"The 'three ducks' are Anne Langdon, printmaker and established Australian and international artist, quirky photographer Pru Saimoun, and photographer and lover of life, Pat Cameron. The exhibition will be officially opened at 4pm on Saturday 23 and will be open daily throughout the week from 10am till 4pm."
Pat Cameron, The Hamilton Spectator, Tuesday August 12 2008, page 8.
Inspired by the ABC's popular television program, and largely organised by local artist and collector Annette Huf, this exhibition aimed to allow local collectors the opportunity to share their passion with the wider community.
ABC South West Victoria Breakfast Presenter Jeremy Lee travelled to Dunkeld to speak with Annette about her own collection. He began by asking Trevor Flinn about converting the old station into an exhibition space.
Following the success of The Puma, The Stranger and The Mountain in 2007, it was felt that further exhibitions should take place in Dunkeld, utilising the old station building as an exhibition space.
Jan Leishman and Pru Saimoun, two local artists who seemed particularly enthusiastic about using the space, approached Trevor Flinn to form a collective and discuss their ideas. Jan (who makes tapestrys) invited Pru (a photographer) and Trevor to her place to discuss the possibilities. It didn't take long to decide that the next exhibition to take place in the Old Station should be a group show representing the work of Dunkeld's growing number of artists.
Having compiled a list of local artists, Jan and Pru set about contacting each person and inviting them to submit one or two works for display. Meanwhile Trevor contacted the community relations manager of V/Line and requested the use of the building over the Easter long weekend.
The show, it was decided, would be called 'All Aboard' and the old station would in turn be known as Off The Rails Gallery.
Those organising the exhibition wanted to make sure that all exhibitors had the opportunity to show their work in an environment that made them feel comfortable. The exhibition was intended as a chance for all involved to display new work or works that had never been on public show before.
It was hoped that the exhibition would provide the opportunity for local artists to get together and meet each other. But it was equally about giving interested locals the rare chance to see a variety of artwork, produced by 13 different artists, all in one convenient location.
The first step towards creating a project that utilised Dunkeld's derelict station began with an attempt to capture the likeness of the building through a series of carefully constructed drawings.
I had for many years been interested in the old station building, and had also recently discovered Peter Greenaway’s 1982 film 'The Draughtsman’s Contract'. So after receiving developmental funding from Next Wave, I set about constructing my own version of the drawing apparatus, which appeared in Greenaway’s film.
After some research I discovered that the apparatus is called a proportional divider, and was used by draughtsman in the 17th Century to determine perspective by fixing the eye of the artist in one point which directly co-responded to a carefully gridded picture plane.
After constructing an equivalent device, from an old camera tripod, cotton and wood, I set about experimenting with it by drawing various views of the old station. I followed a similar approach to Greenaway’s protagonist, by drawing for only short periods (2 hours) in each position, at exactly the same time each day. I chose days with strong light in order to capture the most contrast between light and shade.
Through the use of the proportional divider, I tried my hardest to draw what I saw, rather than what I knew to be in front of me.
I completed five drawings of the old station, including two of the dilapidated interior. I then began tackling other buildings in town that looked similarly neglected, or abandoned.
Ultimately these drawings helped me to clearly visualise the space. In the end these drawings did feature in the first exhibition held at the station (The Puma, The Stranger & The Mountain) but since then I have not returned to this method of working.
Before embarking on my ambitious plan to transform Dunkeld's disused railway station into a vibrant contemporary art space, I wanted to find out as much as I could about the site's history.
Growing up in Dunkeld in the 1980's meant that my own memories of the building are fairly sketchy. After 1981 there were no more passenger services running from Dunkeld Station, so if you wanted to travel by public transport to Melbourne you had to catch the V-Line bus which would pause outside the station building. This was my only real connection with the building.
In an attempt to gather further information about the building I visited the Dunkeld Museum. Thanks to the enthusiasm of passionate historian, and local identity, Joy Clarke (as well as the recollections from numerous other locals) I was able to begin to appreciate just how important the station was to the town.
At one time the station employed nearly half a dozen people many of whom lived in the various railway buildings which used to dot the surrounding area. All manner of goods were transported on railway trucks, including livestock, sandstone, wool bales and in the early 1930s even swaggies.
Many Dunkeld residents recall catching the train or greeting people at the station. To many the Dunkeld station was their last glimpse of home before being whisked away to boarding school or the war.
In the early 1990s there were plans to turn the derelict building into a space for the local youth group. Most of the internal fittings, including various dividing walls, were removed and the wooden floor was replaced with concrete. A large section of wall was rendered in preparation for re-plastering.
Once the youth group (which I don't believe ever formally used the building) folded the old station was forgotten by many. I believe at one time there was a plan to turn the building into a restaurant- but again nothing eventuated.
In 1999, the Kennett Government undertook a plan to privatise the regional rail network. Pacific National was given a 45-year lease over the state's freight rail network. Unfortunately this meant there was little incentive to properly maintain either the track or the railway infrastructure.
I first contacted the Real Estate agent responsible for the building and surrounding lands in late 2005. I was subsequently contacted by the VicTrack property department who advised me that Pacific National was still negotiating the release of a number of sites back to VicTrack control. The disused Dunkeld Station being one of them.
In May, 2007, Victorian Public Transport Minister, Lynne Kosky, announced that as part of a $133.8 million buyback, about 350 Pacific National staff were transferred to V/Line and the regional rail network was back in public hands.
By late 2007, after months of lobbying, I was able to temporarly use the station building and surrounds for the purpose of a one off exhibition. Thanks to the assistance of V/Line's Community Relations Manager I was finally able to begin to transform the area into an exciting arts hub that I hoped would stir up some local interest.
The single rail line which still runs through Dunkeld, in an East/West direction, is still used by goods trains, though increasingly infrequently. With increasing petrol prices and the ever present need to transport large amounts of goods vast distances across the country it seems a shame that Victoria's regional rail network is not greater utilised.
Following a successful application to Next Wave, a biennial festival and artist development organisation, Dunkeld artist Trevor Flinn has embarked on a plan to transform the old Dunkeld Station into an artist run initiative (ARI) dedicated to the exhibition of contemporary art.
Following V-line’s enthusiastic response to his proposal, Trevor is currently in negotiations with them to lease the sight. In the meantime, Trevor will concentrate on transforming the bare building and its surrounds into a place for artistic experimentation and exhibition.
In keeping with Next Wave’s theme ‘closer together’, Trevor has chosen to collaborate with Melbourne based artist Cecilia Fogelberg on the first exhibition, which will be launched during the town’s Arts Festival in November. Titled The Puma, The Stranger and The Mountain, the exhibition will showcase new works by both artists, in a variety of mediums, relating to their experience of local landscape, and legend.
Trevor sees this project as an opportunity to make a positive difference to this building, which has suffered lately, and at the same time bring people closer together through a mutual appreciation of the arts: “It is my intention to raise the profile of the building and to create an event that will ‘kick-start’ the development of the old station into a space devoted to the making and showing of contemporary art in regional Victoria.”
In addition to the exhibition, the old Station will play host to a live graffiti demonstration by Melbourne based artist Michael Porter. Through the course of the day Michael will paint a large, specially constructed wall beside the old station. The public will be able to watch the artist as he works, and the finished work will go on permanent display in the station building.
Trevor hopes his efforts will challenge the notion that contemporary art can only be experienced in urban centres, and hopes there will be opportunities to continue the project into the future.
“I realise it will be a challenge to maintain the momentum you get from an ‘opening night’, however I’m interested in the possibilities of developing the station building into an, exhibition/studio space, suitable to host an artist in residence. I’m certain a visiting artist would gain as much from working and exhibiting in Dunkeld, as the locals would from having an interested outsider contribute to the cultural life of the town.”
The Puma The Stranger and The Mountain exhibition can be viewed at the old Dunkeld Station during the Dunkeld Arts Festival on the 3rd of November, and will be open during weekends until the 2nd of December.