I was finding some photos online for Elaine Syron this morning, and I had to go to a Facebook site called Syrons Keeping Place that was originally set up back in 1998 by one of their supporters.
Amongst the gems I found there was an ABC Radio package about Syrons Keeping Place that was broadcast on 15-mar-2013 by Sally Sara in The World Today.
Here the text of the interviews which is still worth reading 2 years later. At the end you will find the audio link if you want to listen to the original piece.
Attempts to find a buyer over the years have failed, meaning the collection is locked up and can’t be seen.
SALLY SARA: It’s described as one of the most important Aboriginal art collections in the country.
It’s spent years in warehouses and offices across Sydney, the Syron Collection, also known as a Black Fella’s Dreaming, has been unable to find a permanent home.
It comes as some politicians start questioning why Australia doesn’t have cultural institutions dedicated to Indigenous culture.
Will Ockenden reports.
WILL OCKENDEN: It’s an art collection without parallel but few have ever seen it.
A Black Fella’s Dreaming, or the Syron Collection, has been put together over the past 30 years by artists Gordon Syron and his wife Elaine.
GORDON SYRON: I like art. It gives you a lot of freedom and you can, you can say about whatever you want to paint about and put your own story underneath. If someone’s giving somebody a bad time, I mightn’t be a policeman or a lawyer but I can paint a bloody painting about it, and pay the bugger back or make him change his tune.
WILL OCKENDEN: The collection includes thousands of items ranging from the modern to the traditional, from paintings to photographs. It’s a mixture of his own work and others.
GORDON SYRON: People really take notice to the stories of the paintings. It should make some differences in society. Society think ‘oh paintings, that’s only for the bourgeoisie’, but that’s a load of rubbish. Some of your best paintings come from the most terrible things you know, look at my paintings.
WILL OCKENDEN: Gordon Syron’s love of art began in an unlikely place. He learnt to paint while in jail for murder, in the 1970s.
GORDON SYRON: I had guns because I’d go back to the country and that’s all I had it for, for shooting rabbit and foxes and things like that and of course I had a .22 rifle, I had a.303 too, but I only took a .22 because away I went and I shot the guy, and put him in the ground.
WILL OCKENDEN: Gordon Syron says the shooting was over a dispute about land, something which has heavily influenced his collection.
GORDON SYRON: It represents the beginning of this country, the beginning of Australia when the British came and taking over this country and took it off the Aboriginal people.
WILL OCKENDEN: Towards the end of his sentence, Mr Syron painted what he considers his most meaningful work.
It’s called Judgement By His Peers, and has a white man as the accused, surrounded by a black jury, gallery and judge.
GORDON SYRON: One of the biggest shocks to my culture was I believed that each person was entitled to be judged by his peers, and his peers were your equals. And when I went to court on the jury they would be some Aboriginal people or some black people or dark people on that jury, but there wasn’t – they were all white fellas.
WILL OCKENDEN: Adrian Newstead, runs the Aboriginal Art Coo-Ee Art Gallery in Sydney.
He says it is a remarkable collection of work.
ADRIAN NEWSTEAD: Gordon collected paintings because he was expanding on a visual black history of New South Wales in particular, but really it can read as a history of dispossession of Aboriginal people.
WILL OCKENDEN: Over the years, parts of the collection have been displayed in various buildings around Sydney.
The Syron Collection has been evicted from some buildings, it’s been displayed temporarily in some galleries and while it’s been popular, the works have eventually gone back into storage.
The long fight to find a buyer – and a permanent home – for the whole collection has some high profile supporters.
The collection now has 11 patrons, including former High Court Justice Michael Kirby, and Liberal Party MP Philip Ruddock.
PHILIP RUDDOCK: It is a unique and very special collection, one in which I came to a view should not be lost.
It says something of our history from the perspective of those who were seen by many to be the losers. To my way of thinking, if it helps to tell that story it’s very important and very unique.
I certainly hope that it will find a very substantial and important home in this great city, that ought to be able to have examples of all of its heritage for all to see and to understand.
WILL OCKENDEN: Despite the lack of a buyer, Gordon Syron says he’ll keep hoping that one day the collection will be displayed for all the people of New South Wales to see.
GORDON SYRON: I’ll never give up painting. Painting keeps me alive. It gives me a voice. It gives me a say. It gives me perspective. I say I’ve got a triple PhD, I got a triple PhD from the university of life. Once you get a triple PhD you never forget – there’s no text book you can look up. You retain it up here, and if you forget it, well it’s gone.
SALLY SARA: That’s artist Gordon Syron, ending that report from Will Ockenden.