Interpreting Portraits

Macquarie 1810 - 2010 Hawkesbury Regional Gallery 10 December - 6 February 2011

"I have had my portrait painted lately, and after being handsomely framed and carefully packed up first in tin, and afterwards in a strong wooden case, it has been shipped off a few days ago for New South Wales, addressed to Mr Cox..."
- Lachlan Macquarie to Richard Fitzgerald dated London, October 10, 1823.

You could be forgiven for thinking there's not much more to be said on the subject of Governor Lachlan Macquarie in this, his bicentennial year, but you would be wrong. Hawkesbury Regional Gallery will be having the last word (for now) in its major exhibition for 2010.

But whereas most of the Macquarie 2010 events have concentrated on the man and his achievements, the Hawkesbury show will put art in the foreground, with portraits of Macquarie and his contemporaries (like Rouse, Fitzgerald and Thompson) used as a starting point for a broader examination of portraiture in general.

The centrepiece of the exhibition is what is believed to be a portrait of Macquarie painted by Colvin Smith. It has become an icon in Windsor, where it graced the courthouse for many years. But was Smith really the painter and was it really a painting of Macquarie? Some locals have gone to great lengths to prove the point, but still a question remains and it doesn’t just refer to this particular painting: To what extent is any portrait a true and accurate depiction of its subject?

Staying true to its vision as a contemporary art space, the gallery has invited a select group of artists to respond to Macquarie and the notion of portraiture by working directly on the gallery walls and within the space. Primary source material from the Hawkesbury Regional Museum and private collections has been put at their disposal, and some very exciting artists have agreed to take part, including Guy Maestri, Izabela Pluta, Ben Quilty, Luke Temby and Anne Zahalka.

'Interpreting portraits — Macquarie 1810-2010' promises to be another fresh and inspiring exhibition from a gallery that is becoming known for punching well above its weight.