Every year Wollongong Art Gallery's collection of paintings, sculptures and precious artefacts grows larger.
The collection now stands at 3091 pieces, including 67 works acquired in the last financial year - 22 purchased by the gallery and 45 gifted by artists, collectors and benefactors.
"The number acquired each year varies depending on what works are purchased within our acquisition budget allocation and how many works that are offered as gifts we accept," program director John Monteleone said.
In the last financial year council gave $100,000 to the gallery to add art to the vault, but the gallery also uses money from bequests and earned income.
South Coast artist Juz Kitson's ceramic ode to bushfires is the latest to be tapped on the shoulder.
More than 100 hand-formed porcelain objects form the complex wall-based installation, which greets visitors as they walk through the doors.
"I was personally affected by the fires on the South Coast [last summer] and I spent those months like many others in a state of anxiety and survival," the Milton-based creative said.
"It felt like such a timely work to enter their collection and solidify a moment in history we will never forget and importantly it celebrates nature's ability to overcome adversity, its resilience along with its ability for regeneration."
For a work to make the grade, it has to fall under four "focus areas" (Australian art pre-1935, Indigenous art, contemporary Australian art, plus Asian art and objects). It must also "resonate" with other works in the collection.
"We are interested in developing a living collection with works that have the capacity to be exhibited multiple times in many different contexts," Monteleone said.
"Works that have the capacity to tell many and varied stories and that can help illuminate who we are as people and a community by engaging with, interpreting, and revealing our diverse cultural heritage."
Kitson said it was honour for any artist to have a major work acquired by a gallery for many generations to enjoy.
Q&A with Juz Kitson:
Mercury: What does it mean for an artist to have their work acquired by a gallery?
JK: It certainly is an honour for any artist to have a major work acquired by a gallery for many generations to enjoy. This particular work formed a significant milestone in the way I was developing my work and came at a time when I was based in Thirroul/Bulli a few years ago so I think it was a harmonious fit for the work to join WAG's permanent collection.
Mercury: How would you describe the piece acquired by WAG in one sentence?
JK: An incredibly complex wall-based installation made up of over 100 hand formed individual ceramic objects inspired by the aftermath of a wild fire.
Mercury: How long did it take you to create?
JK: The work took over three months to complete, it incorporates porcelain which has black volcanic sand mixed into it and then fired in a traditional atmospheric firing were carbon is trapped into the surface to give it that rich dense charred look.
Mercury: Were you personally affected by last summer's bushfires being based on the South Coast?
JK: Yes I was personally effected by the fires on the south coast and i spent those months like many others in a state of anxiety and survival. I think that's why after I received news of WAG's desire to acquire my work it felt like such a timely work to enter their collection and solidify a moment in history we will never forget and importantly it celebrates natures ability to overcome adversity, it's reslience along with it's ability for regeneration.
Mercury: Are you still partially based in China?
JK: I've held a permanent studio in Jingdezhen China which is the ancient porcelain city for the last eight years, since I haven't been able to access China for all of 2020 and potentially 2021 it has forced me to focus on life here in Australia which after living a nomadic lifestyle for the last decade I have found myself on the complete polar opposite side now, living and working from home and because of this am pushing my practice into new and exciting directions.
Mercury: How has COVID-19 affected the way you create art?
JK: It's certainly made me re-evaluate my entire creative process and how to move forward. I invested 80percent of my practice and production in China and have immersed myself in developing and innovating my work there, working with master craftsman and having the ability to push the boundaries with my work both in scale and technical ability. Without access to all the materials, processes, furnaces and resources I have used to create my installations thus far it naturally has had a profound effect in shaking up my practice and forcing me to look at new ways of making and invest in building a more permanent studio here in Australia.
Have you needed to adapt in any way, and how have you done this?
JK: I think its so important to adapt and be apart of the change. To continue to create exciting and challenging works you have to be resilient. I've set up a large gas kiln for high temperature firings and now have a fully functioning ceramic studio at home so i will be able to continue working and have started hosting workshops at my studio - The Art House Milton. It's a new way of being and an exciting new chapter.