Western Australia's Gold Rush Inspires New FORM Exhibition
Western Australia’s iconic gold mining towns are the inspiration for FORM’s latest exhibition Bedazzle – Photographing Western Australia’s Gold Towns, a compelling and darkly humorous exploration of our regional gothic.
Opening at FORM Gallery on the 13th July, Bedazzle takes the State’s gold rush as a point of departure for new contemporary art by three leading Western Australian artists, developed through residencies in the Pilbara and Goldfields-Esperance regions during 2015 and 2016.
FORM invited Thea Costantino, Rebecca Dagnall, and Tarryn Gill to create works capturing some of Western Australia’s most haunting remote landscapes and drawing on the State’s evocative gold rush past as part of its annual regional residency program.
The artists explore the legacy of the first of Western Australia’s many mining industry booms. For this they worked in Western Australia’s hottest town, Marble Bar, the iconic gold town of Kalgoorlie-Boulder, the eerie ghost town of Gwalia, and the mining communities of Kambalda, Menzies, and Coolgardie.
Exhibition co-curator Andrew Nicholls said Costantino, Dagnall, and Gill were renowned for their narrative use of photography. “These three artists use the photographic medium to explore and critique Australian nationalism and post-colonial history,” he said. “We knew they were the ideal choice to weave a series of darkly humorous narratives around the notion of a culture obsessed with wealth from the ground.”
FORM’s residency program specifically looks to engage mid-career artists, providing an ideal opportunity for them to explore new conceptual ground while sharing their well-established skills with communities. The three Bedazzle artists delivered workshop programming to regional participants while developing their work during the various project field trips.
Co-curator Mollie Hewitt said it was an important part of FORM's work to create new and unique opportunities for artists at crucial moments in their careers.
The project began in Marble Bar, 1,500 km north of Perth, in March 2015. A mining community boasting a population of 5,000 at the height of the 1890s gold rush, it has dwindled to fewer than 200 residents today but remains rich in local folklore and idiosyncratic myth. It became known as Australia’s hottest town following its unsurpassed world record heat wave of 160 days over 37.8 °C during the summer of 1923-1924.
This exhibition takes its name from the 413 oz gold nugget ‘Bobby Dazzler’, one of a number of sizeable gold nuggets discovered in Marble Bar during the 1890s. Further residencies took place in the Goldfields-Esperance region in early 2016 at the invitation of the Goldfields Arts Centre.
FORM’s mission is to ‘build a State of creativity’ in Western Australia, by supporting the conditions for artistic excellence and creativity to flourish. One of the ways we do this is by commissioning new works articulating the unique identities of the State’s diverse communities and landscapes, and drawing inspiration from our State’s history. Bedazzle has grown directly from 10 years of engagement with communities in the Pilbara, and a series of significant projects in the Goldfields-Esperance region since the 1980s.