University of Melbourne Archives

The Magic of Meanjin

Cover art. Meanjin. Volume 19, number 3, 1960. Meanjin, Carlton, Vic.
Cover art. Meanjin. Volume 19, number 3, 1960. Meanjin, Carlton, Vic. Reproduced with permission from the estate of Roger Kemp

Writers nurture multiple relationships throughout their career and perhaps there’s none more important than the one with their publisher.  The collections held at UMA illustrate the process of writing and publication, from the moment an idea is born to the maturation of a finished piece of writing. This relationship between writer and publisher is most evident in the archive of one of Australia’s most influential literary journals, Meanjin.

The correspondence files contained within founding editor Clement Byrne Christesen’s papers are a thrilling find for the literary fan and illuminate the working lives and relationships of editor, publisher and writer. Key figures in Australian literature such as AD Hope, Patrick White, Marjorie Barnard, and Peter Carey are highlights of this vast collection. The correspondence with poets, essayists, playwrights, novelists and critics provide an intimate insight into the myriad of relationships editor CB Christesen developed and sustained over three decades, amongst a range of financial, political and cultural challenges.

In one of his many letters to literary critic Nettie Palmer, Christesen almost apologetically explains “An editor seems to be asking all the time – or suggesting. If he merely suggests, invariably nothing is done. He must then follow it up, ask outright or demand…I’m not much good at that, making demands on people’s goodwill, on their time and energy.”[1] Christesen was clearly a talented editor; he published many celebrated figures in Australian literature and introduced Australians to international writing, whilst maintaining a journal of the highest quality with minimum funding. Although Christesen retired from editorship in 1974, Meanjin has successfully continued as one of Australia’s foremost literary voices.

[1] Letter to from C B Christesen to Nettie Palmer, c. November 1945, Box 257, Meanjin Editorial Records of C B Christesen 2005.004

Online finding aid Meanjin – Editorial records of CB Christesen

More from Meanjin can be discovered online

A State of Many Stories

The Writers' State: a Literary Map of Victoria
The Writers’ State: A Literary Map of Victoria
Designed by Ron Brooks and compiled by members of ASAL from the forthcoming Oxford Illustrated Literary Guide to Australia and the Victoria 150 Literature Committee, 1981.
University of Melbourne Archives, McPhee Gribble collection 1999.0048 Box 402

Victoria’s rich literary history is revealed on The Writers’ State: A Literary Map of Victoria, with many of the big names and big stories of Australian Literature inspired by or set in the country towns of Victoria and the city of Melbourne.  This beautiful map is also a comprehensive reflection of UMA’s own collections.

The writers map places many of the authors held within the UMA collection firmly in Australia’s literary canon. Their evocative styles imbue a sense of time and place; Margaret Kiddle arouses the spirits of the first pastoralists in Victoria’s Western Districts in her book Men of Yesterday; Ray Ericksen entices you to connect with the beach and bush of Cape Otway in Cape Solitary. John Morrison and Helen Garner’s portrayals of inner Melbourne life reflect the gritty but no less poignant side of Victoria’s capital city.

We recently collaborated with Currency Press for their educational App about Ray Lawler’s seminal play about Melbourne life in the 1950s, Summer of the Seventeenth Doll. Within the dramatically large Melbourne Theatre Company collection we unearthed a cache of set designs, production notes, photographs, posters and ephemera from the 1955 premiere, up until the 1981 production.

And of course, where would Australian literature be without CB Christensen and Meanjin? Our collection of his editorship of the journal equates the significance in the literary world of Victoria, and Australia.

The Writers’ State: A Literary Map of Victoria is a telling portrait of the literary gold that has been inspired by Victoria, its landscape and its people. It not only reveals some of the treasures of our publishing and literary collections but serves as a reminder to re-discover the writers and works who may have been left by the roadside.

Hilary McPhee transferred the vast McPhee Gribble collection in 1999. With over 400 boxes of material, the collection contains author files, manuscripts, minutes, administrative and financial files, correspondence with editors, publishers and agents, as well as documents pertaining to the sale to Penguin.

The Writers' State: A Literary Map of Victoria Designed by Ron Brooks and compiled by members of ASAL from the forthcoming Oxford Illustrated Literary Guide to Australia and the Victoria 150 Literature Committee, 1981.
The Writers’ State: A Literary Map of Victoria
Designed by Ron Brooks and compiled by members of ASAL from the forthcoming Oxford Illustrated Literary Guide to Australia and the Victoria 150 Literature Committee, 1981.

Australia Council for the Arts

The Australia Council for the Arts is the Australian Government’s arts funding and advisory body.   The Ewing and George Paton Gallery Archive contains applications and Annual Reports to the Visual Arts Board of the Australia Council from the years 1973-1990.   The first Australia Council grant round was held in 1973 and the Ewing received $3,000 towards its 1974 program.    Generous funding was received every year from the Australia Council until 1989.  The funding received had increased to $14,000 by 1989.  Recipients of grants were required to provide a grant acquittal report at the end of their funded activity, this greatly improved the quality of documentation for exhibitions from 1974 onwards and preserving the history of the galleries’ activities that are now accessible through University of Melbourne Archives. The reports on  the Ewing and George Paton Galleries’ exhibition and related activities programmes include catalogues, invitations, posters, photographs, reviews, publications and more.

The Australia Council for the Arts continues to offer a broad range of grants for Australian artists and arts organisations.  In 2010–11, they invested over $163 million in artists and arts organisations to support Australian artists in making art for Australian and international audiences.  West Space, a Melbourne based non-profit artist-led gallery was fortunate to secure the Visual Arts Key Organisations Multi-Year 2012-2015 grant for $200,450.00.  West Space relocated to a substantially larger space in a more central location in mid 2011, enabling them to radically expand their artistic programming.  This funding no doubt has contributed to West Space reducing exhibition fees by 25% in 2013.  West Space have a long-held ambition for the organisation to remove fees,  and see this as an exciting step towards their goal.

As a result of the relationship between the Ewing and George Paton Galleries and the Australia Council for the Arts, the archive holds many records documenting this interaction.  These include: correspondence, reports, programmes and more.

Through the financial assistance and support of the Australia Council for the Arts, many artists and art organisations are able to operate, develop and flourish, reaching new audiences and contributing to the progressive arts and culture sector both within Australia and internationally.

University of Melbourne George Paton Gallery collection 1990.0144

Peter Cripps

Image: Peter Cripps (right), “Freon”, 1972, angle iron, cast aluminium, canvas, stainless steel and rope. Peter Cole (left), “Untitled”, 1974. Image from the ‘Ewing Gallery Outdoor Sculpture Exhibition’ catalogue, 1974. University of Melbourne Archives, George Paton Gallery collection 1990.0144, Unit 31. Photograph: Suzanne Davies. (Courtesy, Suzanne Davies).

Acclaimed Australian artist, curator, gallery director and academic Peter Cripps was associated with The Ewing and George Paton galleries from their earliest days. Today Cripps is represented by the Anna Schwartz Gallery in Melbourne and has an extensive career in exhibiting and curating. His work  is in many collections such as the Museum of Contemporary Art, Sydney, Australian National Gallery, Canberra and most State galleries in Australia.  The Ewing and George Paton Gallery helped launch Peter Cripps’ career in the 1970’s when he participated in and curated numerous group and solo exhibitions.

The Ewing and George Paton Galleries collection contains correspondence with gallery directors, exhibition catalogues, essays, posters, photographs and slides.  Correspondence with directors Kiffy Rubbo and Meredith Rogers in the 1970’s illustrates Cripps’ enthusiasm and professionalism for his career; the warm, intimate, and often humorous exchanges he had with these women indicate his deep involvement and support for both counter-culture and the gallery.

Cementing his stature as a significant Australian artist  Peter Cripps is included in the fantastic Less is More, group exhibition at Heide Museum of Modern Art, Melbourne, exploring the late modernist movements of Minimal and Post-Minimal art from the 1960s until now. The exhibition includes works by over 30 Australian artists alongside key American Minimal works by Donald Judd, Dan Flavin and others.

Less is More currently showing at Heide Museum of Modern Art until 4 November 2012.

The George Paton Gallery Archive is currently being listed for online, searchable access early in 2013.  See University of Melbourne Archives Catalogue, and Home page for more information.

Peter Cripps is represented by Anna Schwartz Gallery, Melbourne

Pat Brassington and Juliana Engberg

Image: Catalogue cover, ‘Feminist Narratives’, 4 June 1987-24 June 1987. Curator: Juliana Engberg. Published by the George Paton Gallery, 1987. University of Melbourne Archives, George Paton Gallery Collection 1990.0144, Unit 31.

Currently exhibiting at Australian Centre for Contemporary Art (ACCA), Melbourne, is a survey of one of Australia’s most important and influential photo-based artists, Pat Brassington.

Early in her 30 years of practice, Brassington exhibited in two different group shows at the George Paton Gallery :  Feminist Narratives in June 1987 and Fabrications: Recent Contemporary Art From Tasmania in September 1987 

The George Paton Gallery Collection at the University of Melbourne Archives contains records from both of these exhibitions including correspondence, exhibition catalogues, essays, invitations, reviews, photographs and slides. Brassington’s work is a playful manipulation of imagery, predominantly bodily, altering reality to create a world more interesting, one that is at once eerily dark and mysterious, and pure and beautiful.  No matter the technique, using analogue photography and collage in the 1980′s and now digitally aided manipulation, she is a master of her tool creating seamless juxtapositions and mutations, their illusionary magnificence evoking a state of unconsciousness.

Artistic director for Australian Centre for Contemporary Art, Juliana Engberg, was director of the George Paton Gallery at the time of these exhibitions and curated both.  Fabrications: Recent Contemporary Art From Tasmania was curated as part of the Chameleon Galleries, Hobart, Curator in Residence Program where Engberg presumably began her artistic relationship with Brassington.  Engberg was Assistant Director of the George Paton Gallery from 1984  to 1985, then Director from 1986 until the beginning of 1990. During this time she curated many exhibitions,  coordinated lecture series and presentations from local and international speakers, and started the art magazine, ‘Agenda: Contemporary Art’.

Twenty five years after  Brassington’s and Engberg’s  first project together Pat Brassington’s wonderful exhibition at ACCA can be viewed as a celebration of both women’s careers and achievements and their outstanding contribution to the Arts in Melbourne and Australia.

Pat Brassington, A Rebours currently showing at ACCA, running until 23 September 2012.

The George Paton Gallery Archive is currently being listed for online, searchable access early in 2013.  See University of Melbourne Archives Catalogue,  and Home page  for more information.

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