Today an art book for $23.50 is regarded as good value, especially one with excellent quality coloured reproductions on every page. At first glance 'Blue Sky, Blue Bush and Silver' is sure to seduce you into that "oh maybe I want" mentality and this is perhaps its raison d'etre. On closer examination the book reveals itself to be a glossy catalogue. Describing itself as a guide to artists and galleries of Broken Hill, as a promotional exercise it is quite fabulous.
The front cover folds out to reveal photographs of 24 galleries in and around Broken Hill, each colour-coded so as to instantly match artist and gallery. A similarly colour-coded map provides gallery locations. The Foreword gives a history of the Broken Hill Regional Gallery but adds little more than to hint at the importance of art in the economic future of the region.
Each of the 28 artists is given one to three pages to strut their stuff; the text is written in the first person, but obviously the editor has asked the same questions of each artist which becomes a little tedious. All have rallied to the cause and extolled the virtues of Broken Hill and the art-supportive community. It is a pity so many of them should find it necessary to make a virtue out of necessity by welcoming their failure to be represented in public art collections.
No coverage of Broken Hill is complete without the local luminaries Pro Hart and Jack Absalom, but it is the lesser-known artists like Howard William Steer, Edith Kennedy, Hugh Schultz and Raylee-Marie Hart which catch the eye.
Broken Hill has mostly been known for the "Brushmen of the Bush", and the publication expels this narrow view and informs us of the surprising variety of art forms flourishing there.
The last word must surely be a comment on the last page of this 72-page book which, with the aid of a Mercator projection, demonstrates their lively concept of themselves and their town. No marks for guessing where the centre of the world is.
Roger Cardinal, 'Outsider Art', New York Praeger, 1972.
Geoffrey Lehmann, 'Australian Primitive Painters', Brisbane, Univ. of queensland Press. 1977.
Bianca McCullough, 'Australian Naive Painters', Melbourne, Hill of content, 1977.
Michel Thevoz (ed) Publications de Collection de 1'Art Brut, Lausanne.
Michel Thevoz, 'Art Brut', New York Skira/Rizzoli, 1976.
'Madness and Marginalia', ed Allen S. Weiss, 'Art & Text'. no 27, Dec - Feb 1988.
'Outsider Art in Australia', ed Rudi Krausmann, guest eds Ulli Beier & Philip Hammial, 'Aspect', no 35, 1989.
Anne Virgo (ed) 'The Boundary Riders, The Art of Everyday Life', exhibition catalogue essay by Sylvia Kleinert, Canberra Contemporary Art Space, 1990.
Sandra Warner, 'Australian Naive Art', Sydney, Craftsman House, (in press).
'World Encyclopedia of Naive Art', 100 Years of Naive Art, ed Emilija Pavkovic, Yugoslavia, Bracken Books.