Author Archives: Brenda May Gallery

‘Howl for a Black Cockatoo’ by Gwen Harrison and Sue Anderson

Howl for a Black Cockatoo is a limited edition of 25 handcrafted books produced collaboratively by Sue Anderson and Gwen Harrison. The work explores the experiences of the hundreds of young girls who were held on Cockatoo Island in the Industrial School between 1871 – 1888.

The island, one of many in Sydney Harbour, is harsh, barren, and treeless – exposed to all weather. It is a misshapen site: a formation of sandstone rock emerging from the deep harbour that convicts quarried to construct their own prison on the escarpment and dry docks for ships below. It seems an unlikely place to have sent children, and yet young orphaned and neglected girls, some of whom were babies, were kept there.


In 1871 Cockatoo Island prison was renamed ‘Biloela’ an Industrial School for girls and a separate Reformatory. Ostensibly, the name changing was to protect the children from the stigma of having been at ‘Cockatoo’. In reality, the renaming was intended to divert public attention from the fact that children were being sent to a notorious prison site. The appalling conditions there were deemed unfit for some of the worst felons in the colony who had just been moved to a new prison on the edge of Sydney town.

These children had already been stigmatised the moment they were ‘charged’ with being neglected. A public inquiry in 1873 into ‘Biloela’ outlined the brutal, inhumane treatment the children received from all those in authority, the management, and those employed for their care and teaching.

In ‘The Fatal Shore’ Robert Hughes wrote ‘crimes die with their witnesses and so, no doubt, did most of the crimes against women in the early colony’. The story of the Biloela girls is scarcely known in Australia. When researching their history we constantly wondered how these voiceless children fared after surviving Cockatoo. On reading a recently released report, by the Government’s current Royal Commission into Child Sexual Abuse in Australian Institutions, the Parramatta Girl’s Home/Training School was named as one of the worst. This is the place where the girls from Biloela were sent, and as history has shown, the pattern of abuse continued.


Many of the children carried the scars from these institutions on their damaged souls; passing them on from generation to generation. This history forms part of the fabric of Australian society today. It is difficult to express the nature of the overwhelming wrongs these girls endured. Eventually their story was recontextualised into another world called Wonderland.

The books are comprised of original sugarlift and aquatint etchings on Magnani ‘Revere’ 100% cotton rag paper, with letterpress printing on a Potter Proof Press, handset Canson Lead type, various wood types. Abstract leather binding in black kangaroo, with sugarlift etching on Magnani ‘Revere’. The work was completed in January 2015.

Currently on view as part of Small Publishers curated by Akky van Ogtrop.

Christmas Show 2014 – opening 2 December

Christmas/$1,000 Show
Please join us Tuesday 2 December at 6pm
for the big reveal


To celebrate the end of another year and continuing in the tradition of the ever popular Access and Brenda May Gallery Birthday Show, the Gallery presents a special Christmas Show (and our 29th Birthday!). Included in the exhibition will be works from our represented and supported artists, made especially for the occasion.

As in previous years, the exhibition will be unavailable for previews and unseen by the public until the opening at 6pm sharp on Tuesday 2 December, when the windows will be cleared and the doors opened to reveal recent artworks generously priced by the artists at $1,000 for the duration of the show.


Christmas Show reveal/opening: Tuesday 2 December, 6-8pm
▶ Last day open in 2014, Saturday 20 December, until 5pm
▶ Brenda May Gallery at Art Stage Singapore, 22 – 25 January 2015
▶ Combined 2 Danks Street Opening, Wednesday 28 January 2015, 6-8pm



This will be our very last exhibition opening! Starting in 2015, we are holding custom events tailored to each exhibition, complete with an invitation only requirement. More information is available here.


Tanmaya Bingham, Robert Boynes, Sybil Curtis, Todd Fuller, Ashleigh Garwood, James Guppy, Waratah Lahy, Melinda Le Guay, Kevin McKay, Helen Mueller, Al Munro, Carol Murphy, Mylyn Nguyen, Leslie Oliver, Janet Parker-Smith, Janet Tavener, Lezlie Tilley, Peter Tilley, and Nicole Welch.

Now Accepting Proposals for ‘Paper Works III’

Brenda May Gallery is seeking proposals from professional practising artists in Australia and New Zealand for the curated group exhibition ‘Paper Works III′.

Paper Works III – 14 April to 2 May 2015

Paper is such a commonplace and pervasive material. We write on it, read it, drink out of it and eat off it, yet in terms of conservation it is considered one of the most fragile of mediums in the art world.

This third installment of our Paper Works series endeavours to illustrate the diversity and versatility of paper, providing a glimpse into the range of creative potential for this medium.

Proposals for this show must be received by Friday 6 February 2015.
Artwork to be delivered to the Gallery by Friday 10 April 2015.

Submissions should be posted directly to the Gallery (email submissions and proposals sent by registered post will not be accepted) and should include a CD of recent work and images in support of the proposal, an up to date C/V, an artist statement and a separate, single page outlining the nature of the work you are proposing. Please keep it simple, no powerpoint or keynote files.

View the previous installments in our Paper Works series:
Paper Works, 23 March to 11 April 2010.
Paper Works II, 16 April to 4 May 2013.

Painting Locations for ‘Structures in the Landscape’ 2014

architectural paintings employ mining and industrial subject matter, finding beauty within and giving warmth and personality to these areas of construction – See more at:

Sybil Curtis’s architectural paintings employ mining and industrial subject matter, finding beauty within and giving warmth and personality to these areas of construction. This post looks at the locations that have inspired her works in Structures in the Landscape.

Moree NSW

moree_map   moree_grain_storageImages of the GrainCorp storage site from the ABC

curtis_beyond_blueSybil Curtis, ‘Beyond Blue’ 2014, oil on linen, 48 x 150cm

curtis_Gold without the greenSybil Curtis, ‘Gold without the Green’ 2014, oil on linen, 48 x 150cm


Narrabri NSW






Image sourced from Visit Narrabri website







Sybil Curtis, ‘Field Flowers’ 2014, oil on linen, 35 x 35cm



Sybil-Curtis-Flowers-of-the-FieldSybil Curtis, ‘Flowers of the Field’ 2013, oil on linen, 90 x 90cm

Tarragindi QLD


tarragindi_commerce_streetImage screenshot from Google Maps







Sybil Curtis ‘Living on Commerce Street’ 2014, oil on linen, 35 x 35cm



Sybil-Curtis-The-White-Family-of-Commerce-Street Sybil Curtis ‘The White Family of Commerce Street’ 2014, oil on linen, 100 x 100cm

Sybil-Curtis-The-White-Family Sybil Curtis, ‘The White Family’ 2014, oil on linen ,100 x 100cm

Dalby QLD


Dalby_grain_storage   normal_12941




Images sourced from:


Sybil-Curtis-Stairways-to-BlueSybil Curtis, ‘Stairways to Blue’ 2013, oil on linen, 100 x 100cm

Sybil-Curtis-A-Possiblity-of-RainSybil Curtis, ‘A Possiblity of Rain’ 2014, oil on linen, 100 x 100cm

curtis_ripper_and_screenedL to R: Sybil Curtis, ‘Ripper’ 2013, oil on linen, 35 x 35cm; Sybil Curtis, ‘Screened’ 2014, oil on linen, 35 x 35cm


Geelong VIC



Curtis_pigeon_and_windL to R: Sybil Curtis, ‘A Pigeon on a Post’ 2014, oil on linen, 35 x 35cm; Sybil Curtis, ‘Which way does the Wind Blow?’ 2014, oil on linen, 35 x 35cm

New Paintings by James Guppy

Our newest addition to the Gallery stockroom is a selection of paintings from the series How Sweet is the Shepherd’s Sweet Lot! by James Guppy. The paintings were made for these quirky, vintage frames, assiduously collected by James over a number of years. The imagery references several sources including old footage of paratroopers descending from a plane, B grade sci-fi movies and Palaeolithic figurines.

All of the paintings are presented under the original convex glass (the images below are pictured without the glass), adding a further sense of distance and another dimension to the finished works.

You can view a wonderful video interview with James regarding this series here. Additional paintings from the series can be viewed on our website here.

To receive notifications of new work and exhibition previews for James Guppy, please sign up HERE.


Introducing Ashleigh Garwood

We are pleased to present the work of Ashleigh Garwood, an emerging photographer who will be exhibiting at the Gallery in May 2015. To create the series Of Other Spaces, Garwood took the initial photographs using analogue technology, before digitising and manipulating the images to then produce large-scale silver gelatin prints. This oscillation between traditional and contemporary photographic processes causes the resulting work to have the rich and ethereal quality of analogue photography, engaging viewers via their sublime sense of symmetry.

To receive notifications of new work and exhibition previews for Ashleigh Garwood, please register your details with the Gallery via email. Additional works from this series are available to view here.


Available works from the Pop era by Robert Boynes Paintings from the 1960′s and 1970′s

Currently on view at the Art Gallery of New South Wales is the blockbuster exhibition Pop to Popism curated by Wayne Tunnicliffe. An impressive exhibition filled with iconic international artworks and Australian Pop pieces, we highly recommend that this comprehensive survey of Pop and Pop-inspired works is paid a visit by all. We are also delighted that Represented artist, Robert Boynes, has two major paintings featured in the ‘Made in Oz’ section. Pop to Popism will be on view until 1 March 2015.

boynes_pop_opening▶ Left: Robert Boynes, ‘Playboy club news’ 1974, synthetic polymer paint on canvas, 152 x 152cm. Purchased by the Art Gallery of New South Wales, 1983.

▶ Right: Robert Boynes, ‘Premonition’ 1969, synthetic polymer paint on canvas, 183 x 182.2cm. Purchased by the National Gallery of Victoria, 1980.

In light of the two important artworks by Robert Boynes curated into Pop to Popism, Brenda May Gallery would like to present a selection of paintings from the Pop era that have been made available by Robert for this occasion. These works were created while Robert was in London and exhibited as a solo exhibition, curated by the late Nick Waterlow OAM, at Bear Lane Gallery in Oxford in 1969.


Additional paintings from this series are available to view on our website here. To receive notifications of new work and exhibition previews for Robert Boynes, please sign up HERE.


November 2014 Exhibitions

▶ SYBIL CURTIS, Structures in the Landscape
“When travelling through the flat, monotonous country of inland Australia, agricultural and mining structures are often visible for a considerable distance, rising like giant sculptures out of a flat plain: three-dimensional forms intersecting horizontal lines.”

To receive a preview of the work in this exhibition with prices, please click HERE to be redirected to Sybil Curtis’ mailing list form.


ELEPHANT IN THE ROOM, Animal Welfare League fundraising exhibition
A portion of the sales in this exhibition, depicting critters, creatures and canines, will directly benefit the Animal Welfare League NSW. The Gallery will donate 20% of each sale to the AWL to support them in caring for surrendered, neglected and abandoned animals. AWL has been in operation for over 50 years and maintains two shelters, a veterinary clinic and twelve branches of volunteers and we are delighted to be able to support them.



From 2015, Brenda May Gallery will no longer host traditional openings and instead celebrate exhibitions by creating custom events, tailored to each show, with an invitation only requirement. These events will include intimate dinners, performances, themed breakfasts, artist talks and more. We have already hosted such exhibition-specific gatherings with great success.

By joining an individual mailing list you are registering your interest in that specific artist and will also be the first to receive information on new work and exhibition previews. In order to ensure that you do not miss out on these events and news for our represented artists, please click HERE to be redirected to more information and simple links to each mailing list.

Never fear, should you decide not to register, you will still receive all information pertaining to upcoming exhibitions, gallery news and titbits.

Robert Boynes exhibiting at Art Stage Singapore 2015

Next year will mark Brenda May Gallery’s third year of exhibiting at Art Sage Singapore, again joining a select group of Australian galleries in this international platform. We are proud to announce that in 2015 senior artist Robert Boynes will represent the Gallery with his vibrant multi-panel installation ‘Long Take – Slow Dissolve‘.

Across fifteen panels, ‘Long Take – Slow Dissolve’ encapsulates the aesthetic and energy of a contemporary, urban environment. Though the artist uses layers of iconography that are site-specific, such as the National Gallery of Victoria’s ‘water-wall’ and a veil of hanging ping-pong balls installed at the end of a tiny alley in Melbourne, Robert Boynes’ work evokes the overall energy of the big city, imaging no particular place and therefore lending itself to reflect any modern metropolis. Fractured imagery of crowds, references to the chaotic noise of communication, glowing fluorescent lights and junctions of human interaction are composed in a linear narrative – colours and shapes radiating from the canvases throughout the strip. The heat and activity of many of the panels in ‘Long Take – Slow Dissolve’ are grounded and juxtaposed with moments of strong colour and texture, though a definite emphasis on the human form in relation to urban spaces is always evident. Though each canvas is compiled of multiple layers, they exist as fleeting moments; peripheral glimpses of a familiar city-scape.


Robert Boynes in ‘Pop to Popism’ at Art Gallery of NSW

Pop to Popism, Art Gallery of New South Wales, 1 November 2014 to 1 March 2015

Boynes_playboy_club_newsRobert Boynes, ‘Playboy club news’ 1974
synthetic polymer paint on canvas, 152 x 152 cm
In the collection of the Art Gallery of New South Wales

Head Curator of Australian Art at the Art Gallery of New South Wales, Wayne Tunnicliffe, brings to Sydney incredible works by local and international artists who either pioneered, contributed to or notably engaged with the Pop Art movement.

“Spanning three decades from the mid 1950s to the 1980s, the exhibition traces the origins of pop art, its heady high period and its enduring legacy both in Australia and abroad. One of our most ambitious exhibitions ever, it will consume an entire Gallery floor and feature over 200 works…” – Art Gallery of New South Wales, The movement that changed art forever. Full text available here.