Invitation to A Sense of Place: the artist Greg Hansell’s record of history now, opening by Carol Roberts on Saturday, 15 October 2016, Margaret Whitlam Galleries, Female Orphan School, Western Sydney University (Parramatta Campus).
Usually, people who live in or near historic towns are well aware of the significance of place in relation to their connectivity and self-identity. They might not phrase their sense of place in formal terms, but nevertheless they know they belong and this is one aspect that jumps out at you repeatedly during conversations with artist Greg Hansell – his sense of place is ‘hard-wired’.[i]
He engages this sense of place and records history as he sees it, often depicting heritage buildings that ‘are second to midnight’ (that is, at risk of disappearing forever, either through development or lack of maintenance).[ii]
Brought up on his parents’ wheat and sheep properties near Goulburn and then Wagga Wagga, Greg Hansell considers he had a fairly unpretentious, very conservative, rural childhood. An award-winning artist, he is currently Fellow, Council member, teacher and Art School Director at the Royal Art Society of New South Wales. He crushes rocks and clays to make his own pigments and, with no added binders, creates earth pastels with colour permanence of the highest rating. But his rural background is ‘hard-wired’[iii] and his methods of recording history relate to his country upbringing, his move to the Hawkesbury area and his subsequent career as an artist. His sense of place attachment and understanding of the environment surrounding place are evident in his paintings. His representations of history – his writing down of historic detail – reflect the intangible alongside the tangible heritage. His conceptual experience in relation to sense of place flows through his paintings and through his life and influences the way he delivers public history through his artwork.
I have run several historical tours based on Greg’s artistic representation of heritage sites in the Hawkesbury and we are collaborating on a book that will showcase the artist’s depictions of the Hawkesbury area. I have discovered that to hang around with Greg Hansell and visit the heritage sites depicted in his paintings encourages people to look for new perspectives and ways of interpreting place. That is what the artist aims to do.[iv] He reveals the ‘layers of life’ that revolve around a building where he ‘can exaggerate or highlight things in the architecture, such as the brick coursework and crookedness of the building…where the building has slumped over the years and become tired’.[v]
There is a term, ‘liminality’, that means drawing or inviting the viewer in to a snapshot of the past and Hansell explains that in relation to the term liminality, he ‘almost takes the viewer by the hand’ and guides them through the paintings to discover objects from the past like upturned milk crates, old bits of cars, pieces of rusting iron or farm tools.[vi]
It has been said of Greg Hansell that, ‘as he lives and works in a place he loves and doing what he chooses, Hansell is really one of the lucky ones’.[vii] His footprints are well and truly in the Hawkesbury, but he also immerses himself in the work of other artists who have inspired him on his journey. His new exhibition is a three-part exhibition, showing works from his past, works from the present and works hanging in his house: in other words, works by people who have inspired him.
I will be opening the next exhibition, A Sense of Place: the artist Greg Hansell’s record of history now, on Saturday, 15 October in the Margaret Whitlam Galleries at the Female Orphan School, Building EZ, Western Sydney University (Parramatta Campus), off Victoria Road, Rydalmere, at 2.00pm. Parking is available at $8 per day. The exhibition will continue until 20 January 2017.
Carol Roberts 2016
[Image, part of Hansell’s Homage to bricklayers various, earth pastel]
[i] Gary E. Holmes, James R. Patterson and Janice E. Stalling, ‘Sense of place: issues in counselling and development’, Journal of Humanistic Counselling, Education and Development, Fall, 2003, Vol. 42, Issue 2, p. 239, http://search.proquest.com.ezproxy.une.edu.au/docview/212448339?accountid=17227, accessed 29 September 2012; Greg Hansell, oral history interviews with Carol Roberts, 5 November 2008 and 18 February 2011.
[ii] Greg Hansell, pers com, 5 September 2012; Carol Roberts, ‘From the ground up: exploring the use of oral history in tourism’, She said: He said: Reading, Writing and Recording History, Journal No. 36, 2014, Oral History Association of Australia, pp. 23-30.
[iii] Hansell, 5 November 2008.
[iv] Jan Dungey, ‘Where arts, imagination and environment meet’, in Heritage Interpretation, Volume 1: The Natural and Built Environment, David L. Uzzell, ed, London, 1989, p. 241.
[v] Greg Hansell, pers com, 5 September 2012.
[vi] Greg Hansell, ‘Australian landscapes: techniques in pastel’, Australian Artist, Chatswood, New South Wales, undated, pp. 20-23.
[vii] Greg Hansell: Survey catalogue, 30 October – 6 December 2009, Hawkesbury Regional Gallery, Windsor, pp. 4-5.