Common-Place: Works from the Collection

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Jan Senbergs, Downtown 1991, pastel and acrylic wash on paper. Kedumba Collection of Australian Drawings

Curated by Cecilie Knowles

Our connection to place helps define who we are. Our personal life histories guide us in forming bonds to our natural and built environments in uniquely complex ways. COMMON-PLACE includes works from the Orange Regional Gallery collection that touch on this human-place connection.

In recent years, during periods of restlessness and sleeplessness, I have walked the rooms of my Grandmother’s house. Built by my Grandfather and demolished more than 20 years ago, the house stands firmly in my memory as a collection of vividly discrete details. Moving through my childhood recollections of this house and garden remains deeply and reliably consoling. The room-by-room memories are equal parts mundane and magical; a green ‘genie’ bottle filled with crushed glass used as a door stop, a bowl of seashells big enough to hear the ocean in, an old bath full of tadpoles and the flash of a sunlit goldfish. My Grandmother’s house holds personal meaning not only for these sensory flashcards my mind holds up but as a memorial to a happy and protected childhood—a present-day retreat from the often harsher adult reality.

This type of connection—based on the creation and recall of memory from a specific place in time seems easy to make sense of—the emotions are expected, the links are obvious. The source of our bonds is not always so clear. Our personal experience and understanding of the historic, political and cultural influences surrounding a place also effect how we perceive it, adding a layer of meaning extrinsic of aesthetics or the physical environment—meanings we may not be consciously aware of. This ‘background story’ may help explain those rare instantaneous connections sometimes felt when experiencing a place for the first time. A response made up of the sum of our life experience—a triggered emotional response to our own history.

I’ve been fortunate in my working life to be involved in a variety of projects that closely examine the importance of place—jobs where significance is established through careful research and a set of well-established criteria. When assessing the cultural significance of a place it is not only the aesthetic qualities that are taken into consideration but also the historic, scientific and social values. For the most part (and certainly so for the built environment) it’s the social values that, for me, have held the most interest—the stories linking people to place that give them their meaning. It’s this intangible, emotional connection to place that I am most excited by and what forms the basis for COMMON-PLACE. A grand landscape, a quiet interior, a tree, a studio, an everyday corner—these works tell a story bigger than the places they represent—they are a unique insight into the personal histories of the people who created them.

Cecilie Knowles
Cecilie has a degree in Fine Arts from Sydney College of the Arts and a background in Heritage, Materials Conservation and Design. She has an interest in traditional art/craft processes and contemporary practice. She is an enthusiastic (novice) hand weaver.

Celilie Knowles - guest curator - web

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