Broken Hill is located around 1 150km west of Sydney and 520km from Adelaide and is officially in the middle of Nowhere! Despite its remote location, the city does have a fascinating history (which I will share in a later post) and its other huge selling point is the depth and diversity of artistic talent.
Pro Hart Gallery
Pro Hartis arguably Broken Hill’s most famous son.
Kevin Charles ‘Pro’ Hart (1928-2006) was born on a station (what we call in Australia an ‘extremely large farm’) 130km outside of Broken Hill. After finishing school he went to work in the silver mines, the dominant employer and industry in Broken Hill. His lifelong love of painting and drawing kept him sane after working long, dark days underground.
Largely self-taught, Pro’s naïve painting style would not be everyone’s cup of tea, however he enjoyed great celebrity,including starring in a carpet ad, and acceptance from the public due to his working class subject matter. The critics, on the other hand, were scathing of his anti-establishment approach to painting and generally, they ignored him and panned his work. Pro, in turn, thumbed his nose at them and continued to paint prolifically.
- The Gallery: Pro’s family home has been transformed into a gallery featuring a diverse range of his art, his Rolls Royce collection, jewellery designs, beloved musical instruments and sculpture. In reality it is not a great exhibition space as it is cramped, cluttered and very difficult to stand back and get perspective on some of the larger works. Not that I really know what I am talking about, but some of Pro’s works are so large and vibrant, they would really pop if you could position yourself about 4m away and take them in in all their glory.
- Also See: There is a video you can watch at the Gallery, and very comfy chairs to relax in, so do allow yourself some extra time to watch the full video as it showcases in detail Pro’s life and his art. Across the road from Gallery is a block of land featuring some of his large industrial sculptures. Access is free/no charge. Examples of his sculptural talent can also be seen throughout many of Broken Hill’s public parks.
Location: 108 Wyman St, Broken Hill NSW 2880. The Gallery is located in a residential area, well away from the CBD. The constant flow of tourist traffic to this part of Broken Hill must drive the neighbour’s insane. A car or taxi is the best way to reach the Pro’s home, especially if the temperatures are starting to climb.
- Opening Hours: The hours of opening reflect the season and it closes on many public holidays. Non-Summer times are 9am-5pm Monday to Saturday and 10am-5pm on Sundays.
- Admission: $5 per adult, $3 for pensioners and children are free. It is well-worth the small entry fee.
- Website: prohart.com.au
- Phone: 08 8087 2441
- Final Comments: I am so pleased we finally visited Pro’s home and gallery. I was surprised at the breadth of his talent and the diversity of his work. My only regret is that I couldn’t afford any of his art.
Broken Hill Regional Art Gallery
With the dazzling variety and talent of this region’s artists, it was only right that a professional gallerybe developed to celebrate their work. Located on Broken Hill’s main street, the wonderfully historic Sully’s Emporium has been gutted and completely refurbished to provide a welcoming and cavernous white space.
The Gallery hosts visiting exhibitions as well as permanent acquisitions of both traditional and modern art. When I visited the Gallery, Jim Paterson’s work dominated, in every sense, the ground floor. All dark charcoals and dystopian views. Upstairs indigenous artist, Clinton Kemp, showcased his latest paintings and carved items. In addition there was an indigenous weaving-focused display. These works were incredibly clever and unusual, and some seemed almost ethereal as they danced suspended from the ceiling.
Another highlight was the permanent exhibition of The Brushmen of the Bush. These five men – Pro Hart, Jack Absalom, Eric Minchin, John Pickup and Hugh Schultz – joined together in 1973 to promote their artworks which all celebrate rural and remote Australia. Each of the painters had an incredibly different style, but the collaboration worked and perhaps provided an interesting contrast revealing how they all interpreted the same Australian landscape and its people.
- The Gallery: The Gallery was serenely peaceful with only one other couple studying the artworks. It’s an attractive and comfortable space with seating in select places allowing you to rest and absorb the art-covered walls. I particularly liked how they had left many of the building’s historic features including the original sweeping, wooden staircase. A lift is also available for those unable to tackle the stairs.
- Also See: Entrance to the Gallery is via a very well-stocked retail/gift store. They had an appealing display of eclectic items and it would be a great spot to shop for that hard-to-buy person. Upstairs, The Brushmen of the Bush display including a short video, gives a solid context to the regional art scene. Rest your legs, take a seat and enjoy the video.
- Location: Right in the heart of Broken Hill. 404 – 408 Argent St Broken Hill NSW 2880.
- Opening Hours: Normal opening hours are Tuesday to Sunday 10am-4pm. Hours may vary on public holidays. The selection of exhibitions and their timing, vary throughout the year.
- Admission: By donation.
- Website: http://www.bhartgallery.com.au
- Phone: 08 8080 3444
- Final Comments: This gallery is well-worth a visit for the sheer variety of traditional, indigenous and contemporary art. It is also a wonderful way to get off the streets and escape the heat.
If you are heading to Far West NSW, make sure you allow time to enjoy some of the art this region has on offer. That was my mistake, not allowing enough time.
Two galleries down, only 25 to go!
What is your favourite art experience?
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