When an icy breeze sweeps the last of autumn’s yellow leaves through Taralga north of Goulburn, art works and steaming cuisine bring more than 1000 people into the village for the June long weekend.
Former Goulburn Regional Art Gallery director Jennifer Lamb sighed wistfully to herself 19 years ago, when the art show opened for its first exhibition and judging. “I used to get so jealous, I would never get audiences like that. At the opening on Saturday you always get up to 200, more likely 300 people,” Jennifer says. “People come in out of the freezing cold, the hall is well heated, and there are enough people to warm it up. Afterwards they head off to the two pubs, some of the cafes stay open and serve dinner.”
Taralga’s 1870 Argyle Inn’s only 5 pm sitting for dinner, is on opening night, for young families and owners of bush blocks visiting from Sydney. One of the inn’s partners, providore and poultry farmer Hugh Wennerbom, says the early sitting enables diners to attend the opening at 6 pm. “The art show is always a big weekend,” Hugh says.
Joining the Sydney blockies will be Southern Highlands, Canberra and Goulburn and district people following their favourite local artists.
Recognising the powerhouse dynamics of a little community, Jennifer estimated in 2001 a lifespan of 10 years for the art show. Nineteen years on the show is stronger than ever, and as one of the volunteers for organisers, the Taralga Progress Association, the playwright is thrilled.
“It is amazing the people who have links to Taralga through distant family,” Jennifer says. “Sydney broadcaster Richard Glover, a district resident, opened the show one year. The late Barry O’Keefe, a barrister and brother of wild rocker Johnny, came from there. Col Joy apparently speaks fondly of Taralga, I can’t remember his links with Taralga or whether he performed there as a big pop star.”
Paintings hang on hessian screens borrowed from Trinity Catholic College, Canberra, in the Taralga Memorial Hall. “It’s raw, honest if you like,” says Jennifer. “The works all come in on Friday afternoon next week, they start at 1pm and are supposed to be in by 4pm and we have them hung by 8 o’clock that night. There is nothing pretentious about it all. Within that it is still done professionally, all the works have labels indicating who the artist is, the title and price.”
Everyone who attends judges the $200 ‘People’s Choice’ award, the main prize.
Scratchboard artist Michelle Peddle drew on her inspiration and connectedness to Indigenous art and people in “Welcome to Country’’, a striking portrait that won in 2018. “I mainly use a knife to remove and reapply black ink in multiple layers to create the art work,” the Southern Highlands artist says.
Sealed, inspiringly scenic roads across the Abercrombie River to Oberon and Blue Mountains bring motorbike clubs, cycling and car clubs down into the village of 460 people. Open fires at the pubs and a lack of poker machines add to the country charm.
Jennifer says the art show generates good sales. “Say there are 300 works, at least 60 will sell, that’s a high proportion to sell at any sort of weekend art show. So, artists continue to support it because there is a good chance they will sell an art work. People say, ‘I will go to buy something’ so there is that sort of atmosphere as well. I can remember shows at the gallery and elsewhere, where you hardly sold anything,” says Jennifer, who was the regional gallery director for 23 years.
Goulburn artist Stavros Papantoniou who studied at the Julian Ashton Art School, Sydney and in Europe, won the 2016’s people choice with “Rodeo”. He will open the show and conduct workshops next weekend.
Paintings sell for about $300 to $400. The Progress Association keeps a small percentage per sale, and serves good food and wine at the opening. Jennifer’s suggestions for investing proceeds on improvements have been declined, which she accepts. “It is a country art show, and that is the attraction. The main thing is the show is coming from the heart. It is a much-loved show and everyone gears up for it,” she says.
The 19th Annual Taralga Art Show opens on Saturday 8th June, 6 pm – 8 pm and will run until Monday 10th June at Taralga War Memorial Hall. Visit their Facebook page for more details.