We went to Ballarat to see this, the first of what hopefully will be a biennial event. The image above is Ballarat Landscape by Josh Muir of Ballarat. Very striking.

The whole idea seems to have been driven by a single person, Julie Collins who is described as the artistic director in the catalogue. Like all new ambitious ideas everywhere she had to overcome a fair bit of scepticism, which must still rankle as she puts it all in her description of the BOAA journey as she calls it: why isn’t it in Melbourne, isn’t Bendigo the arts and cultural regional town, it’s very ambitious (like ambition was a dirty word) you don’t work for a major institution, why don’t you start small and then grow (I am) you’re only in it for the money (oh the irony) who do you think you are, what makes you think you are as good as other Biennale Directors?.

She had to give up her job and spend some years on the project. But she managed to get support all of which is acknowledged in the catalogue. It came from the State Government and some major philanthropists but also from a lot of Ballarat people – the council, local businesses and individuals. Julie gives special thanks to individuals on the BOAA Board, BOAA patrons and Team BOAA. A major undertaking and a lot of work from a lot of people. Not least the artists.

There’s lots of art, in lots of different forms, to see in a range of places around the city; in fact too much to take in on one visit even extending over two days – 150 artists, 65 solo exhibitions and 14 locations. If it happens every two years as planned, it’s a terrific complement to the Ballarat International Foto Biennale which would be held every other year and which is another great event.

Julie’s rightly proud of the fact that all of the artists were paid for their work. The aim was to reflect the diversity of voices and practices from across Australia in answering the question: what are our stories, who are they about and what does it mean to be Australian?

There were artists from every state and territory, Ballarat artists as well as Australian artists living overseas. Artists biographies and Artist Statements accompany all of the pieces on display. We only got to a fraction of the total that was on offer, and found it all interesting, thought provoking and some of it quite brilliant. It’s on until Tuesday, 6 November 2018 and I strongly recommend a visit, even if you can only get there for a day. A two day pass costs $25 and that’s cheap even if you only manage one day.

There’s too much for a single blog so I’ll do separate ones for the major locations we visited. But here are my very favourite things across the whole Biennale with the artist and location identified. It was very hard to choose. Remember to click on the photos to see them enlarged.

Jenny Crompton, Ballarat Welcome Centre. She’s from Victoria and I’ve seen her work before and this is in a similar style but taking it to another level I believe. It’s called Phototaxes which is about things being drawn to light. See more of it here.

Amy Joy Watson, St Andrews. She’s from South Australia and this is a South Australian landscape. It was extremely hard to photograph because it is so big and also reflects the lights around it. It’s all embroidery using glittering thread that sparkles in every direction. The close up shows how its done.

Numina Sisters, Art Gallery of Ballarat. Six sisters and their mother from the Northern Territory. Very large paintings in the traditional Indigenous style. Wonderful. There are more of them here.

Skunk Control, George Farmer Building. They describe themselves as a group operating out of Victoria University interested in mechatronics, optics lighting and alternative technologies. This was like a giant kaleidoscope. Very original and very beautiful. There are a couple more photos of it here.

Faridah Cameron, Art Gallery of Ballarat. She’s from Tasmania and I loved all of her work which I thought originally were all needlework but in fact are a combination of painting and stitching. I’ve never seen anything like it before. The close up shows the technique. See some of her other work here.

Asher Bilu, Art Gallery of Ballarat. He’s from Victoria and I liked all three of his installations at the gallery. This one is made of resin and highlights the vagaries of light; shadows and reflections everywhere. Beautiful.

Vince Vozzo, Lakeside Sculpture Walk. I didn’t get to see anywhere near all the statues but this one was quite arresting. Vince is from New South Wales and tells us he’s a second generation Italian-Australian family with no artistic bent at all. He’s channelling the great Italian marble sculptors here.


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