This exhibition focusses on those works created in the four years that he was living and working in the region (1976–1979) following his emigration to Australia in 1976 to join the teaching staff of the Gippsland Institute of Advanced Education (GIAE) in Churchill.
Established in 1971 (though with its origins in the Yallourn Technical School, established in 1928), the GIAE was a radical art school without any formal course structure or assessment. Instead, students were encouraged to teach and assess themselves. The GIAE made international news, catching the attention of artist John Wolseley in England, who wrote to Kees Hos, the Head of the Art School, applying for a job. Wolseley joined the staff in 1977, joining other influential figures such as Robin Wallace-Crabbe and Nigel Lendon.
An unconventional artist in many respects, Wolseley shuns traditional approaches to depicting landscape. He engages instead in an organic visual dialogue with a location, which takes into account its history, geology, topography, flora and fauna.
The viewer is treated to an engaging narrative of diary notes, sketches, watercolour studies and tracings—often combined into a single artwork.
Curated by Dr Tony Hanning (who himself graduated from the GIAE in 1972 and went on to become Director of the Latrobe Regional Gallery, Morwell, from 1972 to 1982), John Wolseley: The Quiet Conservationist surveys Wolseley’s pioneering art through the lens of his unique approach to conservation themes, which are often embedded within his sprawling autobiographical work.
The exhibition presents an affectionate and intimate portrait of a special period in the story of the region’s art, and places works created by Wolseley during his Gippsland period within the greater context of his environmental conservationism.
Individual works have been drawn from state and national collections, alongside other regional and private collections and Gippsland Art Gallery’s own permanent collection, which has recently been bolstered by the generous donation of nine works by Wolseley through the Australian Government’s Cultural Gifts Program.