BEECHWORTH painter Brian Seidel last evening saw in large charcoal works and in his depiction of an old girlfriend a chip of the legacy that has come to Australian art, its galleries and collectors from his exceptional eye and hand.
The 89-year-old artist – tutored when a teenaged boy at his Adelaide school from 1941 by landscape and cityscape painter Jeffrey Smart (1921-2013) – contributed the art to Mayday Hills Art Society’s inaugural exhibition at its private gallery in the grounds of the old lunatic asylum.
The pieces, showing characteristic bravura in oils and sensitivity in sketch, present a rare opportunity for North East people to see several Seidel works in one place after what was, last year, “potentially” the artist’s last survey of those that remain in his ownership.
The National Gallery of Australia acquired more of his sketches for its collection a few years ago and the National Portrait Gallery in Canberra’s Old Parliament House has just confirmed the artist’s gift to its collection of a portrait in oils of the late painter Justin O’Brien (1917-1996).
“I was introduced to Justin years ago by my old teacher, Jeffrey Smart,” Seidel said this week.
“They were working together on some murals and turned up in my studio together.
“Jeffrey suggested I do a portrait of Justin, and I did, and it became a finalist in the 1984 Archibald Prize” – Australia’s leading prize for portraiture.
“Justin was impressed but I told him: “It’s just a bloody lottery’.
“But he liked the picture. He said it was the best of him.”
A FIRST-year councillor who is just 25 has been elected Indigo’s deputy mayor.
Sophie Price, from Rutherglen, was elected unanimously by councillors meeting in special session.
The council said former deputy mayor Bernard Gaffney – who has served as Jenny O’Connor’s second for the past year and had been a three-term mayor – did not re-nominate.
Cr Price said she was encouraged and mentored to run for the council last year by people in the community who believed her knowledge and involvement would enhance the work of local government in the shire.
“I have always been involved in the community in various ways from sport to parents group to various committees and fundraising in all its forms. It’s how communities run,” she said.
“My knowledge of the community means I can be really targeted and effective in connecting people with the council.
“Being a mother of a two-year-old brings me in touch with young families and all their concerns and with my family living in the area for five generations it means I have that connection to the knowledge and history of longstanding generations.
“…My feet have literally hit the ground running in the past 12 months.”
Cr Price said she brought a depth and breadth of community experience to the role of deputy mayor – a position she will hold for the next year.
“…I have watched my fellow councillors closely over the past year and will take some (of this) into the role,” she said.
BEECHWORTH Arts Council president Jamie Kronborg believes powerful new artworks by Nina Machielse Hunt represent a distinctive change – and evolution – in the Woolshed Valley painter’s depiction of the landscape.
Mr Kronborg opened Ms Hunt’s ‘Wild in the wind’ – a solo feature in the Arts Council’s ‘Spring Arts’ month-long program – at a packed reception in Beechworth’s Old Stone Hall Gallery on Saturday evening.
The oil on linen works which comprise the new collection follow the painter’s successful show in 2016 at Wodonga Art Space with her exhibition ‘Bushranger’ – much of it centred on the light Wooragee and brooding Woolshed landscapes.
Some of these earlier and other works were later shown in a North East artists’ group exhibition at Benalla Art Gallery.
Ms Hunt said she drew inspiration from the Woolshed where she lives with her husband, Bill, and two children.
The ‘Wild’ landscape paintings build on this but also tap rock art depictions by the North East country’s first peoples at Yeddonba in what is now Chiltern-Mount Pilot national park.
The shelters are off Beechworth-Chiltern Road – places of tribal boundary convergence for Minjambuta, Dhudhoroa and Bpangerang peoples.
Mr Kronborg said archaeologist Ben Gunn in in 1981 and 1987 conducted interpretative studies of the Yeddonba works, which he estimated to be at least 3500 years old and which show thylacine – Tasmanian tigers – in what are now known to be two separate shelters.
Dr Gunn later went on in 2002 to study the rock art of ‘Mudgeonga-2’ – a rock shelter complex near Myrtleford.
He found that over time – perhaps thousands of years – the abstracted motifs at Mudgegonga had changed, with solid replaced by linear form and the size of them from larger to smaller and a decrease in geometry.
He argued that Aboriginal art was generally homogenous, and a reduction in scale could be interpreted as reflecting a change in the function of the art – from one for public viewing to more of a private statement.
Mr Kronborg said Ms Hunt’s work was also changing, and perhaps for similar reasons – for she was depicting the landscape in a distinctly intimate way compared with her paintings in earlier exhibitions.
The exhibition, at which Wiradjuri artist Tammy Campbell welcomed guests to country on behalf of the traditional custodians, is open until Sunday (November 26).
AUSTRALIA’S finest classical guitarists – brothers Slava and Leonard Grigoryan – will present an intimate concert for just 60 people at Beechworth’s Burke Museum on December 1.
Burke collections manager Linda Peacock has secured a Creative Victoria grant to fund the performance by the much-lauded pair, whose playing a music critic from The New York Times described as work of “uncommon originality and authority” and “daring”.
For this performance the brothers will play works from their latest release, ‘Songs without words’ by ABC Classics, which sees a return to classical repertoire.
The album includes songs by composers such as Bach, Elgar, Dvorak, Rachmaninoff, Faure, De Falla and Ponce – masterfully arranged for them by their father, Edward.
This familial collaboration is not new, with Edward Grigoryan arranging the music of Tchaikovsky’s suite for piano ‘The Seasons’ for his sons’ critically acclaimed 2012 release.
Although regarded as Australia’s finest guitar duo performing much of the instrument’s standard classical repertoire, Slava and Leonard seek to expand Their musical horizons with new arrangements, their own compositions and commissions.
Ms Peacock has also arranged for the brothers to give a small daytime performance and workshop for guitar students from Beechworth Secondary College while they are in Beechworth.
Limited tickets for the 8pm concert are available for $50 (no concession) from the Burke Museum. Call 03 5728 8067 or email email@example.com to reserve a seat.
A WIMMERA couple whose work with Karen refugees from Myanmar transformed Nhill and its economy will talk in Beechworth on November 30 about the dramatic effects of such collaboration.
Margaret and John Millington, who had a 30-year association with what became a highly successful poultry processing and marketing business known as Luv-A-Duck, will speak at a Beechworth Rural Australians for Refugees’ forum about the experience.
Mr Millington was the company’s general manager in 2009 when he became instrumental in driving a Karen resettlement program.
Luv-A-Duck first offered jobs to five Karen – who had fled persecution in Myanmar (formerly known as Burma).
By 2015 more than 160 had settled in Nhill, attracted by Luv-A-Duck’s job opportunities but in the process aiding the social and economic development of the Wimmera community.
A study released the same year by Deloitte Access Economics and resettlement agency AMES Australia – which offers a humanitarian resettlement program – said the Millington initiative had added $40 million and 70 jobs to the local economy.
AMES researcher Jenny Blencowe told the ABC that Nhill’s welcoming approach had been “characterised by the local community working together – not just the neighbourhood house doing their bit, the Millingtons doing their bit or the Wimmera Development Association doing their bit”.
“Everybody worked together which I think is probably what happens in small communities,” she said.
AMES’ chief executive Catherine Scarth said other success factors included leadership in the Nhill and Karen communities.
“The…people who worked for Luv-a-Duck at the time were instrumental in being able to talk with the community in Nhill and explain what would happen, the Karen themselves had leaders who were able to liaise and work with the Karen community and then I suppose the settlement agency – just being able to bring all those parties together,” she told the ABC.
Indigo Shire has been an official ‘Refugee welcome zone’ since June 2015, when now-mayor Jenny O’Connor and the late Don Chambers argued that North East communities should opt into the Commonwealth’s then-safe haven enterprise visa scheme.
“As we have seen in Nhill, the contribution that refugees can make to rural towns in enormous, including both economic and cultural benefits that can come with an increase in population, enrolments in local schools, increasing demand for housing and workforces for agriculture and industry,” Cr O’Connor said at the time.
Some councillors opposed the move but Cr O’Connor’s proposition was carried by majority, making Indigo one of 15 Victorian councils which had then become ‘Refugee welcome zones’.
Cr O’Connor said many members of the Indigo community had expressed their wish to support refugees and welcome them to the shire.
“The public commitment to becoming a ‘Refugee welcome zone’ is an acknowledgement of the contributions refugees make to Australian society in the fields of medicine, science, engineering, sport, food, education and the arts,” she said.
The forum at which the Millingtons will speak will be held in Rotary Hall (former Guide hall) in Queen Victoria Park, off Sydney Road, on Thursday, November 30, at 7.30 for 8pm.
THOMAS Leslie hopes to build Beechworth’s Anglican Christ Church as a centre of community life after his induction later this month as parish priest.
He said there was an opportunity for the historic church and its churchyard to become a place for all in the community, particularly with the monthly farmers’ market in the church grounds and its prospects for development as a keystone for culture and art.
“The church universally has a challenge to articulate the good news ñ to speak to the truth of love into a new generation,” Father Leslie said.
“We live in a very significantly changing world, and how we do that is very much a matter of being a part of local culture and the community.
“Hopefully there will be many opportunities for engagement and for pastoral care.”
Fr Leslie said the church already worked closely with Beechworth Health Service and its residents and patients and had a continuing relationship with the people of Beechworth Correctional Centre.
“We can extend that, I think, and I’m really excited with the idea of the farmers’ market and of interacting with the beating heart of this community in this way,” he said.
Fr Leslie has been priest at Yea and team vicar for Yea parish since 2014.
But he has a long association with the upper North East, where he was chaplain at Wangaratta’s Cathedral College and also associate priest at the rural city’s Holy Trinity Cathedral before his induction at Yea.
Fr Leslie said of the prospects in Beechworth and Eldorado that he would be always available as a priest to the community.
“I don’t mind what card (of denomination or faith or none) people carry,” he said.
“I am willing to offer what I can of myself.”
Wangaratta Anglican bishop John Parkes said Fr Leslie was a skilled and energetic priest.
“(He will) build strongly on the good work already accomplished in the parish,” he said.
Bishop Parkes will induct Fr Leslie at a special service in Christ Church on St Andrew’s Day – November 30 – at 6.30pm.
Archdeacon of the Hume Fr Peter MacLeod Miller and rural dean and Myrtleford priest Fr Scott Jessup will also participate.
All in the Beechworth community are welcome to attend.