Visiting the Margaret Olley Art Centre at the Tweed Regional Art Gallery was an eye opening experience. Before we start, let me make it known that I am not an art lover. Actually, I don’t much about art. In fact, I could count art galleries I’ve visited on one hand. However, I have heard of the Archibald Prize. So when a more arty friend suggested we see the Archibald 2015 Regional Tour at Murwillumbah, surely it couldn’t hurt to absorb a bit of culture?
So off we went to find the Tweed Regional Art Gallery as a day excursion with a difference.
VIEWS, VISTAS AND ART
Boy was I taken aback when we came across this amazing building set on a hillside overlooking a lush green valley and spectacular Mt Warning.
I soon learned this was the fourth most popular art gallery in Australia. Wow. And all this only a few kilometres from the small regional town of Murwillumbah.
The car park was already half full at 10am when the gallery opened for the day. The veranda café bustled with customers downing coffees pre-opening.
School buses arrived and the children rounded up to begin an activity based visit.
FREE FOR ALL
The gallery art collection numbers 1000 pieces. The general gallery is free to all visitors.
An entrance fee of a mere $10 per adult or $8 concessional ticket was charged to see the Archibald exhibition, which of course we weren’t about to miss.
The entrance to the gallery bordered by a small shop led to a series of small exhibition areas.
The first was the rather stunning ‘Luscious’ by Gatye Kelly, a local Mullumbimby artist.
I really know nothing about art but I know what I like, and I liked Luscious.
The muted colours of her still life exotic fruit set on a dark background with a central soft spotlight made figs, cherries and magnolias literally ‘pop’ off the canvas. Quite stunning.
Another exhibition depicted selfies with animals (a little left field), and others had artist works of whom I knew nothing and which didn’t really excite.
But a highlight was of course the Archibald. This touring exhibition was displayed at the gallery for six weeks.
It included the finalists as well as the actual $100,000 Archibald Prize, People’s Choice, Packer’s choice and Young Archies winners.
I know art is a personal thing, so it was comforting to find that I agreed with the People and Packers choice, a fantastic colourful artwork of Australian Michael Caton.
However I wasn’t that excited about the actual winner which was a rather ghostly apparition of barrister Charles Waterstreet.
A favourite was that of Australian fashion designer Jenny Kee whose vibrant post office red hues jumped off the canvas.
MARGARET OLLEY, A LOCAL HERO
Another personal highlight was the Margaret Olley Art Centre (MOAC). Margaret or “Oll” to her friends was born in Lismore and primary schooled in Murwillumbah.
Her artwork spanned 50 to 60 years and focussed on objects from within her own or friends homes.
Three actual rooms of her home in Sydney have been perfectly replicated in the gallery, even using the original windows and doors.
This in itself is an amazing feat when you see what those rooms looked like in real life (my house looks pristine and minimalistic in comparison!).
She appeared to be quite a character and although she passed away in 2011, her life work now lives on in this stunning resident exhibition.
The atmosphere in the gallery was warm, energetic, vibrant and bustling with activity. There was lively noise and chatter not the usual sombre atmosphere I was expecting.
Children ran around taking part in the gallery’s Children’s Trail and MOAC Kids Guide, as well as using ipads for creating their own amazing artworks.
And to finish off a great morning we popped into the shop to buy souvenirs. Then we just had to have a lunch at the café.
FOOD AND A VIEW
The menu was interesting, with a heavy paleo influence. My haloumi eggplant and zucchini vegetable stack was simply delicious.
And my arty friends shared a more than ample plate of dips with salt and pepper calamari.
This gallery is a must if visiting the Tweed Valley. Even if you don’t have an appreciation for art, you can still enjoy a tasty, freshly prepared organically grown meal, with a truly spectacular view of Wollumbin (transalated ‘Storm catcher’) caldera.
Irene Isaacson travelled at her own expense.
Discover New South Wales
Murwillumbah and the Tweed Valley is a beautiful region in Northern New South Wales, with plenty of things to do. For a lazy outdoor activity, try cruising the Rouse River or head to Cabarita for a day at the beach.
Need a weekend getaway near Sydney? What about Wollongong? Read more here