Stephen Bird: Once Upon a Time in New England - Art Collector

  Stephen Bird, Acacia Creek, glazed ceramic, 32 x 26 x 14cm. Courtesy: the artist and Gould Galleries, South Yarra

In 1842, Ralph Reid emigrated with his wife Emily from Scotland to Australia. He was a sheep farmer and had a family of 12 children. He committed suicide on April 24, 1868 and was buried in un-consecrated ground in a single grave near the Queensland, New South Wales border overlooking Acacia Creek. Ralph Reid was Stephen Bird’s great-great grandfather.

Bird’s cousin Lyn Spain, after much research, discovered the grave in 2009. In the summer of 2013, Bird together with Neil Irons and Paul Smith (all past students from the Duncan of Jordanstone Art College, Dundee) met in Sydney to undertake a journey into the outback to explore this family myth in closer detail.

Their expedition was forced further inland where they discovered tranquil forests and shaded river banks, which they painted and filmed, and tried to rationalize the disparate narratives they had unearthed. A commemorative grave stone with the date '1868' stands in a paddock, financed and erected posthumously by Ralph Reid's son 29 years after the tragic event. The trio finally reach the burial site with the help of Lyn Spain who has meticulously restored this stone 117 years later and regularly travels 134 km to tend it with 'wet and forget'.

Using expanded narrative, irony, words and deadpan humour, Bird aims to rationalize and expel some of the bad sprits that reverberate through time.

Exhibition opens: 2-5pm Saturday 15 November 2014
Exhibition closes: 6 December 2014
Location: Gould Galleries, 270 Toorak Road South Yarra VIC 3141

Contact: 03 9827 8482

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