscript. This grew into a lifelong journey of works and engagement.
This culminated in 22 prints exhibited in Launceston, Childers and the Brisbane Art Gallery and Museum where they came to the attention of Lola Wilkins, a curator at the Australian War Memorial where the exhibition of 22 works were purchased. For Jenny this turned into a more public profile talking to others impacted by the fallout from the conflict.
Currently working on a design for the 2023 Women’s World Cup, Chern’ee Sutton’s distinctive style is engrained onto the artworks she produces, merging the two worlds of traditional Aboriginal heritage with a modern contemporary twist that is visually captivating catching the eyes of collectors from around the world.
Chern’ee has exhibited in Hong Kong, Tokyo, Singapore and London and has sold art to collectors throughout the world.
“Throughout my career I’ve had an exhibition at the Australian Open, I’ve met and given one of my paintings to the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge, I received the QLD Pride of Australia Young leader Award and a National NAIDOC Youth of the Year Award,” Chern’ee said.
“In 2021 I worked with the Royal Australian mint and the Australian Defence Force to design a new circulating and un-circulating $2 coin which represented Indigenous Military service, followed by a collaboration with Australia post to design a stamp set which also celebrated Indigenous Military Service.
“I created the aboriginal story and component to Borobi, the Commonwealth Games mascot and was artist in residence at the Commonwealth games Athletes Village.”
One of the region’s most successful artists, Hélène Grove has won and been a finalist in some of Australia’s most sought-after art awards, including the Dobell Drawing Prize in 2007 and the Wynne Prize in 2003.
Her Archibald entries of 2006, 2007, 2008, 2009, 2010 and 2011 were hung at the Salon de Refuses in Sydney. Hélène has had many solo and group exhibitions in Australia as well as England, South Africa and Norfolk Island.
Significantly, Hélène won Australia’s most prestigious award for female artists, the Portia Geach Memorial Award in 2013 for her self-portrait.
Across the region we have many amazing artists exhibiting works in galleries. Artists like Jay Feather with colourful works referencing the sea, natural botanical elements and local symbols. Exhibited throughout Queensland and New South Wales Jay’s work has been featured on the cover of the James Cook University Discover magazine and in 2016 she was selected for the Cream of the Crop touring exhibition, Queensland Regional Art Award. Jay has also been selected as a finalist in the Little Things Art Prize, Saint Cloche, Paddington, Sydney for her painting ‘The Sea and Me’ 2017.
Michael Dart is an actor and member of the Playhouse Theatre. He also has a cherished collection of works by Cordalba artist Sue Hutton.
- What’s on Bundaberg
- Gin Gin Regional Courthouse Gallery
- Walker Street Arts Precinct
- Cross Gallery
- 1770 Festival
- Woodgate Arts In Spring
- Bundaberg Arts Prize
- Burnett Heads Lighthouse Festival
- Artisans 4670
Artworks of amazing local artists are spread throughout the Region in numbers far too great to mention here. We’ve collated just a small sample, alive and deceased, for you to seek out and appreciate their work.
- Paul Beutel
- Carmel Birchley
- Mick Brennan
- Florence Broadhurst
- Clinton Cross
- Ross Driver
- Jay Feather
- Horst Grutzmacher
- Colleen Helmore
- Sabrina Lauriston
- Dave Machin
- Jane Marin
- Alice McLaughlin
- Marlies Oakley
- John Olsen
- Ray Peek
- Paul Perry
- Ivan Rojan
- Vera Scarth-Johnson
- Maggie Spenceley
- Annette Tyson
- Adrienne Williams
- Chern’ee Sutton
Pictured below, Chern’ee Sutton, Jenny McDuff and Marilyn Batty