Artist’s Showcase and Residencies – Heritage Hill, Dandenong
The Importance of Getting your Work “Out There”
Creating Art for the People
The depth of research, and explanation, must complement the setting and type of visitors attracted to the venue. The location at Heritage Hill, a listed residence including a restored homestead and buildings, acts as a base for the arts in Dandenong for residencies and exhibitions.
It attracts tourists, and visitors wanting to fill in some time looking at the gardens and buildings. It follows, that an artist’s deeper meaning intended to inform and enlighten viewers, including art collectors, must be made evident by the resident artist.
According to Langer (1966), “The ancient ubiquitous character of art contrasts sharply with the prevalent idea that art is a luxury product of civilization, a cultural frill, a piece of social veneer”. She goes on to say:
“Wherever art takes a motif from actuality – a flowering branch, a bit of landscape, a historic event or a personal memory, any model or theme from life – it transforms it into a piece of imagination, and imbues its image with artistic vitality. The result is an impregnation of ordinary reality with the significance of created form.”
Assumption and preconceived ideas, such as the role of art in modern society, requires a catalyst to prompt discussions which a residency provides.
Consequently, the work space provided for a residency becomes a meeting place for artists, the art, and the viewer. In this modern context, the working artist illustrates to the public their skill, gained not so much by a ’natural gift’ or “genius”, as it is via practice, training, and education, and how art is relevant in modern society.
Art, therefore, now becomes a vehicle for the artist and viewer to connect on a very human level that predates written and verbal language.
Fine art, according to Kant in The Critique of Judgement (Kant, 1911), “has the effect of advancing the culture of the mental powers in the interests of social communication”. The pleasure from art, he goes on to say is “not one of enjoyment arising out of mere sensation, but must be one of reflection”.
Artworks typically capture a moment in time. The modern artist, due to current digital tools, can, however, create impressions of changes in the landscape. Such is the case in the sketches and paintings included in this book, that reveal how Dandenong grew from bush landscape, to a country town, and then to a thriving modern urban city with Heritage Hill as part of its historic centre.
The Residency Space at Heritage Hill
The residency space for artists is in Laurel Lodge, and for disabled artists, or those with large projects such as sculptors, the nearby outbuildings are also available.
The original bedrooms (upstairs) have plenty of room to draw and paint, and have tranquil views across the gardens. A small couch and seating was made available, along with a set of drawers, large table, and shelves in the master bedroom for this residency. Hanging space on the walls also made the room more inviting for tourists, and visitors to the property, who were welcome to come in to look at the work, and talk about the process of creating it.
The atmosphere of the property and the room itself encourages artists to concentrate on creating, researching, experimenting and producing artworks without the common distractions that can take them away from their work. Especially with a project in mind, it is possible to investigate and deepen artistic practice, and methodology, and pursue new subjects for substantial bodies of work.
As Heritage Hill was a part of the research I was investigating into the history and growth of the Dandenong area during my residency, it provided constant inspiration and a convenient location to base my research, and photography, sketching, and painting.
Research and the Artworks
It is thought by some historians, that the name Dandenong is taken from the indigenous word Tanjenong, meaning lofty mountain. This suits the nearby Mount Dandenong at 630 metres (2,066.93 feet) height, and its dominance of the landscape. As part of the Dandenong Ranges, it was formed more than 300 million years ago from volcanic rock, when a large area of sedimentary rock collapsed into an underlying magma chamber, creating ash flows along the vents.
This series of violent eruptions created four lava flows forming the mountain range, and leaving depressions called caldera, which have collapsed and eroded over time, to be hardly recognisable as the remnants of a volcanic event today.
It was this volcanic activity that laid the foundations for the lush soil, along with regular rainfall, that encouraged the growth of mountain ash, forest ferns and the proliferation of native wildlife like the superb lyrebird, honey eater and Leadbeater’s possum.
For thousands of years this area, extending into the wetlands near what is now Carrum, was the home of the Wurunjeri and Boonerwrung tribes of the Kulin Nation. The clans in what is now the City of Greater Dandenong were the Ngaruk Willam Bunurong and the Mayone Bulluk Bunurong. Sadly, the indigenous population declined severely as squatters took over large areas, with little understanding of the cultures they were disrupting and displacing. It has only been in more recent years that areas of cultural importance to original inhabitants have been protected by legislation and heritage management councils.
Artists are not often offered an opportunity to publicly work in a dedicated place of creativity and reflection. In the studio, we are bombarded with emails, phone calls, domestic duties and other distractions. The broken concentration, and inability to dedicate time to a single project can prove overwhelming at times, and can certainly detract from quality time in front of the easel.
Contrary to the myth of the solitary genius creating masterpieces by inspiration, most artists work diligently on not only refining their methods and styles, but also on research into the history of a topic they want to work on, how other artists work and what they are doing currently, and furthering their education. It isn’t unusual to spend 80% of your time as a professional artist on office paperwork (research, study, accounts, grants, exhibitions, supplies, studio management etc) with only 20% actually enjoying what you do best – creating art.
To create good or great art requires dedicated hard work and practice, it is a profession, a calling, and a passion. With that said, the opportunity provided by a residency to spend time away from the office, and outside pressures, to commit to creating art is one with an importance that should not be underestimated.
Authorities and organisations that provide artist’s residencies and exhibition space understand the need for artists to have the time to work on creative projects, and it is appreciated by artists when we are approved to complete them whilst collaborating with the public arts sector.
On a personal note my Artist’s Showcase, the result of my research project at Heritage Hill, is in the Benga Homestead and will run until April 2019. All the paintings are for sale and the venue provides EFT facilities.