A Sense of Place: the artist Greg Hansell’s record of history now

 

a-sense-of-place

Invitation to A Sense of Place: the artist Greg Hansell’s record of history now, opening by Carol Roberts on Saturday, 15 October 2016, Margaret Whitlam Galleries, Female Orphan School, Western Sydney University (Parramatta Campus).

Usually, people who live in or near historic towns are well aware of the significance of place in relation to their connectivity and self-identity. They might not phrase their sense of place in formal terms, but nevertheless they know they belong and this is one aspect that jumps out at you repeatedly during conversations with artist Greg Hansell – his sense of place is ‘hard-wired’.[i]

He engages this sense of place and records history as he sees it, often depicting heritage buildings that ‘are second to midnight’ (that is, at risk of disappearing forever, either through development or lack of maintenance).[ii]

Brought up on his parents’ wheat and sheep properties near Goulburn and then Wagga Wagga, Greg Hansell considers he had a fairly unpretentious, very conservative, rural childhood. An award-winning artist, he is currently Fellow, Council member, teacher and Art School Director at the Royal Art Society of New South Wales. He crushes rocks and clays to make his own pigments and, with no added binders, creates earth pastels with colour permanence of the highest rating. But his rural background is ‘hard-wired’[iii] and his methods of recording history relate to his country upbringing, his move to the Hawkesbury area and his subsequent career as an artist. His sense of place attachment and understanding of the environment surrounding place are evident in his paintings. His representations of history – his writing down of historic detail – reflect the intangible alongside the tangible heritage. His conceptual experience in relation to sense of place flows through his paintings and through his life and influences the way he delivers public history through his artwork.

I have run several historical tours based on Greg’s artistic representation of heritage sites in the Hawkesbury and we are collaborating on a book that will showcase the artist’s depictions of the Hawkesbury area. I have discovered that to hang around with Greg Hansell and visit the heritage sites depicted in his paintings encourages people to look for new perspectives and ways of interpreting place. That is what the artist aims to do.[iv] He reveals the ‘layers of life’ that revolve around a building where he ‘can exaggerate or highlight things in the architecture, such as the brick coursework and crookedness of the building…where the building has slumped over the years and become tired’.[v]

homage-to-bricklayers-various_a

There is a term, ‘liminality’, that means drawing or inviting the viewer in to a snapshot of the past and Hansell explains that in relation to the term liminality, he ‘almost takes the viewer by the hand’ and guides them through the paintings to discover objects from the past like upturned milk crates, old bits of cars, pieces of rusting iron or farm tools.[vi]

It has been said of Greg Hansell that, ‘as he lives and works in a place he loves and doing what he chooses, Hansell is really one of the lucky ones’.[vii] His footprints are well and truly in the Hawkesbury, but he also immerses himself in the work of other artists who have inspired him on his journey. His new exhibition is a three-part exhibition, showing works from his past, works from the present and works hanging in his house: in other words, works by people who have inspired him.

I will be opening the next exhibition, A Sense of Place: the artist Greg Hansell’s record of history now, on Saturday, 15 October in the Margaret Whitlam Galleries at the Female Orphan School, Building EZ, Western Sydney University (Parramatta Campus), off Victoria Road, Rydalmere, at 2.00pm. Parking is available at $8 per day. The exhibition will continue until 20 January 2017.

copyright Carol Roberts 2016

[Image, part of Hansell’s Homage to bricklayers various, earth pastel]

[i] Gary E. Holmes, James R. Patterson and Janice E. Stalling, ‘Sense of place: issues in counselling and development’, Journal of Humanistic Counselling, Education and Development, Fall, 2003, Vol. 42, Issue 2, p. 239, http://search.proquest.com.ezproxy.une.edu.au/docview/212448339?accountid=17227, accessed 29 September 2012; Greg Hansell, oral history interviews with Carol Roberts, 5 November 2008 and 18 February 2011.

[ii] Greg Hansell, pers com, 5 September 2012; Carol Roberts, ‘From the ground up: exploring the use of oral history in tourism’, She said: He said: Reading, Writing and Recording History, Journal No. 36, 2014, Oral History Association of Australia, pp. 23-30.

[iii] Hansell, 5 November 2008.

[iv] Jan Dungey, ‘Where arts, imagination and environment meet’, in Heritage Interpretation, Volume 1: The Natural and Built Environment, David L. Uzzell, ed, London, 1989, p. 241.

[v] Greg Hansell, pers com, 5 September 2012.

[vi] Greg Hansell, ‘Australian landscapes: techniques in pastel’, Australian Artist, Chatswood, New South Wales, undated, pp. 20-23.

[vii] Greg Hansell: Survey catalogue, 30 October – 6 December 2009, Hawkesbury Regional Gallery, Windsor, pp. 4-5.

William Pitt Wilshire – eccentric member of the Pitt Wilshire clan

Photos courtesy State Library of New South Wales (paid for copies and publication rights)

Born and raised in Sydney, William Pitt Wilshire was the eldest son of pioneers James Wilshire and Esther Pitt and a grandson of Robert and Mary Pitt (Matcham). His father, who was Acting Deputy-Commissary for several years, received a number of land grants in the Sydney area and established a large tannery at Brickfield Hill which operated for nearly 60 years.  James also owned land at Kurrajong on Wheeny Creek, adjoining John Howe, Thomas Matcham Pitt, Samuel Leverton and Matthew Everingham.

Although William Pitt Wilshire entered into a number of business ventures, his main interest was art and he ‘achieved some success as an artist’. In 1829, he married Catherine Maria Robertson, daughter of Sir John Robertson, and they had three children (William, Frederick and Maria).  Catherine Wilshire died in 1848 aged 36 and was buried in the St Laurence Chapel in Sydney.  Parish maps indicate that ‘Miss C M Robertson (Mrs Wiltshire)’ owned 640 acres in Kurrajong, adjoining M McMahon, James Davidson (senior and junior), John Davidson, Peter Hornery, Peter Gilligan and William John.

As an artist, William Pitt Wilshire would have appreciated the beauty of the Kurrajong area and several newspaper articles indicate that he spent a great deal of time in Kurrajong after his wife died.

Now this is where it gets interesting. Every family has its stories and our family is no exception. My mother and grandfather were adamant that William Pitt Wilshire was the father of my grandfather, William Matcham Hornery. Although Wilshire never remarried after his wife died, it seems that sometime after 1860 he formed a relationship with Margaret Hornery of Kurrajong and they definitely had one (if not more) children. He was considerably older than Margaret who was 26 when her eldest son (my grandfather) was born in 1870. William Matcham Hornery recorded ‘William Pitt Wilshire, grazier’ as his father when he married my grandmother Charlotte Clarke in 1898 at St Matthew’s Anglican Church in Windsor. Thanks to the results of my recent DNA testing, the indications are that William Pitt Wilshire is my great-grandfather and I am in contact with several members of the Wilshire clan whose DNA results were a high match with mine through William Pitt Wilshire’s brother.

It is not surprising given the connection, that Wilshire called Elvina, Margaret’s eldest daughter (born in 1863), as his witness in a court case in 1877 when he was accused of serious assault against Albert Packer at Kurrajong. Margaret Hornery had married Albert Packer a short time before the assault occurred, so presumably the fight was either about the marriage or the children. I have yet to find out if Wilshire served out his sentence for this assault, but from all accounts he had a fiery temper and it was probably not the first time he had ‘lost it’.

It appears Wilshire took an active interest in the Kurrajong community. From the 1860s he was involved in the push for the establishment of a railway to Kurrajong and on 27 August 1869, he attended a meeting at Benson’s Hotel in Kurrajong and proposed that a committee be formed for the purpose of establishing a public school in Kurrajong, ‘with as little delay as possible and in a central position’.  John Lamrock donated an acre of land and the school was eventually built ‘at the junction of the north and south Kurrajong Roads’.

An avid reader, as well as a regular contributor to the Sydney Morning Herald, Wilshire was a colourful character who was considered slightly eccentric ‘because he sat around the Kurrajong hills sketching’. According to Sam Boughton in the 1860s, W P Wilshire was ‘of superior talent, being a no mean artist’.  His life-long hobby was art and he preferred portrait painting, showing several paintings in the 1857 Fine Art Exhibition and the 1872 New South Wales Academy of Art Exhibition.

Wilshire’s artistic talents were passed on to his granddaughters Ada, Rosie and Hero and descendants who have chosen to follow artistic and musical careers, including his grandson, Harley Wilshire, who in 1892 composed The Hawkesbury Waltz. The artistic gene also passed to his grand-daughters in Kurrajong down to a gggranddaughter, a classical singer.  William Pitt Wilshire died aged 82 on 12 March 1889 in Surry Hills and was buried in Rookwood Cemetery.

copyrightCopyright Carol Roberts 2016

This is an updated edition of my article about William Pitt Wilshire that appeared in Hawkesbury Gazette, Wednesday, 8 June 2011.

References:

Parish Map Preservation Project, Kurrajong Parish Map, 140965, dated 1893, http://parishmaps.lands.nsw.gov.au, accessed 2 May 2011.

Parish Map Preservation Project, Merroo Parish Map, 140270, undated, http://parishmaps.lands.nsw.gov.au, accessed 2 May 2011.

Lake Macquarie Family History Group, St Matthew’s Church of England Windsor NSW Parish Registers 1857 to 1900: a complete transcription, 2004.

The Sydney Morning Herald, Wednesday, 1 September 1869, p. 5.

The Sydney Morning Herald, Wednesday, 13 March 1889, p. 14.

Kerr, J. ‘Dictionary of Australian Artists Online: Rosalie Wilshire’, http://www.daao.org.au, accessed 2 May 2011.

McHardy, C. (Ed.), Reminiscences of Richmond: From the Forties Down by ‘Cooramill’, Kurrajong, NSW, 2010.

Moore, W. The Story of Australian Art, Sydney, 1934.

Rees E. (Ted) Baker, Dictionary of Australian Art, 1992.

Roberts, C. ‘William Pitt Wilshire 1807-1889’, Spanning the Centuries of Hawkesbury History – Hawkesbury Personalities, Journal of the Hawkesbury Historical Society, No 3, 2014.

Join Hawkesbury Valley Heritage Tours on special-interest tour of Hawkesbury

Keep the date free – Friday, 31 October 2014. Hawkesbury Valley Heritage Tours will be running a relaxed, full day coach tour through the most historic areas of the Hawkesbury in conjunction with Hawkesbury-based artist Greg Hansell’s annual studio exhibition. Accompanied by Greg on the tour, we will showcase selected locations depicted in Greg’s current portfolio. This is an opportunity not to be missed as we visit the UWS Riverfarm on the Richmond Lowlands which is not usually open to the public. The Riverfarm was first acquired by the old Hawkesbury Agricultural College in the early 1900s. You will also enjoy a walk through the gardens of historic ‘Tara’ (Greg Hansell’s home on the Hawkesbury River at Windsor) including a visit to the artist’s studio, a visit to Tizzana Winery and several other heritage sites in the Hawkesbury. Join this fantastic trip with me (a sixth-generation Hawkesburyite), Greg (a highly-regarded local artist who has lived in the area for more than 35 years and who is Art Director of the Royal Art Society in Sydney) and Geoff (who has also lived in the area for more than 35 years and has training in heritage architecture). Check out our notice at Historic Windsor Guide http://www.historicwindsorguide.com/blog.html. Details: 9.30am to 5.00pm. Adults $75, Concession $67.50. Morning tea, lunch, cheese & wine-tasting at Tizzana and glass of wine at Greg Hansell’s studio all included. Departure details provided on booking. Leave a comment or Email info@hawkesburytours.com.au. Website www.hawkesburytours.com.au. #Hawkesbury73rd regiment 2Clint barn 01