Saturday 6th February – 27 March 2021.
Jack Featherstone, Nigel Featherstone and Anna Georgia.
Tuggeranong Arts Centre’s first exhibition of 2021 showcases the work of Magic Realist* Jack Featherstone. Jack is a self-taught painter who has been working daily on his craft for at least the last 70 years. His paintings primarily feature people in the landscape, based on real events but imbued with a subtle otherworldliness. Included in the exhibition is a curated selection of paintings from his collection as well as those from his family, friends and local collectors.
To compliment Jack’s work, TAC has commissioned Nigel Featherstone to provide a written piece about his father and anthropological film-maker Anna Georgia to create a video artwork about the artist.
Jack Featherstone is 92 years old, he currently resides in Braidwood, NSW. His home is an old schoolhouse consisting of two rooms and an entrance hall.
On our first meeting with Jack, we were greeted at his front door, with a broad, welcoming, smile as he ushered us up the stairs and the narrow entry hall, with more energy than you would expect from a 90 + year old.
Inside, I was immediately impressed by his collection of natural history and archaeological-looking objects, overflowing on tables and shelves, flanking the walls of the entry hall. Reptile skins, animal bones and an amazing array of stones and rocks seemed to consume the humble space they occupied. Jack told me that he had collected a lot these items while walking. He picked up a snakeskin and recalled the walk that he was on when he found it. He then picked up one of the rocks sitting on a table opposite, he said it was given to him by a local from one of the communities he visited during his career as a roaming dentist. He demonstrated how the stone would have been used as a knife.
Every object in his seemingly chaotic collection, is a memory. A symbol of a moment, an encounter or an event.
Similarly, over the last 70 years of his life. Jack has used painting to diarise his life. His living area is filled with paintings, stacked in corners and lining the walls, each one capturing a moment. Collectively, the paintings sit together like a contemporary, “slow-living”, version of an Instagram feed. The difference is that Jack started painting well before smart phones, the internet and even lifestyle trends such as slow-living were consuming our lives. He was painting before people began curating their lives for strangers through images. Jack was and is painting just for himself. He paints because he wants to, perhaps he paints because he needs to. Perhaps it feeds him and is the reason that he retains a youthful energy and humour.
Contained in every one of Jack’s paintings are memories. Memories from his travels to remote and regional towns when he worked as a dentist for the Redfern Medical Service. Such as the David Series that followed his first journey in the Northern Territory to Docker Creek, with David, his guide in the 1950’s. While a painting such as Evacuation of Gallipoli depicts a family memory, it illustrates the story of his uncle’s service in WW1 when allied forces retreated from Gallipoli. Like the stone, each painting serves as a prompt for an event and a Jack retells each narrative like it was yesterday.
Throughout these paintings, as well as in his later works, focusing on bush walks and journeys with family and friends, is an essence of the sublime. Jack’s love for the Australian landscape in all its geographical variations is undeniable and in each painting he prioritises each landscape that he renders. Jack places his viewer in an elevated position with buildings and people dwarfed by the immensity of the surrounding landscape. In most cases this pictorial device captures the isolated reality of small town, Australian, living, but it also implies our insignificance within this vast landscape. Each event that Jack captures, whether it is a riot in Walgett or a bush walk on Currockbilly Mountain, it is overshadowed by the environment that it is situated within and the ancient histories held by the land it is on.
Jack, John and Kempsey, at Tuggeranong Arts Centre is an exhibition of narratives reflecting on one man’s life. It showcases his paintings and reflects on the man through contributions from his son, Nigel Featherstone, and filmmaker, Anna Georgia. However, through all the artworks it contains, it is also an exhibition that speaks to the important role that creativity can have within our lives as we process events, both good and bad. It is also an exhibition that helps us remember the beauty of the landscape we find ourselves in and how our daily, individual, stories contribute only a speck to this giant rock we all live on.
Gallery of artworks by Jack Featherstone:
Jack Featherstone, Maxfield – Near Bungendore, 2019, Acrylic on canvas, 61 x 92cm
Jack Featherstone, Road Closed (detail), 2015, Acrylic on canvas, 40 x 50cm
Jack Featherstone, Berrima Now (detail) 1991, Acrylic on canvas board, 78 x 108cm
Jack Featherstone, Manar (detail), 2020, Acrylic on canvas, 50 x 69.5cm
Jack Featherstone, Moree with Catholic Mission (Redfern Series), 1983, Oil on Board, 36 x 45.5cm.
Jack Featherstone, Moree, Redfern Series, (detail), 1986, Oil on Board, 36 x 45.5cm.
To read Nigel Featherstone’s written work The Gift of a Father head to https://www.thegiftofafather.com/
This digital presentation of A Gift of a Father was put together by Canberra artist Katy Mutton
Anna Georgia spent the summer visiting Jack at his home, wherein her camera became both an audience for his story-telling, and a confessional for his deepest reflections. The resulting film provides important personal and historical background for interpreting Jack’s paintings; and contextualises the personal existential significance, for Jack, of gaining institutional recognition as an artist.
The full film can be viewed as part of the exhibition -showing at TAC until 27 March, 2021. A short preview is published below.
*Magic Realist was first used to describe Jack Featherstone by Nigel Lendon in 2010 in his catalogue essay and exhibition titled: Jack Featherstone: Magic Realist. This exhibition was held at the ANU School of Art and Design Gallery, Canberra in the same year.
Artwork on pervious page: Jack Featherstone, Bundanon – The Launch of the Dorothy Porter Studio, Acrylic on Canvas, 44 x 74.5cm (inc. frame). Private Collection. NFS