Returning to a subject through a lifetime

By: Sally Heathcoate

A new exhibition of works from the Collection titled returning to a subject through a lifetime is now open to the public at the Broken Hill City Art Gallery.

This exhibition expands on the recent display of Hannah Bertram’s installation which investigated the Gallery’s former existence as Sully’s Emporium and materials found and repurposed from within the Gallery itself collected by the artist during the recent renovations. returning to a subject through a lifetime: part two presents important but often unseen materials from the Gallery’s collection as well as a series of highly significant objects from the Broken Hill City Library’s Outback Archive and loans from a number of artists.

Coinciding with NAIDOC Week, the highlight of the exhibition is a series of lino prints by Barkindji and Wilyakali artists created in workshops in Wilcannia and then subsequently collected by the Gallery throughout the 1990s. Artists included and celebrated in this display are Badger Bates, Fiona Bates, Deborah Bates, Daphne Quayle, Valda Daykin, Joanne O’Donnell and Eileen Williams.

The display itself has been designed to mimic a bend in the Darling-Barka River, leading viewers through the Gallery to a 2007 portrait of the community of Wilcannia in the dry river by artist Ruby Davies. Davies was born at Wilcannia and grew up on the Darling-Barka River and continues to draw inspiration from it.

Hester Lyon, Programs Officer at the Broken Hill City Art Gallery, and curator of this new Collection exhibition says she’s “excited to welcome people into new and exciting perspectives from the Collection, especially celebrating the strength and talent of First Nations artists from the Far West of NSW.”


The Gallery has 2,000 works in its Collection but can only display around 40 at any one time.

While the entire Collection is fully digitised and accessible online to the public through the Gallery’s website, it is a broader mission of the Gallery to make a diverse range of the Collection accessible in this exhibition.

Displaying art and crafts supports cultural sustainability for First Nations people and cultural diversity in the wider Australian community in general.

Having works on show allows cultural expression to strengthen, develop and flourish.

The Gallery’s current collecting is to expand and acquire a greater diversity of works from First Nations artists not just locally but from across Australia.

The three most recent acquisitions – three monumental paintings by female First Nations artists from the Central Desert – are currently on show and were created by central desert women.

Unfortunately, without funding, growth of the Collection is limited to cultural gifts and donations, as well as the annual Pro Hart Outback Art Prize. This acquisitive competition is currently open for entries, with the First Prize winning $20,000.

The Gallery encourages entries, especially from local First Nations artists, of work in any media which reflects the spirit and diversity of the Australian Outback.

Returning to a subject through a lifetime opened to the public on Friday 8 July and runs until 12 February 2023 with a special opening at 6pm on Friday 15 July featuring a floor talk from artists and Gallery staff.

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