(as part of the Australia Remembers Commemorations), Lismore Regional Art Gallery, 1995


Hitler came to power in Germany in 1933 and annexed Austria in March, 1938. Extreme anti-Semitic policies resulted in a mass exodus of some 47,000 Jews fortunate enough to find the means to leave and a country willing to offer refuge. My parents were amongst them. In the hope of subsequently being able to secure visas for my maternal grandparents my mother and father left Vienna for Melbourne in September, 1938. My mother was never to see her beloved parents again as they were amongst the 225,000 Austrian/German Jews who died in the Nazi Holocaust. The subject of their deaths became a family taboo in my parents’ attempt to create a positive life and leave behind bitter memories.

Unbeknown to us my mother’s brother and his wife, having emigrated to the USA in 1938, began a process after the end of the war to obtain information regarding the demise of my grandparents. In 1991 this information, together with documents and letters from my grandmother became available to me. Disturbing and moving as it was, this became the catalyst for an extended personal and creative journey. It involved considerable research via personal discussion, correspondence, reading of both factual and literary works about the Holocaust and beyond (incorporating material from other current political crises and issues of oppression and identity). It also involved dealing with personal issues of ‘ owning’ and coming to terms with history, horror and inherited grief…and becoming a ‘voice’ for my mother. A collaboration with fellow artist of German ancestry, Michael Baartz, resulted in a small exhibition at the Gold Coast City Art Gallery in 1993 and a major exhibition at Lismore Regional Gallery in 1994.


My father established a photographic studio in Melbourne in the early post-war years. Amongst a plethora of wonderful childhood memories is the magic of the professional darkroom with its chemical odour and images appearing on photographic paper in the developing trays. Having inherited his good photographic eye and a general creativity (which remained undiscovered until I was almost 30 years old) I was not interested in developing formal photographic skills.  In 1994 I befriended a German artist, Iris Bergman with a background in innovative photographic work and was introduced to chemical painting (chemograms). Immediately drawn to it I began exploring its suitability and adaptability to my purposes and went on to “discover” photograms (in my case working from xeroxed images. The photograms created resonances, traces, echoes…and reference to photo documentation, history, memory, perfect for what I wanted to say in my work. I began establishing a broad ‘image­bank’ utilizing family photos, images sourced from newspapers and magazines here and abroad.

Though predominant pertaining to the Nazi Holocaust images used in the photograms also refer to current neo-fascist activity; the brutalization in Rwanda, the genocide and racism inhere in the ethnic cleansing in the former Yugoslavia; and in white Australia’s past and current relationship with out indigenous population. Thus the personal has created a powerful springboard into the universal embracing social, political, philosophical and spiritual notions.

Inherent in growing up in the early post war years as a child of Hitler refuges was a strong sense of ‘difference’, of being outside the mainstream. Identification with the outsider and attraction to other cultures became, from an early age, part of my identity, reflected in the place of travel in my life, reflected in my art and reflected in my humanist philosophy. This is one face of multicultural Australia. Again the personal provides a springboard beyond itself.

Technical Processes:

(a) Chemograms – Songs of Hope and Trepidation series – freehand painting with photographic chemicals on photographic paper under daylight conditions and including experimental chemicals, salts and other means to create a variety of textures. The absence of the darkroom forced great speed of execution with a resultant strength and freshness of the image; and

(b) Photograms – placement of xerox image on tops of photographic paper in daylight resulting in a discernible but subtle transfer of image to the photographic paper which I then treated in a variety of ways both before and after fixing the underlying image for permanence.

3. OUT OF THE BLUE: A Charming New Voice from an Old Familiar Place

(a) An Old Familiar Place: Since moving from Melbourne to the Northern Rivers area in 1980 Lismore Regional Art Gallery became and remains the Regional Gallery with which I’ve established and retained the closest relationship, participating in many group shows and mounting several solo exhibitions there through the course of three directors.

(b) The Invitation: Irena Hatfield, newly arrived at the Lismore Regional Art Gallery, discovered my file with information about the Out of The Shadows Exhibition, about my cultural exchange with Baguio Arts Guild, Philippines and the beginnings of the works on photographic paper. Attracted both by the relevance of my work to the commemoration of peace in the Australia Remembers celebrations as well as to the medium, she invited me to mount an exhibition later that year, 1995. Contracts were exchanged. I would like to take this opportunity to thank Irena for this invitation. There is something very affirming about being invited to exhibit, to present a paper at a conference such as this one, to be offered teaching positions as opposed to the usual process of seeking galleries and other professional opportunities. Specifically I would like to commend both Irena and Leanne Willis from Grafton Regional Gallery for their bold response to what could be perceived as ‘difficult’ work, even though the work contains no overt references to violence. The Australia Remembers programme provided a ‘legitimate’ forum for this.

(c) A Charming New Face: establishing a professional relationship

Natasha Serventy of Law Arts said that “establishing a professional relationship takes time, goodwill and an enormous amount of communication.” From the beginning Irena and I were both available for open discussions, feedback and negotiation. Irena’s comments below reflect my feelings so let me here focus on a seminal example of the importance of successful negotiating – the titling of the show. My family’s relationship with World War II was the springboard into the work even though the carnage of war is never depicted. Rather the work deals with time and memory, love and loss, brutality and the human dilemma and ultimately on the indomitability of the human spirit.

The title War Works pays tribute to the origins of the work and challenges us to observe the many faces of war. The rhythmic compactness of depicting this difficult subject.

As this show was under the umbrella of the Australia Remembers celebrations agreement was reached to incorporate both for the initial exhibition in Lismore. Subsequently I have abandoned the Australia Remembers part of the title, and added the sub-title Song of Hope and Trepidation. Irena, with the travelling show in mind was afraid that the sole title of War Works might be too confronting and invited me to rethink the title. Songs of Hope and Trepidation, already the title of a series of chemograms dealing with racial intolerance and the metaphysics of spirit, provided the appropriate ‘softening’. Hence War Works: Songs of Hope and Trepidation came into being through careful and sensitive negotiating such that the integrity of both parties remained intact. Indeed the final title proved the most descriptive and balanced representation of the content of the show.

(d) The Human Element: From the start a connection existed between Irena and me, her identification with the content of the work and a connection based on our European, though very different backgrounds, both having to come to terms with ‘difficult’ aspects of our cultural inheritance. She also had a clear understanding of the current relevance of this in our multicultural community, country.

I would like to include an extended quotation from my colleague and friend Irena Hatfield whose sensitivity, charm and skills in relating to people as well as her commitment to the job and her positive and encouraging attitude are clearly central to the success of the Lismore Regional Art Gallery and its programmes.

“In all dealings an ethical and professional attitude has been foremost in my approach to operations as gallery manager. Many negotiations include working with people and therefore it is understood that gallery managers must also have the sensitivity and expertise in working with members of the community from a variety of disciplines.

From a professional association my experience working with Bonney nurtured a friendship and respect for her as an artist as well as a warm, caring and vivacious person. After many conversations and much planning we were finally hanging the show. It was during those hours of working closely together during the realisation of the final product, the exhibition, that I reflected upon the outcome emerging from our respective backgrounds – mine as a post-war migrant from Germany and Bonney’s Jewish heritage and family connections during World War II in Nazi occupied Austria.

The experience grew beyond the bounds of professionalism with the ever increasing energy generated through the development of the work and the final exhibition, igniting the ‘humanness’ within all of us. It is the experiencing of this ‘humanness’ within my chosen professional that I find the most rewarding aspect of my work as gallery manager”.

(e) Shifts in the work – (I) With the prospect of a major show a series of photograms was extended to make a central work, entitled Memorial as one of two centrepieces of the exhibition. A 28 part installation it starts and ends with images of my grandparents. (ii) Australia Remembers being the umbrella theme for this exhibition it was my decision to make another major piece specific to Australia’s war experience. This proved an interesting process for me, put me in touch with the local community (the historical society, library and some former World War II veterans). My understanding of and response to WWII was firmly sited, via my parent’s experiences in Europe and in the Holocaust in particular. For the first time I began to really feel the Australian experience. I also introduced a medium new in my work with every second image being a laser colour copy of Australian wartime postage stamps.


Through an unexpected set of circumstances Irena and I hung the entire show alone,  a  big task involving pinning 88 pieces (constituting 18 titled works) to the gallery walls, exacting, time consuming, exciting, the perfect ‘marriage’ of the personal and the professional. From this the possibility of travelling the show emerged as Irena related to the intensity of my belief in the humanist message underpinning the work, and its potential educative value.

I would like to add a word about the unframed nature of the show. Aside from the fact that costs of framing a show of works on paper of this size would be more than daunting I have found that in certain circumstances the frame serves to distance the viewer from the work. This felt very much the case in regard to this body of work where immediacy and confrontation are inherent in the nature of most of the works. Pinning works direct to the gallery walls has reverberations of placards, public information bulletin boards and edicts, sites of urgent notices, political propaganda, missing persons information etc.

Anita Hochman, herself a child of Holocaust survivors, made a deeply moving speech at the opening of the exhibition. Personal feedback, visitors book comments and numbers of visitors to the gallery were all indicative of a positive response to the show. Anita Hochman and John Smith from Southern Cross University invited me to run some workshops for their painting students which were unfortunately cancelled in the last minute due to funding cuts. Lismore TAFE, apparently better endowed with funding, employed me to run several workshops and Grafton Regional Gallery requested the entire exhibition for July 1996 to be accompanied by a workshop (see 7 below). Some difficulties in providing walls appropriate to pin work to resulted in a renegotiation and both Leanne Willis, the Director at Grafton and I felt our solution of pinning works to canite boards was acceptable to both parties. 


Anita Hochman, herself a child of Holocaust survivors, made a deeply moving speech at the opening of the exhibition. Personal feedback, visitors book comments and numbers of visitors to the gallery were all indicative of a positive response to the show. Anita Hochman and John Smith from Southern Cross University invited me to run some workshops for their painting students which were unfortunately cancelled in the last minute due to funding cuts. Lismore TAFE, apparently better endowed with funding, employed me to run several workshops and Grafton Regional Gallery requested the entire exhibition for July 1996 to be accompanied by a workshop (see 7 below). Some difficulties in providing walls appropriate to pin work to resulted in a renegotiation and both Leanne Willis, the Director at Grafton and I felt our solution of pinning works to canite boards was acceptable to both parties.


On visiting Lismore RAG during the course of the show Irena spontaneously asked me if I would speak to a group of primary school children who had been brought to see the show. This reinforces my existing commitment to the role of artist as ”educator” (talking about the work; artist’s statements; public programs such as Grafton RAG workshop, TAFE, Adult Education, Australian Flying Arts School and Lismore Art Club, to name a few). This seems particularly relevant to less accessible subject matter such as I’m concerned with and raises issues of how galleries, artists and schools might work more closely together (eg school groups through galleries, artists’ talks in galleries or schools, slide presentations, even artist residencies in schools). An exhibition such as War Works straddles several areas…history, politics/current affairs, religion (or more correctly the issue of religious and cultural racism), and art, all of which our children, who are our future, should be exposed to. This holds true for both children and the adult population which brings me back to the aforementioned issue of public programs, such as running a workshop on Chemograms and Photograms in conjunction with the War Works show at Grafton Regional Gallery which was very successful, attended by a mix of secondary school teachers, university and school students. I believe Grafton Regional Gallery is to be commended on its excellent Gallery Goes to School programme, initiated in 1994 aiming to give those students not in close proximity to a Regional Gallery access to ‘art in the flesh’.

It is also relevant to mention that Lismore RAG is establishing a database of local artists, one aspect of which will be to establish which artists are available to talk in schools. (Not everyone is suited to this role as it demands an underlying belief in educating our children as well as an ability to relate well and to communicate with children).


(a) The confidence boost arising out of the invitation to mount this show as well as the prospect of it travelling encouraged me to approach institutions which I previously perceived as being out of my reach (QAG War Memorial etc) beginning a new level of networking.

(b) This exhibition marked the completion of my work pertaining to the Holocaust.
As a result of an unexpected visit to the USA in July 95 I took the opportunity whilst in Washington DC to visit the Vietnam Memorial Wall and found a strong emotional connection to this, the ‘ other’ war of my lifetime and generation. Having lived in Europe during most of the years of Australia’ s involvement in that war and having empathised with the trauma of the Vietnamese people I had missed the firsthand experience of seeing young Australians of my own generation going off to war, the losses and trauma the absence of honour on their return and the conspiracy of silence that surrounded them and their American counterparts. I started researching the subject and travelled to Vietnam in January 1996 to continue this process. I subsequently completed a large installation comprising over one hundred post-card size images.

(c) I find a continuing interest in the notion of community contact which continued in two major pieces completed this year – (1) Birthsong, an installation on photographic paper commemorating the death of Roberto Villanueva, an eminent Philippine artist and personal friend. This involved contact with local hospitals in the search for babies born on the day of his death, and (2) the Vietnamese piece mentioned above which involved contact with the Vietnam Veterans Association and some veterans. The show will be exhibited at Maudespace, Sydney, September 1996.

(d) After meticulously researching conservation issues in regard to the works on photographic paper I have found this to subsequently be restrictive and, given the ephemeral or non-permanent nature of installation work, I have given  myself permission to free myself of these restrictions in relation to the Vietnam piece which incorporates, amongst other media, permanent marker pen, textas and postcards.


Birth Life Death…………although these concerns have been reflected throughout my almost 20 years of art practise, they have consolidated for me in middle age and mic career…the big issues. It is my responsibility as an artist NOT to back off from what I so passionately feel about and to encourage others, be they children or adults, artists or non-artists, strangers or intimates not to be afraid, hence my earlier appeal, my commitment to education. For, as John Donne, the great English poet wrote, understanding, as he did, that we share a common humanity, and must all take the responsibility for guarding against our dark side:

Any man’ s death diminishes me because I am
involved in Mankinde
and therefore never send to know for whom
the bell tolls.
It tolls for  thee