Artists Pilar Mata Dupont and Maike Hemmers in their installation.

 

Set among the traditional gallery rooms and historical artworks, the Bendigo Art Gallery’s current exhibition, New Histories is bound to provoke much interest.

New Histories is based on curator Jessica Bridgfoot’s proposal of asking contemporary artists to respond to 10 historic pieces in the gallery’s collection.

The artists she chose include Denis Chapman, Seecum Cheung, Maike Hemmers, Pilar Mata Dupont, Isabelle Sully, Flora Woudstra, Gabrielle de Vietri, Devon Ackermann, Paul Yore, Juan Ford, Andrew Goodman, Bridie Lunney, Phuong Ngo, Jacques Soddell and Christian Thompson.

“It was a basically simple idea with a lot of meaning,” Ms Bridgefoot said.

“The artists I chose are politically engaged with many issues.”

Two of the artists, Maike Hemmers and Pilar Mata Dupont who were at the opening of New Histories, live and practise in Rotterdam.

Along with Seecum Cheung, Isabelle Sully, and Flora Woudstra, the artists travelled to Paris to study the work of Agnes Goodsir, her life and oeuvre.

Probably one of the most popular portraits in the gallery, Goodsir’s Girl with a Cigarette (circa 1925) is both arresting and handsome.

Ms Dupont and Ms Hemmers were intrigued by Goodsir’s domestic background.

She frequently painted her lifelong partner Rachel (Cherry) Dunn who in Girl with a Cigarette insouciantly stares straight at the viewer.
Goodsir, the artists discovered, had come a long way from conservative Bendigo.

While working in Paris, Goodsir shared her apartment with Cherry and is buried with her.

The artists took a feminist response to Goodsir and produced a three-channel video, Attending to Agnes, 2018, which reflects their collaboration.

Rather than producing a narrative, their video is a conglomeration of the process they employed in responding to Goodsir as well as the emotions and ideas that she provoked within them.

One scene from the film that stays with the viewer is when the women visit Goodsir and Cherry’s grave in Paris.

The 10 pieces in New Histories will be on display until July 29.