19 June 2024

Indigenous art gallery set to open at Glen Iris church

Glenn Loughrey. Picture: Supplied 

By Stephen Cauchi

16 December 2021

A MELBOURNE church aims to enhance community awareness of Aboriginal art and culture, by providing a space for a new Indigenous art gallery.

Opening in early 2022 at St Oswald’s Glen Iris, the Murnong Gallery will showcase the artwork of remote communities, and emerging Aboriginal artists from the area.

It was named for the staple foodstuff the yam daisy, symbolising revival and resurgent culture. 

Artist-in-residence and St Paul’s Cathedral Canon Reverend Glenn Loughrey, a Wiradjuri man from NSW, said the gallery had been a long-held dream. He had already run several smaller exhibitions inside the church. 

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He said there were a lot of Indigenous artists in Melbourne and Victoria, from across Australia. The gallery will showcase work from these artists, as well as those in remote communities. It also hopes to run an annual art prize for emerging Aboriginal artists. 

Owner and director of the Indigenous-focused Hearth Galleries in Healesville Chris Joy will also direct the St Oswald’s gallery.  

She said the gallery was intended to be part a place for education, part a place for retail, and part a place to prioritise Aboriginal voices. 

Ms Joy said she hoped to host four exhibitions a year plus special events, as well as larger events where the church hall is used. 

Chris Joy. Picture: Supplied 

She also hopes to work closely with the Mullum Mullum Indigenous Gathering Place in Croydon, as well as other groups. 

Mr Loughrey will also have a studio at the gallery, which he will use to create artwork. He said his work was dot-style, but not a traditional dot-style, using lines and dots to create patterns, images, and a story. 

“It’s not traditional dot painting in the sense that it doesn’t tell traditional stories and it doesn’t come from the particular space where dot painting is a significant art form – central Australia for example,” he said. 

“Mine is more like mark-making on a canvas and allowing those marks to create patterns and shapes and story but I don’t paint traditional story as such.” 

St Oswald’s parish council representative Peter Johnson said the parish had a long history of supporting community reform and social justice issues. Mr Johnson said the gallery was a separate social enterprise to others run by the church, but it fit neatly into its aspiration to see greater community awareness of Aboriginal art and culture.

In August, St Paul’s Cathedral announced that artwork from Mr Loughrey would be installed in the Cathedral’s narthex screen pending approval from Heritage Victoria. 

The screen is the carved wooden portal separating the entrance from the main body of the church. 

Dean of St Paul’s, the Very Reverend Andreas Loewe, confirmed in early December that approval had been given from Heritage Victoria. 

The artwork depicts a bird’s eye view of the pre-colonial Melbourne region from the Dandenongs to the You Yangs, including Port Phillip Bay, the Yarra River, sacred trees, human footsteps and meeting places.  

Mr Loughrey has already completed the artwork, which has been in the planning stages for two years. The artwork will be traced and casted into the six pieces of semi-opaque glass. 

The screen will be unveiled next year. 

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