Tuesday, 13 September 2016

DAVID THROSBY on 'support for individual artists'


31 August 2016

One of the casualties of the ill-starred reorganisation of arts funding proposed last year by the then Minister for the Arts, Senator George Brandis, was support for individual artists. If his plan had gone ahead, it would have resulted in a further consolidation of funding for the major performing companies at the expense of the lone creative practitioner.

But in its replacement – the Catalyst fund put in place by the new Minister Senator Mitch Fifield – the support prospects for individual artists have not improved much. Catalyst does not fund individuals directly.

Policy conflicts between the funding demands of large performing companies and the needs of the individual creative artist are by no means new. In Australia, they can be traced back as far as the years immediately following the establishment of the Australia Council.
An early vision of the Council’s inaugural chair, Nugget Coombs, was the setting up of well-funded performing companies of international standard in theatre, music and ballet. A consequence of this policy was that during the late 1970s, support for these organisations was absorbing what was seen as a disproportionate share of the available money.

To counteract this trend, a proposal was put to the Council in 1980 by the Literature Board, supported by the Visual Arts and Crafts Boards, for a study into the circumstances of the individual creative artist, in the expectation that such a study would highlight the disadvantage suffered by these boards’ clientele, and would propose remedies. The proposal led to the establishment in 1981 of the Individual Artists Inquiry.

I was invited to chair the Inquiry. Its committee comprised senior artists and arts industry personnel with a wide range of experience and expertise representing writers, visual artists, craftspeople, actors, dancers, musicians, composers, directors and community artists.
Given the lack of data about artists’ economic circumstances, we began by designing and commissioning the first ever national survey of Australian artists to gather the essential information to guide our deliberations. The Inquiry completed its work in August 1983 and its report, entitled The Artist in Australia Today, was published later that year.

What can we learn looking back on the findings and recommendations of this Inquiry from a vantage point 33 years later? The first observation is how little has changed.
The survey documented the relatively low incomes earned from creative work, the extent to which artists were obliged by economic necessity to seek other jobs to support their creative practice, and the difficulties artists faced in establishing their right to recognition in a world where being an artist was not looked upon as a professional occupation. All remain serious issues affecting art practice today.

The Inquiry’s wide-ranging recommendations dealt with the status of the artist, issues relating to artists’ employment and working conditions, and the various means for providing assistance to support their work. Not surprisingly the 1983 Committee recommended an increase in funding for “initial creative artists”, an outcome argued as being achievable without disadvantaging the big performing companies.

Many of the Inquiry’s observations have some continuing resonance: the importance of supporting emerging artists; the need for more effective copyright protection; the role of artists’ residencies; dealing with obstacles in the way of a full recognition of artists’ rights; and so on.

To its credit, the Australia Council acted on many of the Inquiry’s recommendations, elevating a concern for the professional welfare of the individual artist in its policy priorities, a position the Council still holds to today, even when government intentions point in another direction.

All committees of inquiry end with proposals for further research and this one was no exception. In particular the report stressed the need to keep the data about practising professional artists up to date.

Accordingly, successive Australia Councils have commissioned new surveys every few years since the 1980s, all of which have been undertaken by me and my colleagues at Macquarie University, and all of which have continued to paint a bleak picture of artists’ circumstances.

Their incomes have remained relatively low; full-time work as a creative artist continues to be out of reach for most practitioners; economic factors are still the major impediment to artists’ opportunities to expand their work profile; and ongoing shortcomings persist in the public and administrative recognition of artists’ professional status.

The last-mentioned problem is reflected in the ironic titles of the survey reports we have published over the years: When are you going to get a real job? (1989); But what do you do for a living? (1994); Don’t give up your day job! (2003); Do you really expect to get paid? (2010).

At present we are in the midst of conducting a new edition of the survey, again funded by a grant from the Australia Council. The hunt is on for a title for the report from the survey, to be published early next year. Suggestions please!

StARTers Market

WINDOWSPACE has been asked to mention this event in North Melbourne ...

“....  exciting new initiative is being launched on Sunday 16th October 2016 as part of the Spring Fling Festival to showcase and support Melbourne’s large number of talented artists & creators. 

Sponsored stall spaces are being offered specifically to emerging artists, designers, photographers and makers who have had minimal previous exposure and are looking to get their talents recognised!
Successful applicants can choose to either sell their work or simply exhibit at the market, and expressions of interest will be accepted from individuals and small groups with all levels of artistic experience. Participants in the first StARTers Market will be chosen based on their creativity, diversity and focus on sustainable practises, and are encouraged to make their space at the market exciting with colour, music and opportunities for people to interact with their work.”

Press release is attached and this is the facebook event specifically for the StARTers Market. Have also attached some images of how it will look on the day. They are given 2 fence panels and can do what they like to exhibit or sell their work within this space. Will be located on Victoria Street.

Links related to festival are provided below.


Monday, 5 September 2016



BARRY MOUSLEY, Diorama (2016)
Mixed media installation

Current: September, 2016
View at: 79 Main Street BEEAC

… a lake in the window …

Think heraldry, stained glass, illustrated manuscripts – the impetus behind medieval imagery is instructive: this is the setting, this is the story, these are the characters. If you can’t read the story, you can see it.

Corrunnen artist, Barry Mousley, cites medieval manuscripts and stained glass as formative influences on his work. These ‘early’ practices might appear at odds with Mousley’s world, his contemporary documentation of changes in a unique and fragile Ramsar Lake zone and his specialization in Australian wildlife, particularly endangered & lesser known species. How do medieval imagery and contemporary nature resolve, visually?

Like the ‘authors’ of manuscript and glass, Mousley is inspired by a desire to record, to share, to tell, to show. To wit, BM: ‘You know it’s been pretty windy. There was this awful rattle in our chimney. I thought Uh Oh. It settled and then happened again. In the still I went outside and this is what I found.’ Mousley whips out his wee camera, No 2#. There on a chimney are the angular shapes of a cormorant! Now, only now, this writer knows there are cormorants in these parts; has seen one on Barry’s chimney. Clear, informative, exciting. Expect a cormorant to appear by Mousley’s hand, soon.

While his work is literal, it play tricks – tromp d’oeil, Escher-like, but above all Mousley’s art is ‘loving’: a caress detected in the infinite subtlety of what appears such fidelity, is what sets it apart. There is a glow in the attention to subject accuracy, not slavish verisimilitude. There is a warmth and fervor in the desire to share a knowledge of what has been seen and found – in his locality – and Mousley renders this desire.

His works are not fictions, nor intellectual constructs, rather evidence of delight and joy in marvels of the natural world. Where Attenborough hugs a chimp or grovels with a gorilla, Mousley hugs the paints and grounds, shapes and colours that allow him to share with such delight what he has seen around him. His work is his ‘manuscript’ of this experience, his means to share the story of what is precious around him.

Mousley’s visual interests are anchored and informed by his practical engagement with Birds Australia, Parks Victoria, the Wildlife Arts Society and Greening Australia. His talent is to bring his interest in the natural world and his visual capabilities together in the humming unison of an irresistible story that everyone can ‘read’.