All posts by Michael Burge

Journalist, author, artist

‘A visual conversation’: Make your creative splash at Deepwater’s art workshops

THE powerful benefits of taking time out to make decorative objects and art by hand are on offer at the upcoming Deepwater Art Show, with a range of workshops led by some of the region’s best artisanal practitioners.

Leading the way will be Ngarrabul/Gamilaraay/Yuwaalaraay/Kooma woman Adèle Waabii Chapman-Burgess of Glen Innes, who will host a traditional basket weaving session on Saturday April 1.

WEAVING YARNS Adèle Waabii Chapman-Burgess

“Weaving is a powerful way to embrace and preserve my culture,” she says.

“It’s like a visual conversation. I’m proud and feel it’s a privilege to have the opportunity to bring our stories to life through weaving and yarning using traditional knowledge with modern tools to promote and share my culture.”

Chapman-Burgess’s workshop will begin with an introduction to basketry using natural plant materials and where to obtain them. She will demonstrate how to create a woven vessel or three-dimensional object, from getting started, changing materials, developing structure, creating walls and finishing your piece.

“We will discuss various ways you can decorate your basket, how to dye the fibres and different materials that you can forage to continue your practice of weaving with the coiling technique,” she says.

“You will then learn about sustainable practices and online resources for when you’re creating your own pieces at home.”

Fabulous and functional felt

FELTED FUN hat created by Jo-Anne Barr

Currabubula milliner Jo-Anne Barr believes there’s a link between creative classes, personal development and good mental health.

“Workshops also provide all participants the opportunity to share their knowledge, skills and life experiences with others – and that often includes the facilitator – that helps shape artisans and their practices,” she says.

Participants at Barr’s wet felt hat making workshop on Sunday April 2 can expect to leave with a simple flower brooch and a finished hat, but also skills in wet felting and basic hat blocking and shaping.

“It’s a fun, productive day, with new friendships forged and skills obtained, along with the satisfaction of knowing they turned a bundle of Australian superfine Merino wool into a fabulous and functional unique hat to be proud of,” she says.

Immersive experience

VISUAL LANGUAGE Artist Carolyn McCosker

Artist Carolyn McCosker of Inverell often sees fellow creatives struggle to find ways to express themselves via visual art.

“While it’s wonderful to recreate someone else’s ideas, we yearn to find our own way of expressing ourselves in drawing and painting,” she says.

“As artists in regional areas, we are isolated from what’s happening culturally in the cities. 

“I often travel to larger regional centres such as Moree, Armidale and Tamworth to visit the galleries and keep abreast with trends in new and contemporary art. I am always seeking to develop my techniques and expand upon existing concepts and ideas.”

Participants can join McCosker for a 2-day creative painting experience on Monday April 3 and Tuesday April 4.

“This workshop will prompt participants to explore how shape, form, colour and line can be employed to develop a personal visual language through which to convey ideas and feelings,” she says. 

“Participants will be invited to consider their own art interests as they view images of work by historical and contemporary Australian and international artists. We’ll investigate ways of referring to source material without letting it dominate your finished work.

COLOUR & LINE Artwork by Carolyn McCosker

“There’ll be warm up exercises in composition, colour and design before moving onto your own work, which you’ll be developing from your own reference images and concepts.”

McCosker believes creative workshops provide an “immersive experience” of completely absorbing oneself in art and art making, “with other like minded people working collaboratively, sharing, exchanging and learning new ideas and techniques”, she says.

Also taking place across the 5-day Deepwater Art Show will be a native Australian flower painting session on Saturday April 1 with Indigenous artist Lauren Rogers, and two separate copper fold-forming jewellery workshops on Sunday April 2 and Monday April 3 with Deepwater’s own silversmith Richard Moon.

For all workshop bookings head to the Deepwater Art Show’s website.

‘A litany of separation and rejection’: The shameful shadow behind Sydney World Pride

OPINION: They say timing is everything, but there’s a stark irony about World Pride happening throughout Sydney at the same moment as an inquiry into some of the harbour city’s darkest and most shameful years.

Away from the rainbow strip, just off Macquarie Street in a sandstone building raised from the city’s bedrock, the New South Wales special commission of inquiry into LGBTIQ+ hate crimes has been holding public hearings since November. 

It’s been described as a world first, but this inquiry is unlikely to make global news right now. There’s no way to spice up hours of former and current NSW Police and academics being questioned about historical deaths that were possibly driven by gay-hatred, and the multiple internal police reviews around them.

A pragmatic process is called for, yet the monotony pervading the lengthy daily hearings is amplified by the sense that we’ve been here all too many times before. It would be easier to just file away all the evidence (some 220 boxes of paperwork and 77,000 electronic files) and head to the beach to enjoy what’s left of the warm weather.

North Head, Sydney Harbour

But we won’t escape it there. Sydney’s seaboard was the location of many of these untimely deaths, where mens’ bodies were either discovered at the foot of the sandstone cliffs standing like ramparts above the mighty Pacific Ocean; or they disappeared without a trace. 

Were they pushed, did they fall, or jump? The question gets tumbled around by the white-topped breakers in a constant search for certainty. Adding to the lack of clarity is that many of these deaths happened in places where marginalised people were finding solace on the margins: the gay beats scattered around the quietest corners of Sydney, Newcastle and Wollongong.

It’s partly why crime is often hard to discern from misadventure or something else, since such places are also where some go to end their lives. 

Stunning escalation

Most compelling are the life stories starting to emerge from the gloom. Unlike others before it, this inquiry is allowing us to look beyond names on lists of cold cases by sharing details about the partners, families and careers of the long dead. We’re getting to see many of their faces for the first time.

A splash of case reviews earlier this year threw up an unexpected submission that evidence of homophobia had been overlooked by police investigating the brutal 1992 murder of John Gordon Hughes. 

It was a stunning escalation in an inquiry that is yet to find a lightning rod of justice.

The commission has also tabled evidence that many men on the list of cases were likely not homosexual and probably didn’t die at the hands of others, yet had their unsolved deaths caught up in the ongoing saga of the gay-hate ‘crime wave’.

To its credit, this inquiry is not underlining the difference. As their cases come up for submission, the dead are being remembered equally regardless of sexual orientation or gender, insofar as these things can be ascertained at such a distance. Families and friends across the state have been waiting for answers regardless, and this inquiry is looking back to times when policing standards – particularly around homicide investigations – was very different to today’s expectations. 

Wollongong newsreader Ross Warren, who went missing at Bondi in 1989

Relatives were not always kept informed about the progress of cases that proved difficult to solve. Some submissions have highlighted the lack of effective police communication with family and friends of victims. These connections might have been a source of leads and useful information, such as the sexual orientation of the deceased and thereby the possible context of the death, if only they’d been asked.

For other cases, sadly, there appear to be no family members watching. With terms of reference stretching back five decades, this inquiry sometimes feels like a litany of separation and rejection in which there’s little hope of snatching much from the jaws of time.

But one persistent parent can arguably be credited with bringing about the whole reckoning. Kay Warren, mother of 25-year-old Wollongong newsreader Ross Warren – who went missing near Bondi in 1989 – just wouldn’t let up about exactly what police were doing to investigate her son’s disappearance. 

She didn’t live to see this inquiry, but we should spare a thought for her determination and that of so many other family, friends and allies of the dead and missing, including the police who paid heed. 

We must also applaud the likes of Les Peterkin, who fronted the inquiry to give his courageous warts-and-all account of life during some of the toughest times in this state’s response to gay men.

Once World Pride has left town, this inquiry will turn the spotlight on further unsolved deaths that we’re still waiting to know about; but commissioner Justice John Sackar doesn’t have long. 

With a reporting deadline of June 30, time is of the essence.

Michael Burge’s debut novel Tank Water (MidnightSun Publishing) deals with rural gay-hate crime.

Lineage and landscape: get back to Deepwater for the art

A SPLASH of creativity is resurfacing in the New England Deepwater district, with a team of locals gearing up to deliver the town’s beloved art show again in autumn 2023.

Last held in 2014, the event is a significant fundraiser for the region. From March 31 to April 4, 2023, it will feature guest artists and work by local creatives and artisans against a backdrop of music, workshops and food at Deepwater’s School of Arts.

Convenor Catie Macansh said she has been delighted by the enthusiastic response to the revival of this community event.

“It’s great to have the generous support of sponsors, led by Highlands Real Estate Glen Innes, which is backing our major art award.

“We encourage artists from across the region to prepare their very best work and enter it for our three-day, curated exhibition, with $4500 of judged prizes in the mix.”

Artist Jane Henry returned to live and work on a cattle and cropping property in the Dumaresq Valley, and will be one of several featured artists at the event.

“It is wonderful to have the opportunity to share some creativity and stimulus with a small rural community like Deepwater, as they are always extremely welcoming and appreciative,” she said.

“The opportunity to socialise, meet new people and enjoy new experiences is embraced wholeheartedly and I love to support this interaction by displaying my creative impressions.”

SLOW-STITCHED Botanical artwork by Jane Henry

Henry will be exhibiting a collection of intricate artworks combining her love of Australian flora and paying homage to her mother and grandmothers, who passed down the skill and appreciation of slow needlework.

“I am constantly extending the capabilities of stitching on paper with natural fibres, dyes and natural objects I collect,” she said. 

“These are extremely intricate and time consuming pieces which showcase and preserve various natural forms.”

Stunning homelands

Lauren Rogers is a proud Ngarabal woman whose mob comes from the Deepwater region and has strong ancestral ties there. She is “blessed and humbled” to be invited to exhibit her contemporary Indigenous art at the Deepwater Art Show.

“I am thrilled to return to my traditional homelands to connect with my Country, the land, and my ancestors,” she said.

COMING HOME Ngarabal artist Lauren Rogers

“Sharing my artwork with the Deepwater community and celebrating First Nations’ history and culture will be a memorable experience.”

Rogers will bring pieces from her Coming Home collection, sharing important stories of her Ngarabal Country lineage to honour what she calls the “stunning geographical location” of Deepwater. 

“My preferred medium is acrylic on canvas, using vibrant colours to contrast and expose the deferring dimensions in the painting,” she said.

Ochre Lawson (pictured in main image) grew up on properties near Wollomombi and Glen Innes. 

“This time spent in native bush gave me a great love and appreciation for our wildness areas and how important they are for their beauty and health and wellbeing of the land,” she said.

“All my work is based on trips into wilderness country throughout Australia, where I gather source material through en plein air sketching, hiking deep into remote areas such as the Tasmanian high country, Kosciuszko and Washpool National Park.”  

Lawson says participating in the Deepwater Art Show and being able to support the Arts in regional NSW is very special. 

“As the Deepwater show is a fundraiser for different local charities, I’m very happy to participate knowing how important these organisations are for rural communities.  

“I feel very lucky to have grown up in rural Australia and feel that connection between city and country is more important than ever if we are to band together to battle climate change.”

A selection of Lawson’s semi-abstract paintings from her Kosciuszko, outback New South Wales, and Tasmanian series will be exhibited at the Deepwater School of Arts.

‘Organised mess’

Toowoomba-based artist Monique Correy grew up in Glen Innes and feels lucky to maintain strong connections with rural NSW.

“My parents aren’t farmers but we had all sorts of animals growing up and this has definitely had an impact on the things I paint,” she said.

DUCKS FOR DEEPWATER Artwork by Monique Correy

“I love the Glen Innes and surrounding community – they have been so supportive of me and It means a lot that I can give back in some way by being a part of this show.”

Known for her distinct painterly brushstrokes and stripped-back style, Correy describes her paintings as “an organised mess”.

After her first exhibition sold out on opening night, she is bringing some beloved favourites to Deepwater Art Show.

“Everyone loves ducks, and maybe a cowboy or two!” she said.

The final featured artist of the event, Clare Purser enjoys painting and drawing en plein air around her home on Brisbane’s Bayside.

“I’m interested in creating paintings that are evocative and intuitive and express an emotive reaction to the landscape,” she said.

Working mainly in oils and with mixed media on canvas, board and paper, Purser gathers inspiration for her vibrant land- and seascapes from notes and sketches.

She was recently as a finalist in the Sunshine Coast, Redlands and Moreton Bay region art awards.

EMOTIONAL LANDSCAPE Painter Clare Purser

Unique shindig

A great line of live performers, workshop facilitators, sponsors and special guests are gearing up for the program of events planned by the Deepwater Art Show committee.

Editor of Galah magazine, Annabelle Hickson, will open the show on Friday March 30. Guests will also experience performances by soprano Laura King and other musicians.

This unique opening night shindig will kick off a long weekend of high teas, artisan markets, and a workshop series, all delivered by New England-based creatives, including Carolyn McCosker, Joanne Barr, Adele Chapman-Burgess and Richard Moon.

For more information, tickets and entries, head to the Deepwater Art Show website