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Aboriginal Exhibitions Gallery at Rutherglen Estates Opens

Dhungala: A  landmark launch exhibition featuring Latje Latje and Yorta Yorta artists Trevor ‘Turbo’ Brown and Craig Charles.

A strong sense of togetherness and a feeling of peace and pleasure comes from viewing the collection of works by Victorian Aboriginal painters Trevor ‘Turbo’ Brown and Craig Charles. Both artists have strong family and spiritual connections to the expansive Murray river region – Dhungala as the river is known in Yorta Yorta language. The exhibition shares not only an educational perspective of the region’s importance, but a personal insight into the two artists: for Turbo a story of his friendship with the river land animals, for Craig the importance of place, family, sacred sites and learning.

Aboriginal Exhibitions Gallery at Rutherglen Estates, launched in October, is a union between the iconic winery and major Aboriginal arts collector Hans Sip. Housed in Seppelts historic 1880s cellars, the art gallery and new cellar door has a distinctive NYC Soho industrial feel. Exposed timber ceiling beams, gigantic redgum pillars and concrete flooring and masonry walls are powerful architectural elements, while sleek matt black gallery lighting fittings and tracks and a massive porcelain tasting bench add a clean modernist contrast to the space. As part of the ongoing expansion and upgrade of the winery’s Tuileries complex, the art display extends into the restaurant space where Turbo Brown’s Pelican Island Dreamtime, 2008, livens up the bar.

Dhungala - Trevor ‘Turbo’ Brown and Craig Charles Installation of works, featuring Craig Charles (foreground) as part of the new Rutherglen Estates winery cellar door

Dhungala – Trevor ‘Turbo’ Brown and Craig Charles
Installation of works, featuring Craig Charles (foreground) as part of the new Rutherglen Estates winery cellar door

Turbo’s paintings are often friendly and playful, depicting the closeness and daily activities of animal family groups. Other observations depicting the wilder, more competitive nature of animals display energy, movement and aggression. Turbo paints what he knows and sees. By viewing his work we learn about Turbo’s rare and intimate connection with the animals: it shows a beautifully communicated knowledge of their lives and emotions as they leap from the canvases. Within each animal’s eyes there’s a deeper story to be told; they captivate the viewer, seemingly alive. Turbo Brown allows us into his animal kingdom where he often keeps us enthralled.

Estranged from his family as a youngster because of his intellectual disability, Turbo lived wild on the banks of the Murray near Mildura for some time. During this time he grew to love the animals that lived around him. He has said that during this period, ‘the animals were my only friends’.

Within the works of Craig Charles, there is a deeper message: his work speaks of the resilience of Aboriginal people while celebrating and paying tribute to family, ancestors and country. He shows us the simpler pleasures in life, painting energy and movement, as seen in Possum Skin Football – First Team, 2008, but also delivers a message of solemnity and respect in highly contemplative works such as Sacred Tree of Knowledge, Latje Latje Country, 2008.

Craig Charles Possum Skin Football – First Team, 2008 183 x 137cm, Acrylic on linen

Craig Charles
Possum Skin Football – First Team, 2008
183 x 137cm, Acrylic on linen

Craig, a Melbourne-based painter with Yorta Yorta heritage on his father’s side, and Mhutti Mhutti heritage on his mother’s side, was born in Mildura, Latje Latje Country, in 1975. Formally trained at the Sunraysia TAFE in Mildura, and later at the Mildura Campus of La Trobe University, he completed a Bachelor of Arts degree in 1998. In 2006 he completed a RMIT Master of Arts exegesis titled Telling the Stories: Art Making as a Process of Recovery, Healing and Celebration. The document showcases a large group of artworks – he completed 63 in total during his Master’s – that highlight his complex use of various mediums including ochre, silver, gold and copper leaf, and shellac.

While his words flow with pleasurable, friendly ease, the document tells an important story: his respect for elders, the Murray River as a source of healing and the joy that the birth of his son brought to his art. In one statement he writes, simply: Relax – Be happy – Surrender yourself – Making art – Brings celebration. With simplicity and honesty he connects us with Country and shares life’s lessons.
To visit and see his paintings at Rutherglen is to become totally immersed in Craig’s beautiful world.

Dhungala – Trevor ‘Turbo’ Brown and Craig Charles features more than 40 paintings selected from the Hans Sip collection. It’s a notable exhibition for both artists: it represents one of the the largest Aboriginal group exhibitions ever to be exhibited in regional Victoria and showcases some of the finest examples of story-telling works produced by both painters. This is an exhibition you must not miss.

Until January 31, 2018
Open 7 days 10am-5.30pm, Entry is free
13-35 Drummond Street, Rutherglen, Victoria, Australia 3685
Tel. 0414 909 505
aboriginalexhibitions.com.au