A celebration of the centenary of Arthur Boyd's birth. Below read anecdotes and stories from the people who knew Arthur or who have experienced Bundanon. Watch Alexander Boyd perform the first movement from Bride Suite, a piece he composed in honour of his grandfather.
Arthur was always considered a quiet person by those who met him; however, he used his artwork as a platform to speak very loudly about issues that concerned him. When you look at his art today you can see he had so much to say and his work remains relevant to contemporary audiences.- Jennifer Thompson, Collections Manager
Arthur and Yvonne Boyd’s gift of Bundanon represents one of the most generous acts of philanthropy in the history of the arts in Australia. It was an audacious gift driven by a big vision. That vision has continued to be built upon by subsequent acts of private generosity and government support, creating the vibrant place for art and learning that Bundanon is known as today.
Arthur Boyd remains one of Australia’s most significant artists and philanthropists. Affectionately known as ‘Chook Chooks’ by his family as a child, Arthur was part of a unique artistic family.
"Arthur was always considered a quiet person by those who met him; however, he used his artwork as a platform to speak very loudly about issues that concerned him," said Jennifer Thompson, Collections and Exhibitions’ Manager at Bundanon.
"When you look at his art today you can see he had so much to say and his work remains relevant to contemporary audiences."
Richard Morecroft, the long-running host of ABC News, conservationist, and previous Bundanon Trust board member, talks about the vision of Arthur and Yvonne's gift of Bundanon to the Australian people.
My residency project was to explore Arthur and Yvonne Boyd’s personal library and to make some work about it. However the project kept growing until it included an artist book (Artist’s Library), a body of photographic work (Intimate Journals) and a touring exhibition. The Bundanon staff supported this development at every stage; without them it could never have grown the way it did.
It was also a process of discovering Arthur and Yvonne, since books can reveal a lot about the people who own them. As well as the titles, I pored over the incidental inscriptions, annotations, dedications and ‘inserts’ (random scraps of paper slipped between the pages).
One of the things that make this library special is the way the interior space of the library opens directly onto the natural world outside. In Artist’s Library I tried to catch something of that closeness between inside and outside. It also led me to photograph the landscape around the house, and those photographs, overlaid with text, became the photographic series Intimate Journals.
Do you have a memory or anecdote you would like to share about Arthur or Bundanon?
Gosh, so much!
Seeing the brushes made of Arthur’s children’s hair really struck me, the way it brought together his family life and his passion in a practice that meant he drew on whatever was to hand, so even though the hair in question was curly, so what? He made a brush out of it, and then painted with the curl - the kind of inspired resourcefulness I love.
What has been the most significant aspect of Arthur Boyd’s legacy to you?
The enduring gift to the nation as a sanctuary for creative practice, the sense of being able to access his studio and home and get a real sense of how creative life was lived in a place that held special meaning for him, the sense of it being a place everyone can share and enjoy, the generosity of his intention in leaving it to us to use.
Post Boyd, I love that it is becoming a place to learn more about Indigenous fire management and other kinds of traditional knowledge and cultural practice that I feel sure Arthur would have had the utmost respect for.
If you have spent time at Bundanon, what impression has it left on you and why?
The uninterrupted silence is gold. The mutual respect of everyone focusing on their work, that sense of humming from a hive of bees, all busy all filled with a sense of purpose. You are working alone but together; you can feel the creativity in the ether and that is encouraging. The fact of its being inter-disciplinary makes for rich cross art form conversations at the end of the day. The fact that there is no pressure to perform or read your work at the end of the day is an important distinction from other residencies such as Varuna.
A week at Bundanon is like a month somewhere else in terms of what you can achieve. Sometimes I just say the word to myself to remind myself of its special quiet, I use it like a mantra to encourage me to stay at my desk and persist.
I wrote a section of my memoir ONLY at Bundanon, so I associate it with actually completing a very long slow project. I have also had a week there on my second book and that was a real circuit breaker when I had got bogged down. Just sitting with the material day after day, uninterrupted by daily chores and life admin, let me see a way forward.
"Participating in the Bundanon residency was such a pivotal moment for me, it was straight after completing my honours degree and gave me the space, freedom and time to create, research and reflect. The contemplative space of the surrounding bushland that I immersed myself in and responded directly towards had a huge impact on the development of the works that were later exhibited as part of Primavera 2013 at the Museum of Contemporary Art Sydney. The landscape of Bundanon resonates a powerful energy and at times I remember this feeling and presence.. that I was almost 'walking with Boyd'."
"My enduring memory of Arthur and Bundanon was in 1994.I was asked to go to Bundanon where I met with Arthur Boyd to talk about his paintings stored at Bundanon. Many of his paintings were in storage containers in shipping out in the paddocks. They had suffered from high heat, damp, insect and rodent activity. Nine large paintings rolled up in the room at Bundanon, (now Jen Thompsons office at Bundanon). Arthur helped me unroll them. They had been removed from their stretchers in the 1960’s and rolled up and not moved since then. I put them in the back of my car and took them to my studio in Rose Bay. I restored them and continue to care for them today."
Rather than being tied to the paintings in any very specific way, I've tried to bring to the music more of the sense of hope and darkness and light that's contained within the paintings themselves.- Alexander Boyd
To mark the centenary of Arthur Boyd's birth, Alexander Boyd shares a new work he is composing to honour his grandfather, "Bride Suite".
"Bride Suite" is inspired by Arthur Boyd's Bride series of paintings.
As Alexander explains, the composition has become a more expansive piece with three movements, which he hopes to complete later this year. In this digital performance recorded in his home in London, Alexander Boyd performs the first movement, as well as Beethoven's Sonata in Eb Op 27 N1 and Chopin's Ballade N.1 in G minor Op. 23.
The performance will be available here at 8:00pm on Friday 24 July 2020.