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Artists in Isolation

East Gippsland Art Gallery discovered a collective psyche of creativity and resilience when they reached out to artists in isolation.

Following Apocalyptic bush fires and the ongoing impact of Covid in East Gippsland, our small, but iconic, regional art gallery (captured above by artist Gordon Bain), continued to support regional artists who faced an unprecedented stretch of economic, environmental and psychological upheaval. Some lost homes, studios, tools and artwork while others thrived by drawing on their prodigious creativity and resilience. All were impacted by the loss of Country, the natural habitats, the flora and fauna that underpins their creative practices.

Photographer, Lisa Roberts, a member of the creative and prodigious gallery team, invited artists to share their stories of life in isolation during COVID-19. Some thirty-eight artists responded including emerging Indigenous artists and many who have well established studio practices.

She asked,

“How is your arts practice evolving and changing in response to changing times?”

Lisa's own story is a testament to her ongoing study of the Grey-headed Flying Fox colony on the Mitchell River. She also surveys coastal forests that rely on their role as pollinators for their reproduction. Finally, after the years of drought and catastrophic fires came the rain and the spectacular blossoming and re-emergence of native flora and fauna. Lisa is is back to the forests surveying blossom resources and other threatened species.

Lisa Roberts

A life in trees and other mysteries

Extract: "After the summer bush fires in East Gippsland, I just stopped taking photos. I didn’t know how to process what had happened and I still don’t. Lately I have been photographing the Grey-headed flying fox colony on the river in Bairnsdale. Every year I think I will photograph everything that goes on there in a year. But I can't and every day it’s different. So I'm just here performing non-essential services and every night they fly out, but I have to stay."

Dore Stockhausen, Nungurner

Extract: "After the most horrible summer dealing with fires, smoke, evacuation and constant worry, this time now in isolation feels almost like being back to normal in our studio. During the fires my brain felt strangely empty... just function, don't think. But soon after the fires had stopped I started visiting burnt areas, experiencing it all, working on ideas and taking photos. Back in the workshop I began to work on a new series of paintings called 'the edge of my vision - fire'. This will be an ongoing theme for some time. I am planning to revisit these places again and again. I will document the devastation, regrowth and recovery in my abstract way."

Jenny Toye, Bairnsdale

Extract. "I like to embrace a 'by the seat of your pants' creative process. I have found the lockdown great, as it forced me to stay home and has given me time to think and learn new skills. The sculptures I started working on have come out of both the lockdown and a trip through East Gippsland into NSW in February 2020. The bush fires definitely effected what I made in the lockdown. That Black Brown and Burnt world – bush, houses, metal road signs, animals and the effect on people, counterbalanced with how kind people were to others and how well many in our community responded, people from other communities and countries everywhere also helped in the recovery."

LINK to East Gippsland Art Gallery for full suite of 38 artist responses

Click on Image

With thanks to Lisa Roberts and Director, Crystal Stubbs, East Gippsland Art Gallery

Blog by Jo Moulton

Other Relevant Links:


Gippsland Gallery, Sale, brought artists together to explore and articulate through their various art practices the complexity of our current ecological crisis.

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