Spring Exhibition Suite | Emu Island: Modernism in Place

Celebrating 75 years of Modernist art and living

26 August – 19 November 2017

Click here to view the Catalogue


Once the home and studio of artists Margo and Gerald Lewers, the Gallery site was – and is today – a place of lively debate, artistic creation and exhibition at the foot of the Blue Mountains on the banks of the Nepean River. Coming up against the Nepean River, early settlers thought the land on the mountainside was an island inhabited by Emus hence ‘Emu Island’. The place was considered to be land’s end, but as the home of artists Margo and Gerald Lewers it became the place for new beginnings.

The Gallery site was an ‘island of modernism’ in the Australian suburbs. The Lewers’ home was founded on the principles of modernism – they lived, worked and entertained like-minded contemporaries set on fostering modernism as a holistic way of living. Curated by Dr Shirley Daborn together with consulting curator Dr Cassi Plate, Emu Island: Modernism in Place highlights the cultural significance of the Gallery’s history and site to Modernism in Australia.

Emu Island: Modernism in Place in the Main Gallery showcases the work of the Lewers and their immediate contemporaries over the four-decade period of their residence (1942-1978).  In this place, artists and friends gathered and were inspired by the energy and experimentation of the Lewers home, and beyond, by a rapidly changing world.  The exhibition features works by those at the heart of Sydney Modernism such as: Margo and Gerald Lewers, Frank and Margel Hinder, Judy Cassab, John Olsen, Tony Tuckson, Carl Plate and Robert Klippel among others.

Elsewhere on the site the legacy of Sydney modernism will be highlighted within the original historic home of Margo and Gerald Lewers, now known as the Lewers House Gallery. The work of eight young contemporary artists who continue to grapple with modernist ideals will be showcased in Young Moderns. These Artists include: Emma Beer, Terrence Combos, Sanne Koelemij, Mason Kimber, Nadia Odlum, Helen Shelley, Kael Stasce and Kate Tucker.

In Ancher House, now known as the Modernist Research Centre, the work of the Gallery’s 2017 artist in residence Ian Milliss will be exhibited in Shifting Dirt.  The artist takes his place as the youngest member of the legendary 1960s artist venue, Central Street Gallery, which revolutionised abstract art practice in Sydney. Having access to the Gallery’s modernist art collection and archive, Milliss has produced an extraordinary text based exhibition which reaches into a worker’s history of place based modernism.

Featured image (top of page) Frank Hinder Margel and Gerry Reading 1942 pencil and watercolour on paper 17 x 25.7, Gift of Tanya Crothers and Darani Lewers, 1980 Penrith Regional Gallery & The Lewers Bequest Collection, Copyright Courtesy of the Estate of Frank Hinder

Public Programs

Throughout the exhibition there will be a public program including symposiums, talks, education activities and family fun days.

17 September 2017
Modernism in the Garden

24 September 2017
Into the Archives – Storytelling and Research

15 October 2017
Emu Island – Modernism in Place

22 October 2017
Modernist Art + Architecture


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