Friday, 31 January 2014

White wall fever, indeed.

Goodness, 'who knows where the time goes'? Almost a whole year later, and here I am, back at my blog. I was reminded of it because my son has just begun his own here at blogspot.

Coincidentally, an art exhibition opened last Friday in my very own country town and my son is in it - actually, a picture of him and his father - the art dealers Evan and Ray Hughes. The image is by the Queensland painter Ian Smith, though at the time it was painted, only one of them was an art dealer, the other is only about two foot long, bald, and crawling around the gallery floor.

 Confusing? Time is like that, a tangle of coincidences. For me, to be in that gallery full of paintings was a time warp or artists and old friends I've not seen for ages. A visit to the foreign country of the past doesn't happen every week out here in the sticks.

It was the opening at the Cooroy Butter Factory of an exhibition of the McCrea Collections - Then and Now. Back in the late 70s-early 80s, the McCreas were part of the Ray Hughes Gallery inner sanctum of collectors, artists and lovers. Once a month, we would all come together at the Red Hill Gallery in Enoggera Terrace to launch a new exhibiton. The McCreas joined the scene in the early 80s. At 6pm we'd crack open the Coolibah casks and for a couple of hours we'd all be in thrall of Ray Hughes, the maverick bad-boy art dealer, feeling the full force of his fire and brimstone passion and faith in contemporary art.

Smithy (Ian Smith) was always there. He and Ray were firm, fast friends, and Davida Allen, my painting teacher, and a host of collectors who had learned that admission to Ray's salon only cost them the price of a picture. The McCreas were not alone - there was Athy Nye, the bikie who'd stacked his bike and spent his insurance pay out on art; Ben Peel, a tradie who put his purchases on lay-by and paid them off at $50 a week; Shane and Sally Thompson who made the effort to come up for the show have an equally excellent art collection, as do many others. Jim Baker, who opened the show had a spectacular passion for the art he saw in that terrace shop in Red Hill. He went on to become our biggest collector and was instrumental in brokering the finance for our move to Sydney in the mid-80s. He went on to set up the private Museum of Contemporary art in Brisbane and like David Walsh in Tasmania, put together a fantastic collection that he shared with the people of Brisbane.

As I looked out across the crowd, searching out familiar images - that's  Peter Powditch! Steve Killick! Gavin Chilcott! I realised that the scene in Brisbane back then was about the same size. Our mailing list was only about 500 people (I know, I hand addressed the envelopes). Today, people have more facebook friends than that. But what we had was real - real people would receive that monthly post card in the mail, put it on the fridge and plan their social life around it. The Ray Hughes Gallery was IT, edgy and interesting as all fuck. I feel deeply honoured to have been part of that circle of acquaintance.

So, while it was a weird blast from the past kind of a thing, it was also a fantastic testament to the love and faith John and Lyn McCrea placed in the possibility of where a work of art can take you and how it can change your life. Ray asked his collectors to dig into their pockets to support the artists in their midst - not only to buy the work, but to befriend them and continue to keep and care for their work, and thereby actively participate in its ongoing appreciation in value. By becomming the 'premiere' audience of the work, Ray's collectors were invited into the studio to be the first people in the world to see a new show, to be the front line curators of their own personal museums of art and ideas.

I am blessed to have my own collection of work from that time, my own personal visual diary of my life and times in relation to the great artistic minds of my generation. It is the diary of a large, exuberant love, the major product of which is our brilliant son, Evan - the baby in that picture by Smithy. He has the baton now and runs The Hughes Gallery. 


  1. Davida Allen taught you painting? Get back behind a canvas forthwith, Hughesy. You have a debt to repay to Art.

  2. Really. No fooling. Except for anything by Thomas Kinkade and whoever it is who paints those dogs playing poker. I can't get enough of that stuff.

  3. And I like those paintings of children with big eyes.

  4. Boyllan - that's AMerican for Bogan, yeah?

  5. Annette or Hughesy as it seems your new moniker since I saw you last. Thank goodness I finally have a contact for you via Louise MC. Louise alerted me to your book ages ago, could not buy a copy so tried libraries - why is it not in libraries? aren't publishers meant to deposit free copies? Anyway now I can contact you - vicariously via a blog - I will order one from you. In the meantime hello and much more, perhaps we will have a further conversation via here or a more private method.

  6. If you add a comment via your blog I will probably have the tedious task of checking the blog again, here is my email

  7. I can see that you are an expert at your field! I am launching a website soon, and your information will be very useful for me.. Thanks for all your help and wishing you all the success in your business. printable wall art