A day in the life of Genevieve Morris

Genevive Morris at Burrinja Genevive Morris at BurrinjaWurundjeri Plaque

Blog post and images by Jen Angel.

I met Gen a couple of years ago when her daughter started at my daughters school. Over those couple of years, our friendship has been growing and getting to know this genuinely funny, kind and beautiful person has been wonderful. Last year I was lucky enough to spend time with Gen backstage while she was in the play True Minds by Joanna Murray-Smith. I loved every minute of it. I have seen Gen with her theatre family, and it made me realise how different this world of hers is in comparison to the world I share with her here in our big garden in The Hills. Gen shares with us in this article how she and her family came to live in The Dandenong Ranges.

We’ve been happily living in Upwey since March 2010.

Prior to that, we’d lived in Thornbury, Brunswick, Sydney and West St Kilda.

In 2009 my Dad passed away and we spread his ashes in the Dandenong’s. He’d always had an affinity with the hills, whether he was working up here as a builder, or relaxing at a picnic ground with loved ones. I grew up in Knoxfield, so we weren’t far from the hills. Anyway, when we were driving through Upwey Tecoma and Belgrave on the way to scatter Dad’s ashes, my Partner commented on how beautiful this area was, and asked what the names of these suburbs were. He grew up in Perth you see, and although he’d lived in Melbourne for over 13 years by this stage, he’d not seen a great deal of the hills in that time. Once I told him the names of these places, he was asking me about real estate prices etc, and he was soon on the hunt for our first home that wasn’t a rental.

We didn’t look for too long before we found the place that we now call home. There was much more bang for your buck up here in the hills in comparison to the areas we’d lived in prior to that. And the sense of community was evident pretty early on in our hunt for the right place. Locals seemed to be really familiar with one another down at the shops etc. There was a sense of a shared history in Upwey which doesn’t necessarily exist in suburbs closer into town, as the demographic seems to change more rapidly there than up here. Not that it’s a negative thing for an area to change it’s make up often, but there’s something kind of nice and “old school” about people knowing who each other are a bit more here.

Genevive Morris in the Hills Genevive Morris in the Hills Genevive Morris in the hills Genevive Morris enjoying the scenery

When we first moved here I was in a series of ads for the ANZ that were quite popular. It was kind of hard to just be out and about doing day to day things anonymously without being recognized from the ads. This was fine and understandable (sometimes annoying), and in a way it was probably an easier way to start to get to know people – being a newcomer to the area and all. It opened up a conversation which then made a connection, which then lead to ongoing connections, which for the most part would then become friendships or relationships of mutual respect. It’s meant that I and my family were now becoming a part of this community, and the longer that time goes on the fact that I’m sometimes on the telly becomes less and less important, but conversations about the kids and local and global issues are of more interest to other community members and me.

One thing that did strike me as odd when we first moved up here was that the area wasn’t as multi cultural as I’d been used too. This seemed (and still does to a certain extent) slightly unusual, and a bit 1950s Australia or something. I can understand, with how the winters can be up here – not to mention all of the critters and creepy crawlies we get etc, that this could be a deterrent to some cultures (especially from warmer climates or built up cities), but I feel it’s a bit of a shame from a selfish point of view not to have that cultural exchange as readily up here as I’d had in the past.

Who knows what the future holds??

Genevive Morris at work

Photos by Jen Angel to see more go to her blog A day in the life of everyday people.

Hugo Racz’s clean slate

mirror final 6.0Hugo at laptop portraits at window

Post by Amy Middleton.

I am happy that I don’t know you… because the best it yet to come!

I am not going to pretend to know or understand Hugo Racz. In fact, what I ‘think’ I know about him I have gathered from a few short encounters and the assumptions I have lifted from his artwork.

Hugo’s paintings first caught my attention when I curated the VCE Creative Showcase at Burrinja late last year. His collection of digital prints and paintings was raw, edgy, authentic and brave. The fusion of uninhibited mark making and clashing colours in his work is eye catching and has an undercurrent of aggressive playfulness. What also caught my attention were the tiny insights and clues that littered the canvas and gave insight into Hugo’s thoughts and observations of the world around him.

I was delighted when he agreed to create a new body of work for a solo show at Burrinja. Tabula Rasa will be open to view at the Jarmbi Gallery from 23 May to 15 June.The Latin term tabula rasa translates in English to ‘clean slate’, which refers to starting again. Hugo explained his choice of title by saying, “I feel as though I have moved onto a new chapter in my life having finished high school last year. My routine has totally changed and my mind is fresh, it’s as though I am starting again; a clean slate. The term also specifically refers to a scraped tablet from which writing has been erased. From a creative perspective this solely relates to most of my art, in which I often scrub out entire sections of the image to either start again or simply cover over with more paint. By removing or crossing out words and lines, they become more meaningful in their absence.” I get the sense that this statement is a hopeful one… and I am excited by that!

onboarddogeweb onboardpullingteethweb Insomnia

When I visited Hugo at his studio last week it became obvious that this laid back young guy possesses a creative restlessness and genuine passion for making art. Hugo describes his art as “warped depictions of my personal life and the world around me. I try to portray internal emotions, thoughts and spirituality as a tangible, exterior manifestation; brought to life using primitive line application and a vivid colour pallet to create.” This statement seems a tall order even for a seasoned artist, let alone a young guy who has only just finished school. Hugo does however; seem to have a deep inner strength that I believe will serve him well in years to come. He doesn’t seem to say very much with his words, but he has clearly found a voice to express his inner world. My hope for him is that he can continue to create honest art, and that the world around him continues to provide enough creative fodder for a long career.

Hugo painting Hugo Razc in studio Hugo at mirror

Tabula Rasa opens officially on Friday 23 May at 6.30 pm
at Burrinja – Cnr Glenfern Rd and Matson Drive, Upwey.
Please come along to check out Hugo’s work and meet the man himself!

Photos of Hugo’s artwork courtesy of Jacqui Christians. Photos of Hugo at his studio by Amy Middleton. 

Project Upwey: Our Future, Our Plan, Our Community – Your Vision, Your Voice!

Project Upwey

Post by Belinda Powell – Project Upwey community working committee

Join the conversation! Our community needs you to get involved and have your say. A community plan is being developed for Upwey, so the whole Upwey community is being invited to get involved. Come along to the Sherbrooke Family and Children’s Centre/ Upwey community Hall, 1443 Burwood Highway, Upwey on Monday 19 May from 6:30pm – 9:00pm (7:00pm start after a light supper) for an all-inclusive community conversation and workshop about Upwey. We need you to tell us:

  • What you like about Upwey and what you would like to retain?
  • What you would like to see Upwey regain?
  • What you don’t like about Upwey or what you would like to change?
  • What do you imagine or hope for our community in the future?
  • What would you like to see developed or created in the future?

If you care about the future direction of our community and want to have a say in how Upwey will be shaped or changed in the future you should attend. Registrations for this FREE community event are essential for catering purposes. To register email projectupwey@outlook.com

upwey village signskatepark mural upweyUpwey Hall, Scouts and back of shops.     Upwey Hall, Scouts and back of shops.

The Project Upwey plan is being developed by the community of Upwey, for the community of Upwey. The aims of the plan go beyond infrastructure improvements, and can be summarised as follows.

  • To unite the residents and business people of Upwey
  • To promote the wide variety of clubs, groups and organizations
  • To enhance connectivity between those groups, and to provide reciprocal benefits and support
  • To engage, develop, encourage and help our young people
  • To demonstrate the advantages of working collectively
  • To empower & support sub-groups who take on projects which benefit Upwey
  • To facilitate sources of funding
  • To improve the physical appearance of our township and its surroundings
  • To enrich the lives of our residents and to energize our businesses
  • To uplift the vibrancy, ambience and pride in our town
  • To enjoy and positively embrace the challenge

Project Upwey aims to harness the collective assets and strengths of our township, to consolidate our ideas, to prioritise by urgency and importance, and to provide resources and connections to enable action. Project Upwey is a new group, with an experienced and motivated steering committee, which will develop a whole-of-community plan. Spread the word to your family and friends. ‘Like’ us on Facebook.

See you on the 19th! Don’t forget to register.

Project Upwey banner stationglenfern valley welcome

The Hills Food Frontier – a community inspired good food project.

Food Frontier2Food frontier

Post by Adriana Alvarez.

Ever since Maccas has come to Tecoma a lot of emotion, debate and activity has been stirred in our community. And it’s not just the protest against Maccas which has gathered a great swell of support, the rumblings from all parts of the community are being heard. The fight, which is still raging, has given us cause to think about the things that are important to our community and unique culture. None more important than around the concept of the food we all consume, which has become a hot topic of debate worldwide.

Enter Holly Desmond, Laura Spirt and Shakti McLaren with The Hills Food Frontier. It was started when the proposal for Jamie Oliver’s ‘pop up kitchen’ competition was won by somebody else. The campaign to win Jamie Oliver’s competition was very strong, it had an incredible wave of support in the Hills from schools, businesses and volunteers, including a kitchen space offered for the project by Burrinja. “It had such an incredible groundswell of interest” says Shakti, who had seen the success of pop up kitchens before and knew it could work here as well. “After losing the competition, we decided we can’t loose this momentum, we have to keep it going.”

“We want to inspire the people in the towns and villages of The Dandenongs to grow, cook, share and learn about good food” adds Holly Desmond one of the founders. These three local women have joined forces to head this project, between them they have a knowledge of health promotion, community development and IT skills and hope to harness the support of local people and businesses in their vision for the Hills. “We want to increase promotion of projects and businesses that provide good food options and strengthen good food activities in The Hills.”

The Hills Food Frontier believes that good food is nutritious, wholesome, affordable and where possible grown ethically by local farmers and producers. It’s about advocating the best food options for people, this invisible ‘Frontier’ has been created around The Hills community, to ensure that local good food is readily available, sustainable and promoted to locals and tourists alike.

Food-frontier-collage food frontier1

Picture a food forest planted on public land where all the produce is available to locals, or a seasonal slow food long lunch, a weekly farmers market, or kitchen gardens flourishing in all schools. Sharing, growing and cooking food is a way to promote social connection and these women are passionate about bringing people together.

“We all love food, we cook together, Holly taught us how to make gnocchi one day” says Shakti. It occurred to them that ideas like this, simple cooking, learning techniques in ‘pop up’ kitchens could catch on. “There are many people in The Hills who eat alone or don’t have the skills to grow and cook food, we want to develop a way for these people to get together.”

A gathering to discuss ideas with the local community will be held on Sunday 18th May at The Burrinja Cultural Centre, Blackbox Theatre, Glenfern Road Upwey. Because they are all about good food, they are asking people to bring a plate to share at 12.30 with proceedings starting at 1pm. The meeting is a starting point for ideas, to find a couple of activities that the community can work with, as this will be a community driven project.

“We should be greatful to Maccas for getting people to connect” says Shakti. “A lot of good things are coming out of it. It’s liberating to see what has come out of it. That makes us unique because nowhere else in the world would have had that response.” Before Maccas got us all thinking, this debate about good food would not have been so rich and it’s certainly a conversation worth having.

For more information go to the Hills Food frontier Facebook to leave your ideas or a message if you can’t make it to the meeting. Or call Shakti Mclaren on 0416 149 776 or Holly Desmond on 0407 319 916

Food frontier5

Photos courtesy of the Hills Food Frontier facebook page promoting local food producers.


Black Saturday Recollections

The Art of Response: fireman

Post by Gareth Hart.

The Art of Response: Recording and Collecting Black Saturday is the newest exhibition at the Yarra Ranges Regional Museum.

As you enter the gallery, you are greeted with the following description:

This exhibition explores how artistic and collecting practices have been used across Yarra Ranges by some individuals, communities and institutions in response to Black Saturday. Through artworks and objects, many of the less tangible challenges faced by fire affected communities are revealed. The artefacts and artworks that are kept and created reflect part of the human side of the storyhow fire can transform not only objects and landscapes, but lives.

Balck Saturday exhibition at Yarra Ranges Regional Museum

It is a fascinating curatorial choice for an exhibition: placing found and artistic objects side by side, and considering how they can be used as signifiers and respondents for a tragic event of historical importance.

Works of mixed media, traditional art form and found objects fill the gallery space – and through their presence I am aware of a dense experience of scale – the gallery is relatively small in size, some of the work is large in scale, and the subject matter huge beyond comprehension.

As I wander through the gallery, I encounter pieces that catch my eye, not for their aesthetic value per se, but for the journey they have undergone to be a part of this exhibition. They are works of extreme beauty, I am particularly thinking upon a collage of rusty metal, glass fragments and ceramic pieces of crockery, which during the fire melted and fused themselves together. It is abstract art at its most profound – a piece of sculpture that owes much of its beauty to Mother Nature, whilst at the same time this environmental influence speaks bounds to a much darker experience.

Black Saturday exhibition at Yarra Ranges Regional Museum

I also encounter the profundity of simplicity – glass bottles that withstood intense amounts of heat recreating themselves as melted pieces of glass sculpture. I cannot help be reminded of Salvador Dali’s melting clocks.

Each piece of art on the walls, be that painting, film, felting, etc, was created by artists living locally, in response to the events of Black Saturday. As each piece has its own visual reference to that day, so do the stories behind the creations. One I was quite taken by was Ali Griffin’s description of her stunning piece ‘Acceptance 1’, which reads:

I went back to the studio and started writing these questions and my answers to them on the canvas. I wrote about accepting what happens, and learning from what I was writing. Then, as usual, I poured shellac over the top of the writing and it disappeared. I nearly cried. A few minutes later I realised I’d just learnt an incredibly valuable lesson. I just needed to accept what had happened.

And yet underneath all of this, is the strength of a community: the resilience of artists to use their practice as an expressive tool for complex emotions/experiences, and a way for the arts to provide an insight and context into a tragic event.

Black Saturday exhibition Yarra Ranges Regional Museum

I leave the gallery incredibly confused, but this is not a reflection of the work or the curation of the exhibition. I am deeply moved to confusion, pondering how such incredible devastation can produce such a culturally relevant and reflective appropriation of community values, events and spirit.

The Art of Response: Recording and Collecting Black Saturday is exhibiting until Sunday, June 15 at the Yarra Ranges Regional Museum, Castella Street, Lilydale

Black Saturday exhibition