This program and video material was originally broadcast on ABC TV’s Stateline NSW on Friday 10-sep-2010 and can be heard at http://www.abc.net.au/news/video/2010/09/10/3008952.htm?site=sydney
It is ironic that 4 years later not very much has changed for the Syron’s vision of a permament Keeping Place for their remarkable art collection. It is worthwhile watching this video again while their network of supporters are still trying to find a permanent home for The Keeping Place, this time at Middle Head, Mosman, in the former buildings of the 10 Terminal Regiment.
|Source:||ABC TV, Stateline NSW|
|Published:||Friday, September 10, 2010 10:24 AEST|
|Expires:||Thursday, December 9, 2010 10:24 AEST|
The ‘Keeping Place’ archive of contemporary Indigenous art and photography is under threat as artist Gordon Syron and wife Elaine Syron are evicted from their Eveleigh home to make way for redevelopment.
QUENTIN DEMPSTER, PRESENTER: An uncertain future. The “Keeping Place” collection has been amassed over 30 years by Aboriginal artist Gordon Syron and his American-born photographer wife Elaine Syron. The collection contains hundreds of works, including both traditional and edgy urban Aboriginal art. It’s currently housed in an old shed at Sydney’s Eveleigh railyards. Recently the Syrons were told to leave and make way for redevelopment. Their collection will have to be put into storage. The collection’s many admirers say it’s a National Treasure that urgently needs to be showcased in a permanent home – but where? A warning to viewers: this story may contain images of people who are no longer living.
GORDON SYRON, ARTIST AND ART COLLECTOR: There’s about 1,400, 1,500-plus paintings in this building. There’s more paintings on shelves put away than what you see than what’s hanging up and the smaller paintings are on shelves. And each painting tells a story, and it tells a story from each individual’s perspective. And of course each perspective is a different story.
ADRIAN NEWSTEAD, COO-EE ART GALLERY: It’s a most remarkable collection of work. Gordon Syron is a renowned urban Aboriginal artist who’s principally exhibited within the Aboriginal community for over 40 years. And during that period he has known and worked with and been associated with a very large number of artists, urban artists with a special concentration around NSW artists, Koori artists, but also much further afield: urban Aboriginal artists from all over Australia and then traditional artists. And as many artists do, he’s swapped works with many of the people that he’s worked with and alongside of. And so over a 40-year period Gordon and Elaine have collected a most eclectic group of artworks.
GORDON SYRON: The photographs are important. They record and show different things in history and what’s happened with Aboriginality. Some of the characters in them, some of those people are not there no more. And that’s important to people.
ELAINE SYRON, PHOTOGRAPHER AND ART COLLECTOR: It’s a national collection and it should be treated with respect and the way that other countries treat their first indigenous people. You know, Gordon is part of the first Australians, and they deserving a keeping place for when the tourists come and then they can see the Aboriginal people working, talk the them, they can tell their stories and somehow it’s things that they choose rather than what the white people choose.
LARISSA BEHRENDT, UTS JUMBUNNA HOUSE OF LEARNING: I think one of the things that everyone in the community’s appreciated is that this is a really significant collection, that Uncle Gordon and Aunty Elaine have been collecting pretty much over a lifetime, so the diversity of the artists, the – its reflection of the richness of contemporary Aboriginal art is really significant to us as a community, and I think also too we feel very strongly that what’s very strongly represented within the collection is urban Aboriginal experience, which doesn’t tend to always be as valued as other Aboriginal art. Uncle Gordon in many ways is a real embodiment of that struggle, and us working so hard to get him acknowledged was also part of a broader plan to try and emphasise that this kind of collection is really reflective of our culture, our contemporary culture, our contemporary urban experience and for those reasons we feel it really should be protected.
IRENE DOUTNEY, CITY OF SYDNEY COUNCIL: This is a treasure trove for Aboriginal art and Aboriginal culture. But for me it’s so important that it is somehow put into a place where it will be safe, where the community will have access to it.
ADRIAN NEWSTEAD: And all of this is sitting in a shed, a railway shed in Redfern. The shed is totally inappropriate for its home and they’re being moved out. And their own future and the future of the collection is uncertain.
GORDON SYRON: Course you can see the mark on the paintings being damaged because of the weather conditions in – it’s suffered in this building.
We’re about to be evicted from this building. We have to find a place for the collection and a place to live – simple as that. And that’s a pretty big task.
ELAINE SYRON: We have agreed to go now because we have to get out of this building and we were hoping that once we go the State Government and the Federal Government and the City of Sydney will help us more. And we are grateful that we had this place to live in for three years and keep the collection together and now we hope to move on and prove a point that we – it’s a struggle and now it’s time to make peace with the governments and hope that they help – we hope that they’ll help us find a benefactor or they’ll buy it themselves.
MICHAEL KIRBY, KEEPING PLACE PATRON: It would be a tragedy if we couldn’t make sure that we’ve got some facility in all of our great and glorious city where we could put together and keep together this collection and have it properly displayed, and not all at once, but bringing out examples of Aboriginal artists, from the marvellous dot paintings of the Northern Territory down to the very accurate portraiture.
GORDON SYRON: I don’t know. It’s all part of my life, I guess, Aboriginal life. It’s been part of my struggle. But I always – you’ll always see the living ships coming through the heads in my paintings.
QUENTIN DEMPSTER: Save the Keeping Place Art.