Gallery's Lycett paintings still inspire after 200 years

04 Sep 2018

8 September – 4 November 2018
Newcastle Art Gallery

He was an English-born convict transported to Australia for forgery, a fairly typical story of convict passage in the early 1800s – however 200 years later – paintings of early Newcastle by Joseph Lycett (1774-1828), are nationally significant, protected items of Australian cultural heritage, being some of the earliest visual records of the Australian penal colony still in existence.

Marking the 200th anniversary since the Lycett paintings were created, these early images of Newcastle and the region are the catalyst for a contemporary exhibition: THE 1818 PROJECT which opens at Newcastle Art Gallery on Saturday 8 September 2018.

Lycett was transported to Newcastle circa 1815. His artistic skills led him to be commissioned by Captain James Wallis, Commandant of Newcastle to document the landscape and burgeoning township of 'Coal River’/Mulubinba (Newcastle). Four significant oil paintings still exist today, three of which are proudly held in the city's collection at Newcastle Art Gallery.

Aware that the Lycett paintings incite a diverse range of responses - THE 1818 PROJECT brings together eight contemporary Australian artists to address personal cultural histories and stories of migration; deconstructing colonial painting through the lens of the artist.

Each artist approaches their work through a different medium, including drawing, glass, installation, painting, performance, photography and sculpture. Through their unique practices they interrupt the conventions of what colonial art represents in the contemporary world, drawing upon their own cultural identity and personal and familial stories of migration, loss and diaspora.

"Many state and national galleries have framed gallery exhibitions predicated on the colonial painting as motif or artefact - we're moving beyond that framework' explained Gallery Director Lauretta Morton.

"Instead, the exhibition utilises the Lycett paintings as a springboard for the artists to respond to and create their own stories - contemporary stories of Australian migration."

"For some artists, it was an opportunity to explore the hidden or forgotten aspects of what the Lycett paintings represent - forgery, misrepresentation or colonial illusion and propaganda. For others, it was the impetus to respond to the global narratives that the works conceal or reveal." Morton said.

The exhibition features the works of:

  • Abdul-Rahman Abdullah - interdisciplinary artist who for this exhibition, through sculpture explores new multicultural mythologies referencing his Muslim-Malaysian-Australian cultural heritage.
  • Shan Turner-Carroll - performance based artist who responds to site, photography and sculpture.
  • Dale Collier - multimedia artist who interrogates contemporary art and nationalistic propaganda.
  • Karla Dickens - Wiradjuri artist working in sculpture and installation artist, who addresses identity politics and cross-cultural art.
  • Fernando do Campo - installation artist who works with archives and researching narratives within other collections.
  • Lindy Lee - multi platform artist who uses sculpture, photography, painting and mixed media to explore the experiences of loss and transition that have spanned five generations of travel from China to Australia.
  • Yhonnie Scarce - glass installation artist, belonging to the Kokatha and Nukunu peoples, Woomera, South Australia, references the effects of colonisation on Aboriginal people.
  • Jacqui Stockdale - painter, drawer and photographer whose work revisits colonial and historical tableaux.

To celebrate the launch of the exhibition, a program of events has been developed for Saturday 8 September:


Saturday 8 September:

Welcome event 1.30pm
Welcome to Country to be performed by Aunty Phyllis Darcy and Terri-Lee Darcy, with translation into Awabakal Language by Terri-Lee Darcy

Artist & Curator Talk 2pm
Join Gallery curator Sarah Johnson in a floor talk with artists from THE 1818 PROJECT.

Cosmo Polis Pop-Up Hackspace 3pm
This free community project, presented by the Youth Reference Group is building an archive of stories of migration, through works of art, written word, performance, sound and video. Join the Youth Reference Group and THE 1818 PROJECT exhibiting artists in a shared work space, where you can contribute to the Cosmo Polis project any way you like!

More information:
Exhibition - THE 1818 PROJECT

Opening weekend program of events:

Cosmo Polis Project:

Image above: Dale COLLIER Using fire to flesh out the fraud 2018 found painting projection charcoal scorched school desk

dimensions variable Artist collection Courtesy the artist