A finer grain: selected works from the SAM collection
This exhibition presents key and lesser known works by Australian women artists from the Shepparton Art Museum (SAM) collection.
Spanning the full breadth of SAM’s 83 year collection history, we have taken a chronological approach, loosely grouped by decade from the date of creation. Artworks span a range of medium and subject, and showcase the breadth of SAM’s material focus in works on paper, painting, and Australian ceramics. This approach offers insights into SAM’s collection and the history of its development, as pertinent then as it is today.
The exhibition includes the first work by a female artist, Alice Currie, acquired by the museum in 1938, with an early focus on landscapes, still-lives and portraiture. The exhibition highlights some of SAM’s collection strengths, such as the acquisition in the 1970’s of many of Australia’s now renowned early 20th century Australian Modernist women artists including Grace Cossington Smith, Margaret Preston, and many others, when their works were more affordable than their male counterparts.
From the 1970s and ’80s, ceramics became SAM’s collection strength, and one we continue to celebrate today as the most significant collection of Australian ceramics in regional Australia. The exhibition also includes the first acquisition by a female Aboriginal artist Dr Thanakupi Gloria Fletcher James, AO in 1991, and some of the number of recent acquisitions by Aboriginal artists from south-east Australia and across Australia. It reveals the importance these works have as part of SAM’s collection, enabling a fuller and more complex understanding of Australia’s culture.
The development of SAM’s contemporary collection reflects the many themes and ideas that artists explore in new and exciting ways. Ceramics remains core – a point of regional difference. There are, of course, always surprises and discoveries: a survey collection exhibition of this kind ensures that overlooked and sometimes forgotten or unfashionable artists and artworks are also celebrated. After all, it is these stories of people, artists and artworks that enable many of Australia’s great regional galleries to celebrate and rethink histories within our contemporary context in new and exciting ways.