Bendigo Art Gallery presents an online tour of Bessie Davidson & Sally Smart: Two artists and the Parisian avant-garde

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Bendigo Art Gallery presents an online tour of Bessie Davidson & Sally Smart: Two artists and the Parisian avant-garde
Online tour available now for new Bendigo Art Gallery exhibition.

BENDIGO.- Audiences can take an online tour of Bessie Davidson & Sally Smart: Two artists and the Parisian avant-garde, a new exhibition curated by Bendigo Art Gallery featuring over 50 impressionist paintings by Australian artist Bessie Davidson, who forged a successful career in Paris early last century. Davidson’s paintings are shown alongside works by her great-niece, renowned Australian artist Sally Smart.

Bendigo Art Gallery Director, Jessica Bridgfoot said the gallery was pleased to be able to present a virtual tours of the exhibition while the gallery remains closed as a response to the global Covid-19 crisis.

“The Bessie Davidson/Sally Smart exhibition had been planned for well over eighteen months, and over the course of a lifetime for Sally, who had also travelled to Paris on the Bendigo Art Gallery Goodsir scholarship retracing Davidson’s life and work. This is a once in a life time pairing of two exceptional artists and it is devastating for Sally Smart and for the Gallery to not have this exhibition seen,” Jessica said.

Interviews with Sally Smart, curator Tansy Curtin and exhibition essays are also online, together with an excerpt from a new specially commissioned filmed work, where Smart draws on Bessie Davidson’s relationship with artist Margaret Preston.

Ross Taylor’s Field Notes, a suite of ambitious new works referencing local sites and the domestic, natural and built environments of Central Victoria, was also recently installed at the gallery, and an online tour will also soon be available on the Bendigo Art Gallery website.

“Throughout this hiatus, we will continue to use our social media and direct email to draw people’s attention to our current exhibitions, which also allows us to engage with our audiences on a one-on-one basis, much like we do when people visit the gallery,” Jessica said.

“We hope that people continue to ask us questions and comment on the work through these channels. This is important for the audience, but it is also vitally important for the team, who are invigorated by how audiences respond to our programs and exhibitions.”

Bessie Davidson & Sally Smart: Two artists and the Parisian avant-garde
Bessie Davidson was one of a cohort of female South Australian artists who, at the turn of the nineteenth century, sought to expand their lives and artistic careers by travelling to the renowned cultural centres of Europe, most notably Paris and London. Many artists returned to Australia bringing their matured artistic style to an Australian audience. Davidson was one of the few who chose to remain in Europe, firmly establishing herself within the vibrant artistic milieu of Paris’s Montparnasse. Over the course of her career, Davidson received many accolades and awards including being made a chevalier of the Legion of Honour – the highest award conferred by the French government.

Whilst Davidson’s work has been largely overlooked in Australia, stories of Bessie Davidson’s life as an artist living in Paris were a frequent part of conversations in artist Sally Smart’s childhood home in rural South Australia. Bessie was Sally’s great aunt – her legacy empowered this renowned Australian artist to follow her own artistic ambitions.

Bendigo Art Gallery brings together more than 50 works that highlight Davidson’s ‘modern French impressionist’ style of painting – with light filled domestic interiors, landscapes and women at leisure. In addition, the gallery has invited Sally Smart to create a new body of work responding to and developing upon the cultural legacy of Davidson as a pioneering female South Australian artist – firmly placing the work of this ground-breaking artist back into the story of Australian art history.

Ross Taylor: Field Notes
Field notes presents an ambitious new body of work by Central Victorian artist Ross Taylor. Exploring the landscape, history, people and architecture of Central Victoria and the forces that have shaped it through time, Taylor’s drawing-led practice considers the evocations and resonances of interior and exterior spaces through carefully composed images. Motifs both sacred and banal; of the ancient and the everyday are woven and spliced into layered and colour-drenched drawings. Vignettes of daily life are presented alongside moments recalled through memory, chance and the overabundance of visual media in contemporary life that competes for our attention.

Through a dedication to the medium of drawing and the interrogation of colour and spatial relationships, Taylor’s works read like an expanded notebook; an assemblage of visual ‘field notes’ in which a new – and often playful – chronicle of Central Victoria's cultural landscape is offered.

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