Exhibition: Bunyips and Dragons

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Reading Time is excited to announce a new exhibition coming to the National Gallery of Victoria.  Bunyips and Dragons: Australian Children’s Book Illustrations will be at the The Ian Potter Centre: NGV Australia from 25 July 2015 to 4 October 2015.  And the best news is that it’s free entry!

Enchanting large-scale works from more than 60 of Australia’s best-loved book illustrators will feature in Bunyips and Dragons: Australian Children’s Book Illustrations. Original and instantly recognisable images will be showcased including award-winning work by Graeme Base for The Eleventh Hour, Shaun Tan for the popular John Marsden book The Rabbits and Ron Brooks’ cover of The Bunyip of Berkeley’s Creek, as well as familiar characters such as Leigh Hobbs’ cheeky cat Old Tom.

Providing an insight into the development of children’s book illustrations over the past forty years, the works are inspired by Australia’s unique natural environment, telling stories of family, home, fantasy and adventure in the distinctive settings of the bush, the beach and the city. Tony Ellwood, Director, NGV, said, ‘This exhibition presents more than 80 works showing the uniquely Australian character of our children’s books and reflecting the incredible growth of Australian children’s literature over the past forty years. From early work by Ron Brooks and Peter Pavey, to drawings from popular contemporary books by Sally Rippin and Leigh Hobbs, these appealing and popular illustrations with a distinctively local bent will be recognised by people of all ages. Illustrations in children’s books are the first artworks we encounter as we grow up, guiding our imagination, stimulating our curiosity and opening up new worlds.

The works in the exhibition were donated to the NGV by Albert Ullin OAM, founder of Australia’s first children’s bookstore, The Little Bookroom. Tony Ellwood continued, ‘Through Albert Ullin’s tremendous gift of this significant collection of illustrations, the NGV is able to present an insightful survey of Australian children’s picture books and literature.

Highlights in the exhibition include pen, ink and watercolour illustrations from Bob Graham’s classic children’s books Crusher is Coming and Greetings from Sandy Beach, which Ullin received as a gift from the illustrator for the 30th anniversary of The Little Bookroom. Alison Lester’s drawing of a green dinosaur in Thingitis, the 1996 book by much loved author Robin Klein is also featured. Other highlights include an illustration for Gezani & the Tricky Baboon by Sally Rippin, author and illustrator of the Billie B Brown series; the painted cover illustration for A is for Aunty by Indigenous Australian Kamileroi painter and illustrator Elaine Russell and a work from Patterns of Australia by Indigenous Australian artist, illustrator and designer Bronwyn Bancroft.

A key figure in fostering children’s book illustration in Australia, Ullin provided support to many illustrators in the early stages of their careers and opened the first bookstore in Australia devoted solely to children’s books, The Little Bookroom. The store became a home for many Australian illustrators featured in the exhibition: a young Ron Brooks was a regular visitor, coming in to the store every day to draw inspiration from the work of overseas illustrators at a time when Australian children’s illustration was still an emerging art.

Wanting to nurture local talent and encourage children’s book illustration in Australia, Ullin not only stocked Australian books but also began to buy original illustrations from local illustrators, which developed into a large collection, now on display in this exhibition. Two drawings from Brooks’ first book The Bunyip of Berkeley’s Creek feature in the exhibition and were among the first purchased by Ullin for his collection. The book is now regarded as the picture book that launched modern Australian children’s literature.

Illustrations from the two calendars that Ullin produced in the 1990s are also on display as well as several unpublished drawings by prize-winning illustrators. The exhibition will include video interviews with authors, illustrators and Albert Ullin and a film that shows drawings taking shape in the hands of some of our most celebrated illustrators, including Ron Brooks, Leigh Hobbs and Shaun Tan.

There will be drawing and reading activities and a Conversation with Graeme Base, Albert Ullin and exhibition curator Petra Kayser on 26 July. Visitors can also hear The Bunyip of Berkeley’s Creek narrated by Nick Cave and Greetings from Sandy Beach narrated by Justine Clarke on tablets in the exhibition space.

Bunyips and Dragons: Australian Children’s Book Illustrations will be on display at The Ian Potter Centre: NGV Australia at Federation Square from 25 July 2015 to 4 October 2015. Open 10am-5pm, closed Mondays. Free entry.

PUBLIC PROGRAMS

  • In Conversation: Graeme Base, Albert Ullin and Petra Kayser Sunday 26 July, 11:00am –  Hear the inside story of Australian children’s book illustration from a celebrated illustrator and an avid collector and benefactor. Cost $20 A / $16 M / $18 C, bookings essential Bookings 03 8662 1555  Location NGVA Theatre, Ground level
  • Under 4s – Wed 26 Aug, 10:00am – 11:15am To celebrate Children’s Book Week, take a journey with well-known author and illustrator, Bob Graham, as he reads his latest book How the Sun got to Coco’s House followed by a quick sketch session. Then explore the exhibition. Cost $10 Ch / $8 M, bookings essential Bookings 03 8662 1555 Meet Information desk, NGVA

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