On the art trail in Victoria’s Goldfields

Travelling Well | Krysia Bonkoswki | Posted on 24 October 2018

Scratch the surface of Victoria’s Goldfields region and you’ll find a wealth of art both old and new.

The Lost Ones Contemporary Art Gallery & Basement Bar, Ballarat.

The Lost Ones Contemporary Art Gallery & Basement Bar, Ballarat.

Bendigo bound

No cultural road trip in Victoria is complete without exploring Australia’s largest regional gallery. Bendigo Art Gallery’s 5000-plus strong collection showcases 18th and 19th century European and Australian works alongside contemporary gems from the likes of Patricia Piccinini, Bill Henson and Fiona Hall.

Curator Tansy Curtin explains that rather than trying to compete with metropolitan galleries, she and her colleagues are out to make Bendigo a wonderful place to visit. “We’re trying to create a unique and dynamic experience in regional Victoria to help showcase the wonderful breadth and depth of this wonderful state,” she says.

The gallery’s blockbuster summer exhibition Frida Kahlo: Her Photos offers valuable insight into the talented mind of the iconic Mexican artist. “This selection of some 200 photographs from her personal archive will allow our visitors to see a different side of this enigmatic artist,” Tansy says. The collection only emerged in the past decade, and this is its exclusive Australian appearance – seize your chance.

For a glimpse of local social history visit Bendigo Art Gallery’s Post Office Gallery, and the Golden Dragon Museum to learn about the legacy of Chinese gold-rush settlers. If your cultural sojourn leaves you inspired, get hands on at Bendigo Pottery. The 160-year-young institution promises ceramics, galleries and artists’ studios, along with the chance to get behind the (potter’s) wheel during daily classes.

skull statue Bendigo Art Gallery

Bendigo Art Gallery.

artwork at d+ shop, Castlemaine.

d+ shop, Castlemaine.

Golden Dragon museum bendigo

Golden Dragon Museum, Bendigo.

Local love in Ballarat

Founded in the golden years of the 1880s, the Art Gallery of Ballarat is Australia’s oldest regional gallery. Today it connects the dots between Ballarat’s heritage and its growth as an arts hub. Over summer, alongside exhibits by Wadawurrung elder Marlene Gilson, female photography posse Lumina Collective and Castlemaine sculptor Eliza-Jane Gilchrist, the gallery hosts LOCALS RULE – a show of home-grown talent.

“Ballarat has for many decades been home to a vast number of artists – visual artists as well as many musicians, writers and performers,” says Bren Luke, whose cross-hatched illustrations feature in LOCALS RULE. “There’s a strong sense of community here that is very supportive and engaged in what’s going on, and it seems to be growing.

Detour past nearby Main Road to spy one of Bren’s favourite local art finds – a mural celebrating Ballarat’s history by fellow exhibitors Travis Price, Karl Stehn and Merda. If contemporary art whets your whistle, The Lost Ones gallery on Camp Street champions emerging and established artists from an elegant 1870s Masonic temple. From mid-November you can buy art straight off the wall at the Buy Art: Buy Local exhibition.

ceramics at Tribe, Castlemaine.

Tribe, Castlemaine.

Small towns, big talent

Many smaller Goldfields townships are also talent pools for city types after a tree-change. Pretty Castlemaine is becoming the Collingwood of the country. Near the railway station, The Mill is a former factory housing artist’s workshops and studios along with bars, cafes and boutiques.

Catch artisans at work, peruse the vintage bazaar or re-caffeinate at the onsite roaster. Castlemaine’s boutique game is strong across town, with Corner Store Merchants, Tribe, D+ and Falkner Gallery stocking an array of handmade objects and art. Pay a visit to where it all began at Castlemaine Art Museum, a local icon in a statuesque art deco building that has been showcasing Australian art and artefacts since 1913.

Along the wide streets of Daylesford, galleries and boutiques are just as plentiful. On a hill overlooking the leafy town, Convent Gallery offers eight exhibition spaces in a stunning Victorian-era mansion. Showing everything from emerging artists to classical art, this cultural hub is perennially popular. In central Daylesford, discover covetable art at Thirteen 05, make a one-off find at minimalist Bokeh, and visit the Spa-Country outpost of Bromley & Co, from Melbourne artists and interior designers David and Yuge Bromley.

At the Goldfields gateway town of Kyneton, bleeding-edge modern art finds a country home at Stockroom, on bustling Piper Street. Venture on to Lauriston Press – a cosy space overflowing with native blooms and fine art curated by artist Sarah Gabriel – and boutique chair maker Rundell & Rundell, a champion of lost arts.

hall in covent gallery daylesford

Covent Gallery, Daylesford.

 Bendigo Pottery

Bendigo Pottery.

 Covent Gallery gold statue

Covent Gallery, Daylesford.

The perfect country getaway at the RACV Goldfields Resort