Pro Hart and Jack Absalom and more.

Road Trip Day 7: 29th May 2007

When in Broken Hill it is almost a requirement to look at as many galleries as you can. In fact the art gallery trail is a big part of the tourism trade here. Rose and I continued our tour visiting the galleries of Jack Absalom, Sue Hodge (Ochre Sands Gallery) and Andrea Blundell (The Homestead Gallery) and Pro Hart.

Jack Absalom is arguably Broken Hill's second most well known artist after Pro Hart. His gallery is all class and not what you'd expect of a bush landscape artist. Clearly Jack's done alright for himself and his art is complimented with an impressive display of Absalom branded opal jewelry.

Absalom's landscapes are all about the vastness of the Australian outback. Many of his paintings are of vast stretches of Australian scenery such as mountain ranges or wide open plains. Occasionally he ventures into the people of the bush but most of the work on display was focussed on the land, the light and hugeness of it all.

Sue Hodge is very much a painter of the local Broken Hill Landscape particularly around Silverton. Her work stands out because of her use of the palette knife to apply paint. Her technique has a roughness about it that enhances the harsh beauty of the Australian Outback.

Andrea Blundell's art has an almost super real brightness about it that catches your eye. A painter of flowers, wildlife and the Australian outback her use of bold colour cause's her art to leap out for your attention. Her emu paintings have become something of a trademark icon of her art.

No trip to Broken Hill is complete without a trip to Pro Hart's Gallery and Sculpture park (across the road). After visiting so many galleries I was expecting a little bit of the same format (i.e. a gallery filled mostly with the artists own work) but was surprised to discover that Pro's Gallery is as much about the art he collected during his life time as it is about his own paintings and sculpture.

Some of the artists in Pro's collection include Albert Tucker, Brett Whiteley, Picasso, Arthur Boyd, Norman Lindsay, John Perceval, Charles Blackman, Salvador Dali and more. Naturally the gallery features a sizable collection of Pro's Art too.

Pro Hart is more of an Australian icon, remembered as much for the way he applied paint (thanks to various TV commercials) as for the art its self. His signature dragonfly artworks are well represented but Pro's Art is much more about story telling than landscape painting even though much of his work features the Australian Landscape.

His early works depict stories about rural living as well stabs at politics, unions and religion. Later in life Pro's work evolved to a more impressionistic style as he experimented more and more with different ways to apply paint to the canvas (famously using a miniature canon to either burst bags of paint over the canvas or fire paint directly at the surface its self.

Much of Pro's sculpture in metal is inspired by his two dimensional works. Although the sculpture park has quite a number of sculptures they're kind of out of the way and you might not even realise the park is there. One gets the impression that the gallery is less interested in promoting Pro as a sculpture artist?

If you're are and emerging artist or are considering a career as a fine artist then Broken Hill should be high on your list for places to visit. There are so many artists here trying to earn a living full time from their art with many different levels of success. You can learn a lot from just visiting the various galleries and no doubt you can learn even more if you happen to meet the artists themselves.

Broken Hill is an example of a town that has embraced not only its mining heritage but also its arts and cultural community. It really is a cultural centre for the region.

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