Damien Minton Gallery: Landscapes of the Interior - Art Collector

Issue 49, July - September 2009

For dealer Damien Minton, the growing interest of western artists in Indigenous art has sparked a vibrant new genre of landscape painting. In this new phase of Australian art history, love of country has replaced the old fear of Australia’s harsh interior, writes Helen McKenzie.

Sydney gallerist Damien Minton has no doubt we are witnessing a new period in Australian art history. “It’s a landscape movement yet to be seriously analysed,” he says. “It comes from a lot of white western artists, who like all of us, have been looking at, enjoying and understanding Indigenous contemporary art. It is not that the artists are interested in copying or appropriating styles or form, it is about the love of country.”

Minton refers to artists such as Elisabeth Cummings, John R Walker, and from his own stable, Ross Laurie. “Ross can talk to you about de Kooning for two hours but he can also talk to you about Rover Thomas for four hours and that gets into his work. It is at this nexus that really interesting things develop.”

In 2005 Damien Minton Gallery relocated from Newcastle to Redfern. It was a move motivated by frustration with the regional art scene. While there were plenty of good artists to present and a core of support from a small sector of the community, Minton found that for the most part the Newcastle market was more interested in plasma televisions and big name artists rather than the work of emerging or mid-career artists.

Minton says his Sydney gallery is “a platform for artists to do their thing and for people to develop a conversation and appreciate the work.” There are two spaces, one that can accommodate a substantial show and one that Minton calls his laboratory for smaller bodies of work. Minton says it’s “a nurturing, organic environment, that allows us to have a bit more freedom; often it is the place for an artist’s first show”.

The represented artists – who Minton says are signed on with “a conversation, trust and a handshake” – include Ross Laurie, Elaine Campaner, Peter Gardiner and newcomer China de la Vega. Minton’s biggest success to date is Shonah Trescott. Trescott now lives and works in Leipzig where she has shown with internationally renowned Galerie EIGEN + ART. “It was really rewarding to have her first serious solo shows here,” says Minton, “she is young, just 26, but she has a very wise head on her shoulders, and knows that being an artist is a lifetime vocation.” Trescott is an artist in high demand and there is a waiting list for her work. Minton freely admits that those who have supported the gallery get preferential treatment.

Twice a year Damien Minton Gallery hosts themed group shows. Past shows include Out of Hill End to West via East, a homage to Ian Fairweather, and From the Kitchen Table, an exhibition on the topic of art and motherhood. Unequivocally, Minton’s favourite group show was The Coloured Digger, which honoured Indigenous war veterans. “It was a movement that started here in Redfern and it was fantastic connecting with the local community. What was truly overwhelming was the response of white artists wanting to participate.”

Minton’s future direction for the gallery is clear: “What I’m interested in is the interaction between black and white and how it is articulated. Within our lifetime there has been a big shift in our perception of the interior of Australia. I think we no longer look at it as desolate and foreboding but as a place of significance and renewal.”

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