Explore the current art exhibitions on display at Muswellbrook Regional Arts Centre. Discover the work of regional artists, national art prizes, our collections and more across five exhibition spaces.

Summer Fling: works from the Collections

7 January to 29 April 2023

‘I almost wish we were butterflies and liv’d but three summer days – three such days with you I could fill with more delight than fifty common years could ever contain’ – John Keats in a letter to Fanny Brawne 1819.

Drawing from both the Max Watters and Muswellbrook Shire Art Collections, ‘Summer Fling’ evokes a sense of summer romanticism, with scenes of sundrenched lovers and dreamy mirages. Including works by Brett Whiteley, James Clifford and Richard Larter, experience the hazy summer days and hot restless nights encapsulated within the gallery walls.

James Clifford, Glen 1980, enamel on hardboard, 62 x 122cm, Muswellbrook Shire Art Collection, Donation courtesy Watters Gallery, Sydney.

Muswellbrook Art Prize

27 February to 29 April 2023

Since 1958, the Muswellbrook Art Prize has grown and evolved and is today one of the richest prizes for painting in regional Australia. Finalists for the Muswellbrook Art Prize vie for a total of $70,000 prize money across three prize categories: Painting ($50,000 acquisitive), Works on Paper ($10,000 acquisitive), and Ceramics ($10,000 acquisitive).

Astute adjudication of the Prize over the years has yielded an excellent collection of modern and contemporary Australian paintings, works on paper and ceramics from the Post War period of the 20th Century and into the 21st Century, with the winning acquisitive works forming the nucleus of what is now known as the Muswellbrook Shire Art Collection. Previous winners of the Muswellbrook Art Prize include such key figures as David Aspden, Sydney Ball, Richard Larter and Fred Williams. The Upper Hunter Region is also well represented with a number of local artists being successful in winning the Prize including Peter Atkins, Dale Frank, Lyn Nash and Hanna Kay.

Along with Muswellbrook Shire Council, who since 1958 has acted as sponsor and administrator of the Muswellbrook Art Prize, Bengalla Mining Company has generously sponsored the Prize for close to three decades, their commitment ensuring the development of the Muswellbrook Shire Art Collection.

Tuppy Ngintja Goodwin, ‘Antara’ 2022, acrylic on linen, 198 x 198 cm, Finalist, Muswellbrook Art Prize 2023, Painting.

Art Tracks VI: The pastoral, the picturesque and the sublime

27 February to 24 June 2023

The Art Tracks exhibition series, coinciding each year with the Muswellbrook Art Prize, showcases works acquired from previous winners and finalists of the Prize. ‘Art Tracks VI: The pastoral, the picturesque and the sublime’ explores aesthetic concepts established during the 19th century’s golden age of landscape painting which saw the natural world divided into three categories.

While pastoral and picturesque landscapes reference the ability of humankind to control and tame nature, sublime landscapes describe nature as beauty laced with a certain danger. As illuminated by Art Tracks VI’s contemporary interpretations, these competing means of examining nature are of enduring significance to our collective experience.

Noel McKenna, ‘untitled’ 1995, oil and enamel on hardboard, 54 x 96 x cm, Muswellbrook Shire Art Collection, Winner, Muswellbrook Open Art Prize 1995.

Wonnarua: Ryan Lee

27 February to 24 June 2023

‘Wonnarua’ is a contemplative moving image installation work that aims to provoke discussion around themes of Indigenous ways of living in juxtaposition with western settler-state system’s unsustainable, damaging ways of using stolen lands.

The video diptych contrasts living portraits of six First Nations people from the Wonnarua Nation with drone shots of the Muswellbrook coal mines, which are situated in the heart of Wonnarua Country.

‘Wonnarua’ is a provocation around the urgency for enquiry into how our environment is currently being managed, and alludes the remedy is to intergrate aspects of traditional First Nation’s sustainable practices for caring for Country.

Ryan Andrew Lee, ‘Wonnarua’ 2020 (video still), 2 channel video, 02:01 mins.

Australia: Muswellbrook South Public School

27 February to 29 April 2023

Muswellbrook South Public School’s ‘Art Club’ nurtures creativity and artistic ability, providing avenues for students to explore, design, and imagine. Each day, participating students use a variety of mediums, including paints, charcoal, chalk pastels, oil pastels, textas, pencils, and pens, to create artwork of their choosing.

For their exhibition at Muswellbrook Regional Arts Centre, students were invited to use chalk pastels to create an artwork that represents ‘Australia’ – a theme selected by the club. The flexible use of chalk pastel provided students with an opportunity to develop, improve, and refine their skills, the works produced capturing an array of internationally celebrated Australian icons.

Lauren Godfrey, ‘The Jumping Kangaroo’ 2022, pastel on paper.