Sketches help artist make sense of past

At the start of the millennium, Wollongong artist Garry Jones found himself drawn to old family Polaroids of the Green Valley neighbourhood where he grew up.

He decided to paint these photographs to find a way to make sense of his engagement with place and to understand the progression of his life from a child to adult.

But the project stalled, and for more than 10 years the sketches and oil paintings remained in Jones' vault because no suitable opportunity came to display them.

But when his mother passed away at the end of last year, he found himself drawn back to these earlier pieces as he tried to make sense of his life once again.

"Through that process of thinking about what it all means I remembered those paintings and thought it would be a nice way to engage with this show, which is about blokes living in this area and how we identify" he says.

The show he means is Menagerie, a small exhibition featuring the male members of the Illawarra Association for the Visual Arts, a predominantly female group, that aims to showcase their work and encourage other men to join up.

The five men involved in this exhibition - Jones, Michael Huppartz, Robert Reid, Andrew Netherwood and Damian Bancks - all have vastly different styles and art interests, expressed in the 15 pieces on display.

Jones says their different approaches made it a challenge to find a way to unify their work, but he is extremely pleased with how it has turned out.

"There was, to a certain degree, a level of concern about will it be a smorgasbord, will it come together as a coherent body or whether it will look like a bunch of odds and bods," he says.

"That's why we thought the title was so apt."

Jones has had a varied career in his almost 30 years as an artist. He has worked as a screen printer, a curator, a graphic designer, was the inaugural Indigenous Cultural Development Officer for the New South Wales Ministry for the Arts and currently teaches at the University of Wollongong, and has explored a huge range of artistic styles using a variety of materials.

While his current work is different to that which he has decided to put on show, he picked the older pieces because he finds them interesting for the fact they're paintings of existing images.

"They're one step beyond the photo album, they're copies of photos and photos are copies of reality," he says.

ART TALK

JUNIOR ART TRAIL

February 8

Wollongong City Gallery

Cost: Free

A fun tour through the gallery designed for three to five-year-olds, exploring art through storytelling, art-making, songs and games. 

Bookings essential.

COLLAGE AND MIXED MEDIA WORKSHOP

February 16

Wollongong City Gallery

Cost: $60

Elspeth McCombe leads this workshop, featuring a variety of painting and drawing techniques and materials, between noon and 4pm.

WHAT TOMORROW BRINGS

Until February 17

Wollongong City Gallery

Eight contemporary artists present their vision of the world of tomorrow. Features Arthur Apanski, Scott Branden, Jasmin Carter, Lachlan Conn and Michael Prior, Anita Larkin, David Lawrey and Jaki Middleton. 

STENCIL ART WORKSHOP

February 17

Wollongong City Gallery

Cost: $30

Learn how to cut a multi-layer stencil and spray paint it on an underlying surface to produce an artwork with Poncho Army (pictured), the gallery’s artist in residence. 

It runs from noon to 4pm and is for people aged 16 and above. Beginners welcome.

LOCAL: CURRENT 2012

Until February 24

Wollongong City Gallery

A survey of recent work by 10 Illawarra artists including John Bokor, Matt Chilby, Jill Darville, Melanie Duncan, Kimberley Ebbeck, Michael Huppatz, Sally Kidall, Virginia Settre, Broc Webster and Joshua Wiffen.

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