Gallery Profile | Lismore Regional Gallery
The new Lismore Regional Gallery turned two last October – what have been the unexpected highlights in the new space?
You know, the thing that has surprised me is just how busy this place is! Last year we staged over 600 talks, gallery tours, school visits, openings and events. Of course, this was the whole intent of the redevelopment project, but the degree of change, and desire for people to connect with what we are doing continues to surprise me.
Our old building allowed us to be fairly discrete in what we did, as the building itself naturally hid us away. Now, we have this major building that faces a very active part of Lismore, and it almost screams out – come inside – see what we are about! This is fantastic and was what we were aiming for in the redevelopment, but to be honest, I still get surprised at how much we have changed as an organisation.
Another major highlight is securing the funds to acquire The Hannah Cabinet for our permanent collection. Valued at $1million, this is such a significant acquisition – that continues to bring new audiences to the gallery. We regularly meet people travelling from across the country who visit Lismore specifically to view this work. Just last December a woman flew from Perth to see the work – spent a few days in Lismore – and then flew back!
As the longest established cultural organisation in the region, how has the Gallery’s role changed over the years and how would you describe its current focus under your directorship?
Naturally, a major change for us was the move to the new facility in 2017. This has certainly changed how we operate, as our visibility and community awareness of what we are, and what we are doing has totally flipped since we opened.
Our team’s focus, both in the old building and now, has really been to oversee a largely self-generated program of contemporary art. We are taking a few more travelling shows now than before, but we still maintain a very high percentage of projects where we are working closely with artists in developing new shows and new works. For us it really allows us to support artists careers both locally, and nationally. We also have a very strong focus on increasing access for artists and audiences and are building a solid reputation for First Nations programming.
Lismore Regional Gallery will be collaborating with Arts Northern Rivers and the Museum of Contemporary Art (MCA) for Auslan Creative – a project for the Deaf community – can you describe the Gallery’s involvement within this project?
We have always been very mindful of ensuring strong access for audiences at the Gallery. Since 2011 we have been providing Auslan interpreters at our regular children’s events, namely our monthly Peggy Popart sessions. Much of this commitment has been generated by Peggy’s alter ego, Claudie Frock, who now works as our Learning Officer. We have continued to build on this activity, so that most of our events have interpreters as a given; while we also ensure (where we can) that any screenings, including artworks, have captioning. In 2019 we launched Auslan led tours, specifically for Deaf audiences, surprisingly becoming the first regional gallery in the country to do so.
Sigrid McDonald, who runs these tours, had an idea to develop an Auslan festival for Lismore. Conversations with the Gallery, and Arts Northern Rivers have led to the Auslan Creative project. As part of this, the Gallery will be hosting a series of workshops for Deaf artists, and professional development opportunities for galleries to extend their work in this space. A final outcome for us of this project is an exhibition of work by Deaf and hearing artists, that will speak equally strongly to hearing and non-hearing audiences.
RocoColonial is opening on the 14th, featuring an outstanding group of artists and designers – in what ways is the exhibition opening the paradigms of the Rococo and Colonial to contemporary reinterpretation?
This is a really exciting exhibition for us to be presenting, and as you say, brings an astonishing group of artists and designers together including Brook Andrew, Danie Mellor, Deborah Kelly, Marc Newson, Romance Was Born and others. The exhibition was initiated by artist Gary Carsely and developed by Hazelhurst Arts Centre in partnership with Bathurst Regional Art Gallery.
In Carsley’s words, RocoColonial “allows formal associations and historical coincidences to pass backwards and forwards between the slippery stylistic classification Rococo and the vexatious period term Colonial. It is parenthesised by two dates. Firstly, 1770, where the former finally peters out and the latter’s beginning accelerates. In that year, in a lavish and wasteful ceremony, Marie Antoinette married the future Louis XVI of France. On the other side of the world, Lieutenant Cook was charting the east coast of Australia”.
The Rococo period also saw the arrival of Chinoiserie, a style of European interpretation and imitation of Asian artistic traditions. Representing this in the exhibition will be the inclusion of Geoff Hannah’s Chinoiserie Cabinet, which for us is a great opportunity to see Geoff’s work in a different context.
Another aspect of Rococo was the technique of the ‘quadratura’, or illusionary ceiling paintings. A number of works in the exhibition will be framed within this idea, placing the object in an imaginary space. These quadratura’s reference Lismore architecture, and have been developed by Sydney-based architect Renjie Teoh.
Q&A with Gallery Director, Brett Adlington.
15 Feb – 19 Apr: RocoColonial (Official opening: 6pm Friday 14 February)
28 Mar – 10 May: Occulture | Steve Waller
Image: Lismore Regional Gallery. Photo by Andy McPherson.