Archive for the ‘Argus’ Category

Joseph McGlennon by Michael Reid OAM

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The latest series of photographs by Joseph McGlennon harks back to one of his earliest subjects. To mark this new release – and the opening of an accompanying exhibition spanning key several bodies of work – Michael Reid OAM reflects on the enduring power of the artist’s beautiful and beguiling pictures.

I had a stuffed kangaroo.

As you do.

My friend Kimberley rang to ask if her friend could photograph the taxidermied roo as part of a series of artworks he was undertaking. Sure, no one in their right mind says no to Kimberley. Anyway, this bloke set up a photoshoot at the old Sydney gallery in Elizabeth Bay some 14 years ago. I was squirrelled away in my office, so it wasn’t until late in the day when I ventured out to check out who this character was and what he was doing. We shook hands and said howdie. I was intrigued. The bloke, Joseph, was focused. We talked about the idea behind his proposed series. The idea was strong, historically interesting, with an eye to contemporary cultural thinking. I asked Joseph McGlennon if he had any examples of this series. Joseph rolled out some working prints. I just knew. I knew that I was standing in front of great significance.

Joseph McGlennon possesses an entirely original visual language. He had trained in his youth at the National Art School before venturing forth into the creative world of international business. Back on his art tools, later if life, Joseph came to each series with ideas and images fully formed and mature. There was no undergraduate angst. His inaugural solo exhibition, Strange Voyage, in 2011 established visual, aesthetic and curatorial benchmarks and parameters that have influenced every subsequent artwork and series.

The consistent quality of his creative output is exceptional. Strange Voyage delved into the historical reality of the 19th century, when a mob of kangaroos were shipped to Kew Gardens in London. The Royal Family just loved wild animals besporting themselves in the gardens for their pleasure. The kangaroos froze to death. The underlying philosophical theme of the exhibition was the notion that some things simply cannot be uprooted and transplanted culturally.

McGlennon’s series Thylacine 1936 envisions the apex predators, the Tasmanian tigers, hunting and reigning supreme in their natural habitat. Often depicted atop mountains, the tigers are portrayed feasting on the carcass of an introduced chicken, with a tall ship visible in the background. Unaware of their impending doom. First contact between species, and for many species is utterly devastating. And macabrely enough, the Last Tasmania tiger, froze to death in Hobart Zoo in 1936 because a keeper forgot to house the animal overnight in winter.

Joseph’s photographs are beautiful, their message subtly powerful. Upon winning the most prestigious photography prize in the country, the William & Winifred Bowness Prize in 2015, artist judge Bill Henson commented on McGlennon’s practice, stating, “The work has an almost anonymous perfection that reinforces the fact that culture is never outside nature.” In a nutshell, across numerous bodies of work I would say that for McGlennon, Henson was spot on – culture and our impact is never above nature.

Numerous articles have been dedicated to the hundreds of individual images captured with McGlennon’s Hasselblad camera – to make a single artwork – which are skilfully woven together to narrate his poignant stories. The power of his unrivalled skills is without question. Many now blatantly copy McGlennon’s style. However, the flattery of imitation to one side, it is the ever roving and evolving scope of McGlennon’s practice that simply defies his peers.

Drawing on the primal tooth and claw drama of a 17th-century European deer hunt, reimagined in the New World of Colonial Australia, Joseph McGlennon recently began another extraordinary visual and technical departure from the orthodox rules of contemporary photography by paying homage to the great Flemish painter Frans Snyders.

Frans Snyders (1579–1657) made a significant contribution to Flemish Baroque art as a painter of animals, hunting scenes, market scenes and still life. One notable collection of his work can be found in the Snyders Hall at the State Hermitage Museum, St. Petersburg, Russia. Within Snyders Hall, a magnificent, indeed a heroic suite of massive oil paintings spill across the Cardinal red walls of one of the world’s great museums depicting elements from the wild hunt to the table feast. From the chase to the plate. Within the hall, you can read one of Snyders’ paintings as a stand-alone moment and a great masterwork. Or the viewer can take in the artist’s sweeping vision of each painting being a vignette or brief evocative episode to the whole of an expansive idea.

Individual photographs can spill over and build into a grander narrative across multiple fronts that form a larger creative whole. This use of multiple photographs to be read as one, or separately, is a landslide in contemporary world photography. Looking back across time, to march contemporary art forward, both in storytelling and the material viewing of an idea, McGlennon shatters the one image, one photograph orthodox delivery of a contemporary body of work. McGlennon’s hunt series is a pivotal moment in the development of contemporary photography.

With his Murrurundi exhibition, McGlennon very much wanted and asked for his new kangaroos to find expression outside of a metropolitan space. McGlennon wants the work to ground its paws in the very soil of regional Australia. McGlennon’s new series, Leap, captures kangaroos mid-air, symbolising resilience against wild colonial hunting dogs. The dogs remain just out of frame, but their urgency and presence can be sensed through the dynamic leap of the kangaroo. These creatures embody untamed beauty, reflecting the unwavering spirit of the Australian wilderness.

Through dynamic leaps, the kangaroo’s sinuous form becomes a living poem of fluid motion. Inspired by the ecological dance between predator and prey, Leap explores the delicate balance within this unique ecosystem. It serves as both a celebration of nature’s elegance and a poignant commentary on the challenges faced by early colonial indigenous species. Leap invites reflection on the human impact that is still needed for conservation in today’s fragile Australia.

Works from Leap by Joseph McGlennon can be viewed in his exhibition Culture is Never Outside Nature, a curated survey of arresting images drawn from several key bodies of work by the artist. The exhibition is now at Michael Reid Murrurundi and can be explored online here.

Collections
Artbank, Australia, Sydney
Australian National Gallery, Canberra
National Museum of Australia, Canberra
National Museum of Scotland, Edinburgh
Parliament of Australia, Canberra
St John of God Collection, Perth
Western Plains Cultural Centre, Dubbo
Newcastle Art Gallery, Newcastle

Series
2022 Culloden
2021 Pollen
2021 Silentium
2020 Awakening
2019 Morphosis,
2018 Eclectus Australia,
2018 Australian Bird Studies from McGlennon’s Audubon Folio
2018 to 2020 Ghost Ship
2017 Heavenly Fighters
2016 Florilegium, Michael Reid at 602, Melbourne
2015 Winner of the William & Winifred Bowness Photography Prize
2015 Skyestags, Edinburgh Fine Art Society
2015 Skyestags, Michael Reid, Sydney and Berlin
2014 Strange Voyage at Customs House, Michael Reid
2013 Thylacine 1936, Michael Reid, Berlin, Sydney
2012 Troopers
2011 Strange Voyage

LA Story by Michael Reid OAM

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Our chairman and director, Michael Reid OAM, traverses the City of Angels and finds a sparkling cultural scene among its concrete sprawl and palm-fringed swimming pools.

Imagine, if you will, holding a Snow Globe of New York City in your hand. Inside that small, sparkly glass sphere of joy, you have everything that NYC has to offer – every language, culture, cuisine, religion, race and lifestyle. Essentially, all of planet Earth is crammed into Manhattan, which is, in itself, crammed inside the glass Snow Globe that you hold. Now, throw the Snow Globe on the ground and watch it shatter into thousands of glittering pieces that spread all over the floor, filling the entire room. This is Los Angeles.

Los Angeles is big. Very big. I will mention the sheer sprawl of its size several times within this missive. And beautiful it is not. Many years ago, I asked the actor Hugo Weaving what Los Angeles was like and he told me, “Everywhere you look, it’s the Parramatta Road”. And it is. Los Angeles is sprawling and fractured. Driving Los Angeles from top to bottom, or approximately 170 kilometres of dense city, would, on a bad day, take many, many hours. Did I say it was big?

On one’s first encounter with Los Angeles, it is all too easy to exclaim: “What the fuck, and why would anyone choose to reside here?” However, Los Angeles should be considered a region rather than just a city because it covers a vast area with very different constituent neighbourhoods and communities. If someone were to visit “Sydney” and spend their entire time only in places such as Rooty Hill or Marsden Park, they might equally wonder who would choose to live in Sydney. Nevertheless, the difference is that in Sydney, it is not too challenging to discover good, open, public and beautiful aspects of the city, whereas in Los Angeles, they are not immediately apparent, and the favourable aspects are not concentrated in any one location.

One key to understanding Los Angeles is that it lacks good public spaces, such as parks, town squares and forecourts – the types of places where people can stroll and actively engage with the city. These public spaces are abundant in “beautiful cities” but scarce in Los Angeles. Unlike cities such as Chicago, New York, Boston, Philadelphia and even San Francisco, which generally adhere to older European or British colonial principles of urban planning, with downtown areas featuring public parks and squares, sculptures of heroes, civic buildings, commuter rail connections to suburbs and working ports that eventually gentrify, Los Angeles largely exploded in the post-war era of the automobile and freeway. As the American composer, songwriter, record producer and pianist who is widely regarded as one of the most important and influential figures of 20th-century popular music, the magnificent Mr. Burt Bacharach, along with his often co-lyricist Hal David, conjured up in 1968 with Do You Know the Way to San José:

LA is a great big freeway,
Put a hundred down and buy a car.
In a week, maybe two, they’ll make you a star.

This automobile-driven focus for much of mid-twentieth-century town planning resulted in a decentralised city, where each person could have their own bungalow with a swimming pool and palm tree, like some large, calm, azure David Hockney palm tree-fringed swimming pool painting. This massive and fast-decentralised urban growth was quite different from cities like New York, where multiple families often share one building. Los Angeles prioritised private spaces over public spaces for gathering. An unintended mid-century social consequence was that, across Los Angeles, people traditionally entertained at home.

This social inclination led to some of the world’s most spectacular post-war single-family homes. With big budgets, perfect weather, abundant land and plenty of wall space for art, affluent and successful Angelenos created stunning architectural statements to positive, personal success – with the style result that almost all architectural schools in the world will spend some time studying post-war Californian modernism. For the most part, however, the world influence of this everyman’s American version of their home-castle remains hidden behind hedges and walls.

Another key to understanding Los Angeles is the money. California’s economy is poised to overtake Germany’s as the fourth largest in the world after the US, China and Japan. California has already leapfrogged Brazil (No. 7) and France (No. 6) in 2015 and surpassed the United Kingdom (No. 5) in 2017. Some estimates suggest the state may have already caught up to Germany, with at least one forecast implying California is ahead by $72 billion.

I stayed downtown at the Jonathan Club. Less of a traditional English club and more resort, the Jonathans, as they are known, have at their fingertips a beautifully tiled 1930s Art Deco swimming pool, full-size indoor basketball court, roof deck bars and garden, grand rooms and great service. They have a beach club – private, of course – at Santa Monica. Should you ever have the opportunity to stay at this private club, if only for a few days, do.

A late 19th-century Romanesque architectural confection that takes up the better part of a block, the club is a grand example of private LA at its best. The University of Southern California was founded in this club. The 1932 Olympic Games were run from the club. Ronald and Nancy Reagan appear on the club’s walls, as do Buster Keaton, General Chuck Yeager, Sandra Day O’Connor, Bob Hope, Arnold Palmer, Billie Jean King, Clint Eastwood and on and on.

Apart from major corporate offices, the central business district, Downtown Los Angeles, was abandoned for decades. It’s a bit of a zombie apocalypse. Some industrial areas within this region have recently experienced a renaissance as an Arts District. Galleries such as Hauser & Wirth have opened. This Arts District, extending for a few blocks around Hauser & Wirth, offers a walkable area with good eateries, galleries, and shops, primarily during daylight hours. The Southern California Institute of Architects, a major school, is located nearby and the area is often populated by students when classes are in session. This district was mainly populated by working artists fleeing places like Brooklyn between 2005 and 2015 and then fleeing all over again during the pandemic. It has also attracted hipsters who appreciate living in converted lofts in an artsy neighbourhood.

In downtown Los Angeles, you’ll find cultural landmarks such as the Broad Museum, located next to the Disney Concert Hall designed by Frank Gehry. These places play civic roles but are privately funded and owned. Nearby, you can explore the historic Bradbury Building at 304 S Broadway, known for its interior atrium featured in the original Blade Runner film. Across the street, Grand Central Market offers an interesting food court, which includes the fabulously named providore Eggslut (@eggslut). Eggslut, which since 2010 has grown from a humble food truck into a global, albumen-focused fast food game changer – LA, New York City, Tokyo, Seoul, London – is the first take-out stand that you greasy-spoon into, on visiting Grand Central Markets.

I am no Lonely Planet guide, so I will skip a region-by-region description of must-dos, BUT you should visit the Broad Museum and Getty. The Broad Museum was one of my most magical LA experiences. Big ticket artworks head-hunted for super big money by property developers and philanthropists Eli and Edythe Broad – who built shitty tract housing, but I won’t hear a word against them. For me the Broad ranks with The Frick in New York City, the Wallace Collection and Victoria & Albert Museum in London, and the Getty as my world favourites. Ohhhhh The Getty.

When I worked at Christie’s London in the day, I knew Tara Gabriel Galaxy Gramophone Getty well (yep, his parents did heroin) and stayed for many a weekend over the years at the family estate Wormsley Park in Buckinghamshire. Tara more than once enthusiastically offered to introduce me to his uncle, then a director of the Getty. I was always busy; I said no thanks. It was one of the great ongoing fuckwit moments of my life. The Getty is a hilltop art fortress of stupendous vision and, by now, I should have been the Director for at least a decade. Just saying. The Getty citadel has scattered across its mesa numerous art pavilions, each representing styles and centuries within world art history. Given the museum’s size and footprint, you could be forgiven, on first viewing, if you considered the architecture more important than the somewhat thin collection. Wrong. The collection is deep and one of the best. It is just scattered over the hilltop and somewhat difficult to picture as being the one big thing.

Amid all the joys of this sparkling, shattered Los Angeles Snow Globe, it would be remiss of me not to mention the next-level homelessness on the West Coast of America. Please see my earlier photo essay on New York City to obtain a roundup of some of the structural economic reasons as to why this is so. But suffice to say, homelessness in Los Angeles occurs with a casual frequency that would leave all Australians with a staring bewilderment. How can so many, with so much, ghost those with absolutely nothing. Mental health and an opioid crisis are significant contributing factors – from what I have experienced. But we would all agree the fourth largest economy in the world could do better. Much better.

Los Angeles Tips

If you are a member of an affiliated private club, take the opportunity and stay for at least a few days at the Jonathan Club, downtown.
545 S Figueroa Street, Los Angeles CA 90071

The Broad
221 S Grand Ave, Los Angeles, CA 90012

Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles
At 250 South Grand Avenue, across the road from The Broad, MOCA is almost quaint by comparison.
250 South Grand Avenue, Los Angeles CA 90012

Gallery Luisotti
This raw-spaced, Berlin-style photography gallery is a long-term and significant player in the market. Modest with a big visual punch.
818 S Broadway, 10th floor, Los Angeles CA 90014. Building door code: #4104

Hauser & Wirth restaurant/cafe
901 E 3rd Street, Los Angeles CA 90013

Los Angeles County Museum of Art
Architecturally as coherent and interesting as the splatter of dog’s vomit. They can, however, draw on one of the most interesting and diverse art collections and archives.
5905 Wilshire Boulevard, Los Angeles, CA 90036

The Getty
1200 Getty Center Drive, Los Angeles, CA 90049

All-day cafe Great White
8917 Melrose Avenue, West Hollywood CA 90069

Bergamot Station
2525 Michigan Avenue, Santa Monica, CA 90404

I went for a calm, delightful walk around the UCLA campus at Westwood.

Julz Beresford by Michael Sharp

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Words: Michael Sharp

Photography: Ashley Mackevicius

Being outdoors and in nature has always been at the heart of Julz Beresford’s existence, from her early years roaming around the family farm to today’s tinny trips on The Hawkesbury River and solo hikes in The Snowy Mountains.

“I love going to different locations and landscapes,” she says. “I’m happy outside and totally inspired by nature. I head out with my paints and I don’t have any pre-fixed ideas – it’s more about how the day evolves, the light, the weather, the seasons. I make gouache studies and when I come back to my studio I use them as a reminder of what it was like when I was out there.

“I’m interested in not just painting what I see – I want to paint how I feel in the landscape too.”

Beresford enjoyed a happy childhood on a property in rural New South Wales.

“I was a really busy kid who lived outside and loved riding bikes, climbing, playing with our horses and chickens, always creating and making things.”

The property was only a few hours’ drive from The Snowy Mountains and her family would go camping there in summer while in winter they would ski at Mount Selwyn. So began a lifelong love of this landscape with its meadows, mountain rivers and snow gums.

When she was seven years old, her family moved to Sydney.

“My parents became really keen boaties. We’d hire yachts and go sailing, so I experienced the Hawkesbury from a very young age. I just loved being out on the water. It was how I was brought up and it was part of who I was.”

It was on these cherished sailing trips that she first learned to draw and paint.

“Mum liked being creative. She would take drawing stuff with us and I’d draw with her using charcoal.”

A seed had been planted and Beresford studied Art at school, including 3 Unit Art for her Higher School Certificate (HSC). She was inspired by the local bushland, walking and jogging through the Ku-ring-Gai Chase National Park whenever she could.

“There had been bad bushfires north of Sydney, so I collected charcoal and used it to draw with in my major work. I was pretty dedicated in Year 12. I used to paint at lunchtimes, which the Art Department thought was quite unusual. But I just loved it.”

After finishing high school “I wanted to do what I loved and I Ioved painting. It’s all I wanted to do. I wanted to go to COFA [College of Fine Arts] and fortunately I got in.”

She specialised in painting, drawing and printmaking and was inspired by tutors such as Idris Murphy. It was a wonderful three years but she laughs and admits: “I was partying far too much and just passed in the end.”

I’m in London still

After graduating from COFA, Beresford travelled overseas with friends. She bought a one way ticket “because I knew I’d be there a long time”. After six months of travelling she ran out of money and found a job in the ski fields of France before crossing The Channel to London, ready for a new challenge.

“A girl I studied with at COFA was working as a photographer’s assistant. She said: ‘Julz, I’ve found this great career for you – food styling.’ I said: “What’s that?”

Her friend gave her a brief description and Beresford decided it was a great idea.

“I visited the local library and went through food magazines. I made a list of all the best food stylists that were busy and in the good magazines. I found their phone numbers and just rang them.”

This old fashioned cold-calling soon produced results.

“I was really lucky,” she says. “I worked with some of the best food stylists in London, giving me a great foundation in the industry.”

Busy in her new career, her art was placed on the back burner. She would draw or paint occasionally in her bedroom “but nothing consistent, which you need to do to get better”.

Creativity calls

Beresford returned to Australia after eight years abroad and set up her career as a freelance food stylist. As time passed, however, it became increasingly apparent that this career wasn’t creative enough for her any longer. She decided to limit her work as a food stylist and paint as often as she could in her garage.

She summoned the courage to post some of her paintings on Instagram and these images attracted the interest of Amber Creswell Bell, Director Emerging Art for the Michael Reid galleries.

“Amber kindly offered me the opportunity to exhibit in a group show and that led to an invitation to participate in A Painted Landscape, a group exhibition at the Michael Reid Berlin gallery in late 2020.”

She participated in two more shows the following year at the new Michael Reid Northern Beaches gallery before being invited to hold her first solo show, in March 2022, at Michael Reid Northern Beaches. This was followed by solo exhibitions at Michael Reid Southern Highlands in November 2022 and Michael Reid’s Sydney headquarters in January 2024. All three of these solo shows sold out.

On the water

Beresford’s Sydney home is about 10 minutes from Cottage Point, a secluded Sydney suburb of just 50 homes that is less than an hour’s drive north of Sydney. It sits serenely at the junction of Cowan and Coal & Candle Creeks and is surrounded by the beautiful bushland of Ku-ring-gai Chase National Park. This is Beresford’s favoured base for exploring the Hawkesbury River and, as a regular customer, she is welcomed warmly by the staff at Cottage Point Kiosk and Boat Hire.

She usually books a tinny for two or three hours “but I often lose track of time and am out there for longer and have to apologise. There is something very peaceful and restful about being on the water. You are on your own, miles from anywhere. There is no mobile phone reception and you can really tune into nature. It’s like a release for me, being on the water. I feel alive, I feel amazing.”

Asked if she has any favourite spots, she replies: “I love being in a little bay with a hill in the distance. And I love the shadowy side of the Hawkesbury. There is always a sunny side and a shadowy side and I stick to the shadowy side. I like its moodiness and the depths of colours you can find. I’m really interested in colour and every time I go out it’s different because of the light, the time of day, the season, whether it’s rained the day before. I want to find the uniqueness of that day.”

In the studio

With her gouache field studies around her, Beresford gets to work.

“I am quite expressive in the way I paint. I’m very physical. It’s a fast, back and forward, back and forward, on the painting, off the painting, joyful and intense time. And I paint wet on wet, alla prima. It’s all about the moment, trying to convey the energy of the place and, I suppose, my relationship with it.

“I always scratch and draw in the composition, putting in the darker tones and building up. I use a brush for most of the early stages – I put on and take off, put on and take off – and I love keeping those brush marks visible in the painting.”

Beresford’s use of a palette knife “goes back to my food styling days of icing cakes and getting the cream perfect. I love the yummy ooziness of the oil paint and I use a medium to thin them out a bit and give them that luscious, velvety feel.”

Not everything will go to plan but Beresford revels in the problem solving aspects of her craft: “That bit’s not right, fix it; and that bit’s not right, fix that – it’s constant.”

Even during this brief visit, her passion for painting is evident.

“I am really focused when I’m in the studio,” she admits. “I literally fall into a trance. I have to set an alarm because otherwise I forget to pick up the kids from school.”

As Time Drifts on a River’s Path

Beresford’s latest exhibition, titled As Time Drifts on a River’s Path, features paintings from the two regions she has had a close relationship with since her childhood and with which she still has a deep connection: The Snowy Mountains and The Hawkesbury River.

“I tend not to paint the Hawkesbury all year because I yearn to improve my trade and I believe to get better I need to shift gear to a different landscape. It’s important for me to jump around a little bit. It keeps me alive and makes me really think about what I am trying to achieve.”

And what is she trying to achieve?

“I am always questioning myself, asking if I am expressing the feeling of the place when I paint. I want to capture the moments when I was on the water or the magic of the mountains. I want to remember the way I held the paintbrush while I was out there ‘plein air’ because it felt right. Each painting has its own story.”

Pieces of paper attached to her studio walls have handwritten notes reminding her to “express the purpose of place”, “celebrate the paint” and “lose yourself in the moment of expression”.

Remarkably, Beresford has only been painting full time for three years. She has built a strong following and is looking forward to the future with her characteristic calm yet energetic determination.

“I’m totally addicted. I can’t get enough of it. I know the only way I’m going to get better is to keep practising, to keep working every day. It’s who I am now.”

 

As Time Drifts on a River’s Path will be showing at Michael Reid Southern Highlands until 24 March.

Sydney Contemporary by Jason Mowen

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Jason Mowen reports from the 10th edition of Australasia’s largest art fair – where close to 100 local and international galleries converged last September to present dazzling and dynamic work by 500 emerging and established art stars.

Words & Photography Jason Mowen

You might remember an Argus story from 2022, Murrurundi to Matino, in which I mention a visit to Il Convento di Costantinopoli. The Italian home of the late Lord Alistair McAlpine, Il Convento is now one of the world’s most magical guesthouses – run by McAlpine’s equally magical Greek wife, Athena – and, pertinent to this particular tale, a repository of Australian art.

A slightly incongruous repository, considering its location in the southernmost reaches of Puglia, except that McAlpine was not only a great aesthete but also an Australophile. There are monumental pictures by his friend, Sidney Nolan, and dozens of texta drawings by Indigenous artist Ngarra, as well as a collection of Ilma, rare hand-held objects used in corroboree dances and ceremonies by the Bardi people, lining a vaulted hallway. They were, Athena told me, by the Bardi elder Roy Wiggan.

Fast forward to 2023 at Carriageworks, the cavernous 1880s railway workshop turned multi-arts cultural precinct in Eveleigh that is home, each September, to the art fair Sydney Contemporary. Arriving early, wearing the mandatory yellow vest as cherry pickers whizzed down aisles and gallerists put the finishing touches on their stands, I was thrilled to see a group of Wiggan’s Ilma inside the main hall.

Presented by the Brisbane gallery A Secondary Eye, they were arranged like brightly coloured totems between double doorways, each one taller than a person, painting and sculpture and performance art all at once. I thought about them after the fair and read up on Wiggan, who created his Ilma outside of their original ceremonial context for institutions and private collections as a way of preserving them for future generations. A sage move if I’m anything to go by, having met them halfway around the world on the thick stone walls of Il Convento before running into their colourful cousins at the fair.

Indigenous works feature prominently at Sydney Contemporary. Utopia Art exhibited giant canvases by Western Desert artists such as Bobby West Tjupurrula, George Tjungurrayi and Joseph Jurra Tjapaltjarri, alongside a striped painting by Emily Kame Kngwarreye. Roslyn Oxley showed the work of a single artist, Yolŋu woman Dhambit Munuŋgurr, whose dynamic bark paintings and larrakitj (hollow poles) stood en masse in otherworldly shades of cobalt blue. Another Yolŋu artist, Gaypalani Wanambi engraved images of trees, delicate and folkloric, onto the back of discarded yellow metal road signs for Michael Reid Sydney + Berlin, in a mixed hang with paintings by Betty Chimney and Regina Pilawuk Wilson and a massive quadriptych by photographer Dr Christian Thompson AO.

Now in its 10th year, Sydney Contemporary is Australasia’s most dazzling art fair and 2023 was no exception, with the work of 500 artists exhibited by 96 galleries from across Australia and the world. It’s not Frieze or Art Basel; you could probably knock a couple of zeros off the average price of a work. Although in many ways, therein lies the charm: Australian art is affordable. And Sydney knows how to throw a good party, with champagne or Campari bars around every turn.

I ran into my old friend David Robinson – David has lived in Bangkok for many years and was instrumental in establishing Thailand’s first portrait prize in 2021 – who was at Sydney Contemporary with American collector and portrait prize judge, Tom Van Blarcom. I asked Tom what he thought. “I’ve been three times and have thoroughly enjoyed it. It isn’t stuffy like the other fairs; it isn’t riddled with attitude – or at least not too much, it is the art world after all! But for the most part, the galleries make you feel welcome. At fairs like Art Basel, the attitude should be cut into small white cubes and sold in the gift shop. Frieze Seoul is going on right now but I’d rather be at Sydney Contemporary. Great art and It’s more fun. I’ve bought three pieces so far and am mulling over two more.”

For me this year’s fair was looking only, although I imagined what I would have bought had I been cashed up. Monochromatic works on paper such as Godwin Bradbeer’s Performance Suite 10, Homage to Stelarc #2 at James Makin Gallery, and the wall of Tiger Yaltangki’s Malpa Wiru (Good Friends) at Alcaston were definites. Wiggan’s Ilmas and a lineup of Dhambit Munuŋgurr’s exuberant bark paintings for sure.

 

I’d design a whole room around the monumental canvases by Virginia Cuppaidge at Nicholas Thompson Gallery, including the six-metre-wide Cytheria, a delicate gradient of yellow to lilac and orange marked by the odd Miró-like line; and another room for Archie Moore’s suite of skin-coloured shapes alongside Box Sculpture by Augusta Vinall Richardson at The Commercial. And hard to say no to one of the blocky Anthony Gormley sculptures at Galleria Continua from San Gimignano, an exciting addition to this year’s fair.

So much talent and too much terrific work to list, although I keep thinking about Gaypalani Wanambi. On install day, I was hanging out at Michael Reid’s stand as Toby, Daniel and Will positioned art, ready to hang. Among a flurry of levels and drills, frames and bubble wrap, I saw a couple of battered old road signs leaning against the wall. With so much construction paraphernalia whirling around I wondered where, between the hard hats and cherry pickers, they fit in. Peeking behind, Wanambi’s sublime etchings were revealed. A moment of pure joy – much like rediscovering Wiggan’s Ilma.

The US of A by Michael Reid OAM

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Our chairman and director travels to New York to take the pulse of the city’s vast art scene – and finds a country at a fascinating crossroads.

Words & Photography Michael Reid OAM

Over dinner in Berlin, in September before Donald Trump announced his first candidacy, I made a bet across the table that Trump – should he run – would be the next President of the United States. There was much chortling at this seemingly far-fetched idea, so I bet against everyone at the dinner for a good bottle of wine. One of two others paid up. I mention all this because I am a boundary rider. In checking the fences, I go to the border; I rove in my thinking far and wide. However, having clearly seen the coming of Trump, only recently having been on a business trip to New York City, have I fully understood the populist pull of his Make America Great Again mantra.

To understand how Republicans have become the party of the blue-collar working class, I must briefly digress.

There can be no doubt that in the last twenty years, the disparity across our world between those with the greatest resources and those with almost none has narrowed. The People’s Republic of China has elevated at least 400 million people from rural poverty to the edges of the middle class and beyond over this period. China, India, and Indonesia, to name but three countries, have done much to reduce poverty and world poverty. This closing of world wealth disparity has come at the expense of the American working class.

America is fraying at the edges. When I walk across the road in New York City, I look down to where I am walking. I mean, I really look down to where I am walking. Broken ankles, caused by innumerable potholes, are a day-to-day hazard in New York. American infrastructure is hurtling towards the third world. The American health, education, transport, and systems of law and order are akin to Robert De Niro’s Russian Roulette in The Deer Hunter.

Until Trump, the Republican Party attracted a constituency often characterised as the conservative, affluent class, sometimes likened to the new Brahmins or the pinnacle of the ruling elite. Trump – an overly orange-coloured, media-savvy figure – emerged as a blunt populist candidate, lacking a defined political ideology, and operating more from a standpoint of wanting power rather than entrenched political theories. He managed to resonate with and mobilise the frustrations and real anger of the working class, bringing them into the fold of the Republican Party, a move that deviated from the party’s conventional base.

Ironically, today the Democratic Party is seen as the political party of a woke ruling financial elite, lost in all their over-educated, pronoun-weaponised sensitivities and adrift from the real problems besetting real America. The Democratic Party, lost down the rabbit hole of the worthy, has had significant ramifications. They have lost the electoral votes needed to push through badly needed economic policies such as long-term public investment, as well as more progressive taxation, plus healthcare and educational reform, that would temper rising inequality. Add in a rebirth of the 1980s “greed is good” culture of self-interest and global market forces pushing only what’s good for the financial quarter, and you get a country facing a “We need to talk about Kevin” movie moment.

America, and consequently the world, is at a crossroads. There’s a pull between Trump’s authoritarianism and the ongoing muddle that is the struggle for American democracy. Presently, the Make America Great Again nostalgia for a world that has slipped away could well make Trump the next President of the United States of America. Although I do not think this will pass, it could.

I have undertaken this rather rambling preamble because, at the crossroads, America is a great nation. America is Great. The United States is a powerhouse of personal positivity. Amidst their fractious relations with the growing, possibly stumbling power of China, American manufacturing is returning to America. Employment is strong. The United States is the engine room of the world economy and international finance, more so today than ever with the city of London ‘Brexiting’. London’s growing financial irrelevance is New York City’s and America’s great gain. Whatever could have been done financially in the City of London can now be done ten or sixty-fold in New York. California’s $3+ trillion economy ranks it fifth in the world. California is expected to overtake Germany as the world’s fourth-largest economy in the next few years.

Although many dreams have died in New York City, there can be no doubt in my mind that America is a formidable economic rock. I would not and never bet against America. The capacity for an entire population “to get on the program” and act in concert as one is unmatched across the histories of any industrial society. It is within the midst of this heady, contradictory storm that I believe our galleries should, in some manner, have a presence in the American market in 2024.

To get to New York, Helsinki, the capital of Finland, is the long way around. But given that a Finnair business class ticket was less than half the cost of Qantas, and my overall indifference to another change-over in the war-torn Middle East, it was a good stopover option. The Finnish National Museum was solid.
Finnair was most excellent.

On the first day in New York, having walked off general old age and fatigue, my first stop was the Frick Madison and being able to see the Frick Collection at the old Whitney Museum. In their temporary home at the Whitney, you could get far closer to the Frick paintings than you ever could at the under-renovation original house museum. In the house museum, they placed furniture in front of their paintings. In the unobstructed clear view of a temporary museum setting, up close, the artworks were staggeringly strong.

Viewing an important 18th-century collection such as the Frick in wide sweeps made me realise that, until quite recently, art was undertaken by a few practitioners for the actual enjoyment in private of a very few. Art was then a great rarity and very much a power statement within a ruling elite. Maybe it is just that today.

A takeaway from the Frick Madison was the museum decorating whole walls with an element from a single painting. The 18th-century painting sat on top of a wall decorated with an element from that painting. Not just colouring a wall, but more like what we do in the Sydney gallery with, say, a Petrina Hicks photography exhibition, where we place a Hicks photograph on a much larger wall image of a Hicks photograph. Our stand at this year’s Sydney Contemporary art fair was a good example.

I visited the Metropolitan Museum, and the Manet and Degas exhibition was my overall art-viewing highlight for the month. Super lucky me, I went on the opening day to an early morning private viewing event. The exhibition was a truly original idea. Few exhibitions are. The friendship and animosity between the two artists was broadly documented in at least 100 paintings. Comprehensive in its undertaking and idea. A massive exhibition. The insurance value of this presentation means that the exhibition could never tour as is. The indemnity insurance costs would be vast. So New York is the place to see it.

I used the subway. Stop the presses.

Sunday was walking around ‘deep Chinatown’, the place for up-and-coming gallery spaces. I then had dinner with an Australian/US friend and former Christie’s director. He lives in upstate New York and works three days a week in the city. He is a generalist objects valuer, and the takeaway from him is that all the New York City local auctioneers own all the artworks and objects they auction. They buy outright art and objects for cash. They do not take consignments as such. Buying everything is apparently easier to post-sale administer, with greater potential for profit margins when they purchase well.

Monday was lunch and studio visits with New Yorkers Sebastian Blanck and Isca Greenfield-Sanders, artists we proudly exhibit in Sydney. A delightful afternoon. Their Manhattan studios were brilliant, and they are truly creative and good people. We talked widely across the New York arts scene as experienced by New York artists.

As part and parcel of the business reconnoitre, I decided to open a US bank account. Well, opening the bank account stalled on the last unexpected hurdle. I had everything. Every skerrick of paperwork I needed to open an account. In the end, they needed to cite my NSW driver’s licence as identification. Not that I was asked to bring it to the interview, mind you. Not that such a licence entitled me to drive in the United States. They had my passport. But it’s hardly surprising in a culture so reliant on cars. I wasted four hours of my life, which I’ll never get back. I’ll have to return with my driver’s licence during my next visit to the States. On the upside, I made a contact at Citibank.

Later that day, the Morgan Library was simply extraordinary – worth a visit off the beaten path. To sit in the private study of the titan of industry was to be immersed in a Gothic fantasy of a great Lord not born to the manner. He must have been one of the greatest book collectors to have ever walked the planet. I had the great fortune to be viewing a side exhibition, Seeds of Knowledge, and heard a collector who lent books to that exhibition tell a fellow collector how his books had not been opened in 57 years. The 17th-century illustrated volumes were in pristine condition. No unnecessary light, you see. Bibliomania is the only mania one should have the great fortune to be born into.

I went to Chelsea to visit Isca and Sebastian’s gallery, Miles McEnery Gallery. It’s a massive gallery, occupying four spaces across two streets and heavily focused on abstraction. I met Miles and he was charming, offering to assist me in any way possible. One can’t help but note that these galleries must make sales every week, all year round. They operate like well-oiled sales machines. Similarly, David Zwirner Gallery was extraordinarily large. Zwirner is renovating another floor above its current flagship and has an entirely empty lot, simply waiting for a brand-new US $100 million+ gallery.

That night was reminiscent of the street scenes in the movie Blade Runner. It was wet and winter dark, with neon lights reflecting off long, oily puddles. The roads were choked with literal gridlock out of the city for Thanksgiving. At my hotel, a group of homeless men were running screaming into the road. Apparently, Jesus is here. Sirens wailed at every pitch within the sound spectrum, creating a wall of sound. It was a movie within a movie.

Thanksgiving isn’t just a day; it’s a week-long celebration, and the week of Thanksgiving was in full swing. Preparations for the Macy’s Thanksgiving Parade made me feel like slipping the safety catch off my revolver. That nation’s propensity for mass consumption of popular culture, to an infantile level, is unparalleled anywhere in the entire universe. Disney isn’t just a media company; it’s a way of life. Endlessly joyful. And that joy is fucking endless.

I tried, really tried, to visit the National History Museum on Wednesday before the big day but was unable to navigate the crowds, the police, the traffic, the foot diversions associated with parade preparation. There were thousands upon thousands of people thrilled to be witnessing the parade’s preparations. Thankfully, Central Park was beautifully empty. I walked for hours, taking photos of the commemorative plaques on park benches. Many were heart-wrenchingly sad and very funny.

The next day was Thanksgiving itself, the biggest celebration of the American year. Thanksgiving isn’t a religious holiday; it’s a day for every American. It’s possibly America’s only real home-grown celebration. No presents are required, and the entire celebration revolves around food and family. I was very fortunate to spend lunch with a fellow old boy from St Paul’s College, within the University of Sydney. His family began the meal with prayer and a discussion as to what we were all thankful for. I am thankful for much.

America is a simple and deeply complex nation of confederated differences. Amidst this jigsaw collision, now let me ponder as to our gallery in the U S of A’s next small steps.

– Michael Reid OAM

New York Tips

Banana Smoothies at Bloomingdale’s Forty Carrots 59th Street
1000 Third Avenue, 7th Floor, New York, NY 10022

Frick Madison
945 Madison Avenue, New York, NY 10021

Dinner at the Harvard Club of New York City
35 West 44th Street, New York, NY 10036

Drinks at the National Arts Club
15 Gramercy Park South, New York, NY 10003

Foot massage at Yan May Foot Spa
188 Hester Street, New York, NY 10013

Viewing 56 Leonard Street by Herzog & de Meuron
56 Leonard Street, New York, NY 10013

The Morgan Library & Museum
225 Madison Avenue, New York, NY 10016

Bagels from Russ & Daughters
179 East Houston Street, New York, NY 10002

Coffee at the hole in the wall, Aimé Leon Dore
224 Mulberry Street, New York, NY 10012 

Reading the commemorative plaques on the benches at Central Park

A shave and haircut/head shave at The Barber’s Blueprint
181 Mulberry Street, New York, NY 10012

Breakfast at Balthazar
80 Spring Street, New York, NY 10012

Manet/Degas at The Metropolitan Museum of Art
1000 5th Avenue, New York, NY 10028

Scone Grammar School’s principal Paul Smart by Victoria Carey

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After growing up as the son of a headmaster, Murrurundi resident Paul Smart was well prepared for his role as Scone Grammar School’s principal.

Words Victoria Carey

Photography Pip Farquharson

The familiar strains of big band leader Glenn Miller’s 1939 hit In the Mood fill the classroom. The famous jazz standard is heralding that it’s time to go home at Scone Grammar School. Two boys rush out, slinging backpacks over their shoulders as they walk towards the school gates, happily talking about the day. “We decided a few years ago to replace the traditional school bell with music,” explains Paul Smart, who has been principal of the school since 2007. “And the kids love it.”

‘Positive education’ is a phrase that often pops up as we speak about this dedicated teacher’s approach to his job.

“It’s all about enabling the kids at this school to grow to their potential. Our goal is to create students who are independent learners who feel comfortable moving forward in their lives and careers,” he tells me from his office at the school which first welcomed pupils onto the grounds in 1845.

The world of education was a natural career choice for Paul as both his parents were teachers. His father Peter was also the principal of a country school, just like his son. Smart senior was at Tamworth’s Calrossy Anglican School from May 1976 until December 1988. “Watching him calmly and quietly getting on with things, while having to make big decisions is something I have certainly taken away with me,” explains Paul. “And I’ve always enjoyed and loved connecting with people. That’s been the driver for me.”

After graduating from the University of New England, Paul’s first teaching role was in Sydney’s Campbelltown. His wife Julie, another teacher, worked in the Mt Druitt area. “We are both country people, but we spent our early teaching years in Sydney before coming to Scone,” he explains. “It was very hard at that time as there was a glut of teaching graduates.”

The couple were keen to return to rural life.

“We started to look for a new school and we were both fortunate enough to be offered roles as primary teachers at Scone Grammar in 1990,” says Paul.

It was to be nine very fulfilling years before they moved south to work at Tudor House at Moss Vale. Four years later a position as head of junior school, and later middle school head, at MacArthur Anglican School in Camden followed.

By now with three young sons in tow — James, Tom and Matthew — the call of the wide open country further north was growing stronger day by day.

Finally in 2007, nearly two decades after he and Julie had started at Scone Grammar, Paul was offered the role of principal. “We came back even though we never expected that we would,” he recalls.

When Paul became headmaster, Grammar had 314 students. Today, there are 650 enrolled from kindergarten to Year 12 plus 85 students in the Yellow Cottage Preschool. 

He attributes this growth to the strong school community.

“A lot of parent involvement went into helping make sure that the school got going, it was a big effort from those behind the commencement of the school. I think that has been a hallmark aspect of who we are, and it hasn’t changed,” he says. 

A strong sense of community also led the Smart family to their current home in Murrurundi nearly 11 years ago.

“There is a nice sense of forward thinking and community here. It has a good diversity of people that bring culture and connection,” he says.

Once home to the town’s post office employees, Pear Cottage used to be on Mayne Street, but the old timber house had been moved to Karalee Row with views through to Woolooma and Gundy in the east by the time the Smarts saw it for sale.

“We were leasing a place in Gundy but decided we wanted a place of our own. We needed room for our three boys and fell in love with this small block. It’s such a beautiful part of the world,” he says. “The position is spectacular.”

When Paul is at home, his favourite way of relaxing is to garden and do projects around the house. “Those are the sorts of things I like to do to take my mind into a different space away from the core business of being a principal,” he says.

But somehow, I think, even in those moments in the garden, the school’s motto, ‘And let us run with perseverance, the race marked out for us’ is not too far from his thoughts.

And finally, I ask, do you love your job? “Yes, absolutely!” is the resounding answer. “Well, how could I not? Every day is all about working out ways to help our students be their best.”

60 Kingdon Street, Scone, NSW. Telephone (02) 6545 3131. For more information, go to sgs.nsw.edu.au

Paul Smart’s Address Book

Ask Paul Smart for his favourite places in the Upper Hunter and it’s a question he finds hard to answer. “We are very lucky to have a variety of options of places here — and we try to go to all of them,” Paul explains. Here he recommends a few things for visitors to the region.

Burning Mountain Nature Reserve

Australia’s only naturally burning coal seam is just 20 kilometres north of Scone. Take the moderate 4 kilometre return walk and observe how the flora and fauna have adapted to having a fire below ground for 5,5000 years. “I have had an affinity to Burning Mountain from my early teenage years as we used to go there on picnics before there was any established path. It is a unique spot,” he says.
Telephone (02) 6540 2300. For directions, safety and practical information, visit nationalparks.nsw.gov.au

Graze at the Willow Tree Inn

Built in 1913, the Willow Tree Inn is now also home to the award-winning restaurant Graze. The house speciality is the dry aged Black Angus beef produced from cattle raised on the pastures edging Willow Tree’s Colly Creek.
“Over the range, I always enjoy going to Graze. I love a good steak and they do a beautiful job,” says Paul. “They also sometimes do a sashimi style entrée which is pretty special.”
New England Highway, Willow Tree, NSW. Telephone (02) 6747 7711. grazewillowtree.com.au

The Cottage

Housed in an 1860s cottage, this much-loved restaurant is popular with the Smart family. “It’s always one we love to go to,” says Paul.
196 Kelly Street, Scone, NSW. Telephone (02) 6545 1215. thecottagescone.com or @thecottagescone

AgQuip by Jason Mowen

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Jason Mowen travels to Gunnedah for the 50th-anniversary edition of Australia’s largest agribusiness field festival.

Words & Photography Jason Mowen

Going to AgQuip wasn’t really my bag. I love country life but driving 90 minutes to look at tractors and other farm equipment, the sole dude in white trainers in a field of RMs, sounded like a day out of my life I’d never get back. But when Michael suggested that we check out this apparently massive agricultural field day, I thought what the hell. I’d never been to Gunnedah so at least I would have seen another corner of the country. A somewhat famous corner, being the birthplace of Gambu Ganuurru, the Kamilaroi warrior immortalised in 1953 bestseller The Red Chief. And, more recently, as the birthplace of Aussie supermodel Miranda Kerr.

We met early on the Wednesday morning at the gallery – Camilla, James, Michael and me – and set off, up to Willow Tree and left on the Kamilaroi Highway, through Quirindi and on past endless fields of fluorescent-yellow canola flowers to Gunnedah. Hitting traffic in town, our designated driver James’s gaze was fixed on the bank of cued-up utes in front. The rest of us amused ourselves checking out the local architecture – colonial, federation, post-war and the odd 80’s brick venereal replete with the statue-filled front yard – a mix of disparate styles only ever found in such close proximity in Australian country towns.

From the vast paddock made over as AgQuip’s parking lot, through turnstile gates and into the exhibition grid, I discovered the following. James knows a lot of people, Camilla loves anything with wheels and a trailer and Michael’s father was, in the late 1970’s, the biggest dealer of Steiger tractors in Australia. And as children, all three were taken out of school by their parents to attend the Tuesday-to-Thursday event. That’s because for country folk, AgQuip is epic, with more than 3000 exhibitors in what is one of the largest field days of its kind in the world. For farmers it must be like the Fourth of July (for Americans) or Mardi Gras (for the gays). For added significance, launched in 1973 – the year Queen Elizabeth opened the Opera House, the voting age dropped to 18, Gala Supreme won the Melbourne Cup and Helen Reddy topped the charts with Delta Dawn – this was AgQuip’s 50th anniversary.

The 150-page guide states they have something for everyone and they’re not wrong. There is of course the farm stuff, from sheds and saddles to feeders, fencing, guns, drones and concrete water troughs, all manner of bovines (often next to steak sandwich joints) and the ubiquitous tractor, some so massive they could have made a cameo in Avatar. But there is also craft beer, Volkswagen and emu eggs – apparently amazing for lowering cholesterol – provedores of chorizo, really cool palm-leaf hats from Guatemala, beautiful forged-iron hardware from a blacksmith in Victoria and even the University of New England. Demonstrations were big draw cards – one was an axe and chainsaw competition, the winner being a giant of a man from the Netherlands, according to his shirt – as was Pig Chasing Australia, a hub of the hunting community that also does a mean trucker’s cap. A jewel in AgQuip’s crown, though, was John Deere with its lineup of million-dollar tractors, their wheel hubs taller than Camilla.

Stopping for a pub lunch in Gunnedah before the drive home, my three country buddies were curious to know what I thought. Would I go again? Yes, definitely. Not every year but every few years for sure. Even for city slickers there’s too much to discover, a cornucopia of artisan wares and cutting-edge technology – Australian farmers have long been at the forefront of innovation – not to go. AgQuip, sponsored by Aon, returns to Gunnedah Tuesday to Thursday, 20-22 August 2024.

Tinagroo Stock Horse’s Jill Macintyre by Victoria Carey

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Once one of Australia’s best lady polo players, Jill Macintyre has spent the past 30 years breeding champion stock horses.

Words Victoria Carey. Photography Pip Farquharson.

You only need to spend a few minutes in the company of Jill Macintyre to realise she is very serious about her horses.

If I see a foal, I will remember that horse forever,” the 57-year old tells me from Invermein, the historic property where she lives just outside of Scone. I’ve sold hundreds of horses, but someone can ring me up 20 years later and I immediately know which horse they bought.”

It’s hardly surprising. Her father, Bryant Gavin, also had a great eye for a horse and helped found the Australian Stock Horse Society, becoming its first president in 1971.

Dad was a wonderful horseman and I was lucky to grow up with very good horses,” Jill says. I definitely got my sporting spirit from him. Our whole family thrives on competition.”

She’s just come inside for our interview after sending one member of that family, her 23 year-old son Hector, off in a truck loaded with ponies to the latest competition – a polo match at Quirindi. Bruce, Jill’s older brother, will also be there playing alongside his nephew.

Yes, there’s certainly lots of evidence to show the Gavin/Macintyre clan’s formidable prowess on any sporting field is still in full swing.

Jill herself is no stranger to the game of polo. She first played while working as a groom for King Charles in 1990/1991. I learnt to stick and ball on the East Terrace of Windsor Castle,” she explains.

Later scouted by Major Ronald Ferguson, who was the then Prince’s polo manager, Jill played at the Royal County of Berkshire Polo Club in the first International Ladies Polo Tournament. It was great fun and I ended up playing for Australia – riding the Prince’s ponies,” she says.

After eventually becoming one of Australia’s best female players with a one-goal handicap, Jill was forced to retire after developing atrial fibrillation while pregnant. It was then she decided to focus on breeding stock horses.

After Jill’s father died in 1995, he had left his youngest daughter six Australian Stock Horse mares. With their trademark good temperament, beautiful movement and great versatility, their progeny quickly became much sought after. From camp drafting and polo to dressage and eventing, there seems to be nothing a Tinagroo horse cannot do.

A lot of this success can be traced back to the day Jill swapped her car for a horse. She leans back in her chair and laughs at the memory.

I had a new Toyota Corolla, which I had spent all my savings on, and mum needed a new one. It was that simple,” she explains. I have never really put much value on cars.”

Of course, Gavins Serena was no ordinary horse. Sired by Crown Law, a famous South Australian stallion who had competed in the 1988 Seoul Olympics, Serena was the result of Bryant Gavin’s constant striving to breed the best stock horses in the country. Dad put two mares in the truck and drove them all the way to South Australia and the result was this filly – Serena,” says Jill. She was a beautiful bay with a small star. I remember when she was born at Wansey as she had a lot of presence and stood out from the rest.”

Wansey is the cattle and sheep station near Cumnock in New South Wales where it all began. Jill grew up here as the youngest of five. She had a typical country childhood, spending long hours in the saddle mustering cattle. I did learn a lot from my parents and older siblings when I was growing up. It was difficult not to,” she says.

There was a formidable bank of knowledge for her to draw on. Bryant was an expert stockman spending his spare time travelling the country classifying horses for the fledging Australian Stock Horse Society, while her mother Jean was a vet. Today, the now 91-year-old is still helping out a little on the family property. Mum is pretty amazing to still be working,” says Jill, who recently bought a small place next door to her childhood home and plans to eventually live there.

Jill moved to the Hunter region after meeting Duncan Macintyre, then the president of the Scone Polo Club (he has just recently finished his second stint) and who is now VIP of Scone Horse Festival. After marrying in 1998, the couple lived on Tinagroo Station, over 4000 hectares of grazing country on the north-western side of Scone, before buying Invermien in 2013.

Settled in 1825 by Francis Little, it was the first settlement in the area – Scone was not officially gazetted until 1837 – and home to the local courthouse and gaol. Named after a stream near his father’s house in Scotland, Invermein – but with a change in spelling – was to stay in Little’s family until 1877. It is thought to have played a part in the introduction of prickly pear into Australia after Mrs Little was given a cutting brought from India which she carefully planted in the garden where it quickly thrived. A drover came past and picked some and took it to Queensland or so the story goes,” says Jill, “and the rest is history.”

The Macintyre family love living at Invermien. You can only ever be custodians of properties like this,” she explains.

But the younger generation are constantly on the move. Florence is home for a quick visit from the University of New England where she is in the final weeks of her agribusiness degree. The 22-year-old is going to New Zealand this summer to work as a polo groom for a high goal polo player.

Flo is a real country girl,” says her mother. She’s hoping to play polo and show stock horses when she gets back.”

Whatever happens, there is one thing that is certain. There will always be a couple of horses in the paddock waiting for her, including her current favourite Scout, the grandson of a certain bay mare with a small white star who stood out from the rest”.

Some things will never change.

Follow Jill’s breeding and showing journey on Instagram @tinagroostockhorses and facebook.com/tinagroo

Jill Macintyre’s Address Book

Green Seed Grocer

I go here for locally sourced vegetables and honey. You never know what you might find, it
could be something like delicious green beans or snow peas a 12-year-old boy has grown.”

131 Kelly Street, Scone, NSW. Telephone 0438 638 851. green-seed-grocer.square.site

MacCallum & Co

Jill goes to this produce store for everything from calf milk to a pair of Blundstone boots. They are very good on up-to-date advice on what to feed your mare and foal or a horse in full work for showing, campdrafting and polo. They also have very good horse rugs and a wide range of veterinary products. It’s basically my one-stop shop for all the animals on the
farm.”

71 Main Street, Scone, NSW. Telephone (02) 5516 8002. maccallumco.com.au

Marsh Carney Saddlery

Marsh Carney, who breeds cutting horses and did his apprenticeship with John Charlton, is well known for his wonderful Scone store. Founded in 1980, the shop has since been joined by branches in Tamworth and Dubbo. I go here for all things horsey,” says Jill.

124 Kelly Street, Scone, NSW. (02) 6545 1599. mcsaddlery.com.au

Peter Britt Saddlery

This master craftsman has been making his wonderful saddles for over 40 years and is Jill’s go-to for a lot of her gear. We bought our two kids their stock saddles from him when they were small and he made my show ASH stock saddle,” she says. He repairs absolutely
everything and his wife Mel repairs rugs for all the studs. He has even fixed Flo’s favourite
handbag when the stitching came away”

Rear 128 Kelly Street, Scone, NSW. Telephone (02) 6545 2543.
outlawangels@southernphone.com.au

Ruby’s Girl

Always well stocked with an extensive range of lingerie.

Shop 1/165 Kelly Street, Scone, NSW. Telephone (02) 6545 9200.

Scone RSL

The king prawn laksa is Jill’s favourite thing on the menu at the Scone RSL. The club also
has a golf course, much loved by locals.

71 Guernsey Street, Scone, NSW. Telephone (02) 6545 1669.

The Old Gundy School House by Victoria Carey

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A couple’s careful restoration of a country school house is a lesson to us all.

Words Victoria Carey. Photography Pip Farquharson.

With thanks to Caroline and Iain Hayes.

Caroline Hayes can still remember what she was wearing the first time she visited the Old Gundy School House. “It was a pale blue school tunic,” she says, laughing at the memory. “It was a 30th birthday party and everyone had to come dressed in a uniform as if they were going to school.”

The birthday party was for Iain Hayes, who later became her husband, and he had only just moved into the pretty weatherboard school at Gundy in NSW’s Upper Hunter Valley.

Built in 1916 (the 1872 original was destroyed by white ants), the classroom doors were shut for the last time when students finished their lessons in 1991. It meant that the kids of Gundy went further up the road to Belltrees Public School or travelled into Scone for their education. For several years the fate of the little school near the heart of Australia’s thoroughbred capital hung in the balance.

But five years after the closure, a young promising winemaker came along and decided to buy it. Iain Hayes had grown up in Scone, spending his formative childhood years in a house which is now part of Scone Grammar School. “His dad Harry used to joke that Iain had a thing about schools,” explains Caroline, nearly three decades later. “And our daughter Prunella, who finished at Scone Grammar last year, likes to say she had her music lessons in her dad’s old bedroom.” 

Iain, who grew up next door to Tyrrell’s Glenbawn Winery, had “jumped the fence as a teenager to ask for a job” and was reluctant to move too far away from his much-loved work. (He spent 27 years at Tyrrell’s, eventually rising to the job of chief winemaker before the vines were ripped out in 2012 after the property’s sale to Segenhoe Horse Stud.)

“Iain was looking for somewhere within 20 minutes drive in case he got called in at night during vintage,” explains Caroline, who grew up in England and had moved to Australia in 1988. “He had been to a Gundy Ball, which is still an annual event here in November, and thought it was a nice community. Then the school came onto the market and he thought it was a unique proposition.”

Sitting on a two-acre block right in the centre of the little village and up the road from the Linga Longa Inn, the property came with “the school building, the teacher’s residence and the weather shed”. and the long drop toilet in the paddock. 

But the soaring ceilings and blank canvas of the empty classrooms captured Iain’s imagination and so began a lengthy journey of restoration – and it’s one that isn’t entirely over. The first phase was to make the school rooms liveable, so a new kitchen and bathroom were installed. A weather shed, where school children once sheltered from the rain, was enclosed to create guest quarters and a major extension to the school was done in 2005, adding three bedrooms, a second bathroom and of course, a wine cellar. The most recent project was renovating the next door teacher’s residence in 2021/22.

One of the main challenges the couple faced was finding the right tradespeople.

“Luckily, I did find a man right across the road who had the skills that I needed to fix old timber sash windows and he was able to strip down old doors and windows,” she says. “We also wanted to make it authentic and to give respect to the existing features while trying to stay within the existing footprint of the house. And of course, nothing was level or straight!”

This painstaking work is beginning to reap its rewards. In July the Hayes opened the school to the public as part of the centenary celebrations of the Gundy Soldier’s Memorial Hall. Several former students and even a teacher came to see what the new custodians had done with the school. “It was lovely to have them see what we had done. The teacher had of course lived here for about six years during the 1980s and knew the place very well,” says Caroline.

Clearly community is central to this couple’s lives. When Caroline lifts her head from weeding the vegetables in her garden beds, she can see another building right next door that plays an important role in the community – the Gundy Rural Fire Brigade shed. Today, she’s an active member and Iain was once the captain for several years.

“I love the sense of community we have here – people look out for each other and work together. It could be to raise funds for someone in hardship or to improve our facilities,” she says.

Look in the rear-view mirror as you drive into Gundy, and clouds of dust hover above the road. Mobs of cattle gather around gates waiting for a bale of hay while horses push their heads through fences to pick at patches of feed. These dry brown paddocks are a clue to another important part of Caroline’s work. Until recently, she was the State’s Rural Resilience Program Coordinator with the Department of Primary Industries and now works in farm succession planning.

While Iain’s winemaking days are behind him, you are likely to enjoy a glass of Hunter Valley semillon around the Hayes dinner table. (It’s a variety that figures in another school tale, now part of the family folklore. “Prunella was asked what her favourite drink was when she was at preschool and she said “semillon”! Luckily her teacher knew us well!” exclaims her mother.)

The Australian bush is a far cry from the English landscape of Caroline’s childhood, but in the end this small village has captured her heart.

“I love the bush and I have wonderful walking tracks right from my door. No matter that I often walk the same route, there is always a different perspective dependent upon the weather, the time of day and the season,” she says. “It has been a wonderful place for Prunella to grow up.”

And finally, what’s your advice for others embarking on such a restoration?

“Double your budget and your timeframe”

 

The Old Gundy School House and Weather Shed are available to rent.

For more information, contact Caroline on telephone (02) 6545 8017; mobile 0427 813 336.

Caroline and Iain Hayes’s Address Book

A few Scone favourites feature on the Hayes’s list plus a special section on local building trades, because after spending the last 27 years renovating, off and on, they are in the know!

Hunt A Book

Well known for their personalised service, this bookshop is right next door to another Scone shopping icon – Potter Macqueen. “They stock a great range of books, puzzles, toys and more and are always happy to order something in for you,” says Caroline.

200 Kelly Street, Scone, NSW. Telephone (02) 6545 9330.

Hunter Belle Cheese

Now owned by the Chesworth family, who were 6th generation dairy farmers in the Hunter, these prize-winning cheesemaker’s products are stocked throughout the Hunter. “I love unhomogenised milk and theirs is the best,” explains Caroline. “We always provide complimentary Hunter Belle milk for our guests. They have a lovely cafe and shop on the northern end of Muswellbrook.”

75 Aberdeen Street (New England Highway), Muswellbrook, NSW. Telephone (02) 6541 5066.
hunterbellecheese.com.au

The Linga Longa Inn

This popular pub is an easy walking distance from The Old School House. “They do great food, and we always recommend all of our B&B guests to go there,” says Caroline. And what would she recommend on the menu? “The duck spring rolls!”

2 Riley Street, Gundy, NSW. Telephone (02) 6545 8121.
lingalongainn.com.au

Potter Macqueen

As the sign out the front of the shop says, “Scone, since 1968”. This retail institution is a must visit and much loved by Caroline. “It’s the perfect place to find a special gift or piece. My purchases over the years range from hand painted lamps to luggage, outdoor mats, baby clothing, doorstops, ornaments, special toiletries and so much more.”

200a Kelly Street, Scone, NSW. Telephone (02) 6545 1858.

Pukara Estate

With 20,000 olive trees on a property near Denman, Pukara Estate had their first commercial harvest in 2003.

“We love the Novello unfiltered first press when it is bottled each harvest,” says Caroline. “They are my favourite olive oils and they now have a store in Muswellbrook.”

39-43 Bridge Street, Muswellbrook, NSW. Mobile 0427 847 603.
pukaraestate.com.au

 

Special Local Knowledge

Builder: Tilse Building Hunter Valley

Steve Tilse and his team worked on the renovation of all the buildings on the site, starting in 1996 and most recently in 2021/22. “They have been instrumental in all that we have done and achieved with the Old School. Having trust in your builder is essential and we have been blessed,” says Caroline.

40 Gundy Road, Scone, NSW. Telephone (02) 6545 1709.

Painter: Daniel Spokes, DPS Painting & Decorating, Scone

“Daniel deserves 5 stars. He and his team meticulously stripped and painted the outside of the Old School House and it looks amazing.” 

tkwdo36@icloud.com
Mobile 0499 143 108.

Scone Mitre 10

“Frequently visited, especially during renovation times, they have been a wonderful supplier of so many things. Dan has always had lots of patience and advice for my endless questions regarding DIY.” 

40-42 Guernsey Street, Scone, NSW. Telephone (02) 6545 2511.

Annette English by Victoria Carey

Posted by

Horses, law and homewares: the entrepreneurial world of a Scone family.

Words Victoria Carey. Photography Nicola Sevitt.

Thanks to Annette English and family.

It’s a late autumn Sunday morning and drifts of leaves are settling on the ground. A bay gelding snorts nervously over his stable door, threatening to spook, as a breeze catches the leaves and scatters them around the yard. 

Trainer Peter Snowden’s Randwick stables, usually a hive of activity, are quiet today as it’s the one day of the week when there’s no trackwork.

It’s a world that Annette English didn’t expect to end up in when she was a young lawyer living in Sydney’s inner city.

“It is interesting how things turn out,” she says with a smile as we chat to Peter.

The trainer, who grew up in Scone and started his career there as a jockey, is one of Australia’s best. His accomplishments are too numerous to list here – The Argus needs to dedicate another story to this remarkable horseman — but let’s just say he has won The Everest, the world’s richest turf race, twice and accumulated $100 million in prize money since he set up with his son Paul in 2014. Not bad for nearly a decade’s work.

But we are in for a special treat today. Peter puts a leather halter on George, a stunning liver chestnut colt, and brings him out of the stable. The three-year-old’s rug is slipped off for a few minutes so we can admire him.

George, or Cannonball as he is known on the racetrack, was bought for $975,000 as a yearling at the Gold Coast’s Magic Millions sale. 

Our talk turns to the news that George is soon to get on a plane to the United Kingdom, where he will race in the Group 1 King’s Stand Stakes at Royal Ascot.

“He’s going pretty well,” says Peter in his understated way.

Horse people are a particular breed and the thoroughbred industry in Australia is like a family. And Daniel Morgan, who Annette married in 1994, is certainly one of them.

Such was his passion for horses, this father of three once considered becoming a racehorse trainer before concentrating on his legal career. “The love of horses is big in this family,” says his wife wryly.

It’s a passion that started when Daniel arrived in Australia’s thoroughbred capital as a three-year-old. His father John, a very well-known vet, had moved to Scone to establish Morgan, Howey, Fraser and Partners which later became the Scone Veterinary Hospital, one of the largest equine clinics in the Southern Hemisphere. Little did John know at the time, but this move was to set his son on a path that was to see him become the president of the Scone Race Club and develop businesses relying on his great love of horses. 

History does tend to repeat itself and so it happened here when Daniel and Annette decided to move from Sydney to Scone when their first daughter Emily was just 18 months old. Initially, it wasn’t an easy transition for Annette. “It was a shock. I had a very city view of the country,” she explains as we talk over coffee at her Balmain office. “I had been working in corporate law and we were living in a terrace in Chippendale. I had lived in Glebe during my university days, and I really loved that inner city life. The country was the last place I honestly thought I’d ever be.”

But Annette, who is the youngest of eight children, was no stranger to rural life — her parents had grown up in the NSW country towns of Dubbo, Mudgee and Bathurst.

So, what prompted the move? “It was the reality of realising that while living in the city as a young professional couple was exciting and dynamic, living in the city with a baby and working without family support was horrendous. It went from everything that I loved to everything that I hated,” she says, recalling the difficulties of those early days. “And I really wanted my children to grow up with a community around them.”

“Willangi”, a three-bedroom Federation house with a large garden in a lovely street of Scone, soon presented itself as an escape from the stress of Sydney. “It was built by Mrs Kevins in 1932 and designed by the same architect who had done Belltrees,” says Annette. “I was in that nesting stage; I was obsessed with David Austin roses and imagining what it would be like without the stress of work and a toddler, so we bought the house.”

But things weren’t immediately rosy for this busy corporate lawyer: it was to take her a few years to settle into regional life.

Opening Plain English, her homewares store in 2003, proved to be a turning point. Housed in the same building which is home to Morgan + English today, it was a big renovation job before the doors could be opened. “It was built in 1841 and was once a fish and chip shop. Mark Twain is said to have stayed in it, it’s a fabulous building,” she says. “I had absolutely no idea about the interiors business when I started but I loved it.”

Soon she had secured Porters Paints, No Chintz fabrics, Bison ceramics, Bemboka throws and Mud tableware. The new shop on Liverpool Street quickly became a regular stop off for everyone heading north.

The other regular arrivals – after school of course – were the kids: Emily, Jemima and Hugo. (Today, 28-year-old Emily is a makeup artist and works at Morgan + English in HR, Jemima, 25, is a lawyer and Hugo, 21, is studying Film and Television at the Victorian College of the Arts.) The balance between work and family life was far more achievable in the country and the stress of those early Sydney days became a distant memory.

In 2009 this entrepreneur took on a development project, Inn Scone, where she used her interior design skills. Then, two years later, Annette decided to close the shop. “I had loved it, and put everything into it, but it came to a natural end. It didn’t excite me anymore,” she explains. “I thought I needed to get much more serious about interiors or get out. I’m not a dabbler.”

But the building was not to stay idle for long. In 2016 the couple set up Morgan + English. Only four years later, the business was awarded the Australian Lawyers Regional Law Firm of the year. They also operate Thoroughbred Recoveries, a boutique debt recovery agency focussing on all things equine, and Safe Industries Australia, another business specialising in the racing industry, this time looking at work, health and safety. (The agricultural industry has some of the highest fatality rates in Australia, making it one of the most dangerous to work in.) With offices in Tamworth, Scone, Sydney and Brisbane, they employ around 40 people and 80 per cent are women.

 

Morgan + English is at 99 Liverpool Street, Scone NSW, (02) 6545 3339
and 2/37 Nicholson Street, Balmain East NSW (02) 9196 8950.

Annette English’s Address Book

From the perfect steak at The Cottage to the place to shop for that last-minute gift, Annette reveals a few of her favourite places in Scone.

Plants on Main

Don’t miss the fresh flowers on Wednesday with market bunches starting at $25 at horticulturalist and florist Lynda Posa’s charming establishment. We also hear that the early bird special is worth getting up in the dark for – customers between 5am and 7am can buy a coffee with an egg and bacon roll for only $10 at Plants on Main’s cafe

The Common  51 Main Street, Scone NSW. Telephone (02) 6545 9998. plantsonmain.com.au


Potter Macqueen

There is a very good reason why this Scone institution has been in business since 1968 — every time you walk through the door, you are sure to see something you want in their eclectic mix of homewares and fashion.

200a Kelly Street, Scone NSW. Telephone (02) 6545 1858.


The Cottage

Much loved by the entire family, this restaurant is a regular destination. “The arrival of The Cottage was embraced by all of us with open arms and for a good reason – their dry-aged steak has become our much-loved favourite.”

196 Kelly Street, Scone NSW. Telephone (02) 6545 1215. thecottagescone.com or @thecottagescone

 

The Herd Store

Need something to wear to the races? Acey Firth’s Liverpool Street shop should be your first stop according to the English-Morgan family. “Since it opened a few years ago, it has become a favourite among locals, including myself, who had long wanted a place to find beautiful clothes nearby,” explains Annette. “With an impressive array of dresses and accessories meticulously curated by Acey, The Herd has become one of my go-to spots in Scone.”

101 Liverpool Street. Scone NSW. (02) 6545 1946. theherdstore.com.au


And when in the city…

Home Croissanterie

Already famous for its potato and sea salt croissants – yes, really! – this cafe is only a short drive from Annette’s office and it’s a welcome addition to her daily routine since it opened in March 2023. “The coffee is great, and the pastries are exquisite,: she says. 

Shop 1/418 Darling Street, Balmain NSW. @homecroissanterie

 

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