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Ann Newmarch 200 years: Willy Willy

The Artist

According to Dr Nicola Teffer from the National Gallery of Australia as part of the 'Know My Name' project, artist and lecturer Ann Newmarch emerged as a key figure in the feminist art movement in Adelaide during the 1970s and 80s, making politically engaged work that drew from her personal experiences and critiqued the social conditions underlying them. Newmarch trained as an art teacher at Western Teachers College in Adelaide from 1964–66 and undertook postgraduate study in psychology and philosophy at Flinders University. In 1969, she held her first solo exhibition in Adelaide and was appointed lecturer at the South Australian School of Art, where she taught for more than 30 years. Newmarch was introduced to the women’s movement in 1970 and balanced teaching, mothering and artmaking with community and cultural development work for the next four decades.

Following the feminist credo of ‘the personal is political’, Newmarch created photographic works and screen-prints that challenged traditional notions of art and gave voice to her political and environmental concerns. Newmarch explored representations of women and the unseen aspects of women’s labour in prints such as Suburban window 1973 and Three months of interrupted work 1977, which were exhibited in important feminist exhibitions including A Room of One’s Own in Melbourne in 1974 and The Women’s Show in Adelaide in 1977. Newmarch was a founding member of the Adelaide Progressive Art Movement in 1974 and the Adelaide Women’s Art Movement in 1977. She was also an organiser of collaborative community poster and mural groups and produced now iconic works including Women hold up half the sky 1978, which features an image of her indomitable Aunt Peggy, drawn from her family album. Showing work in non-traditional venues such as factories, shopping centres and on the street was a deliberate strategy to reject the capitalist and patriarchal structure of the gallery system. Writing in the feminist magazine Lip in 1981, Newmarch stated her aim of reaching an audience ‘of women who are oppressed by sexism and people who are exploited by capitalism. My work is not intended for an ‘elite educated’ art gallery audience who can afford to ‘invest’ in art’.1

Newmarch was awarded an Order of Australia for services to art in 1989 and was given a major retrospective by the Art Gallery of South Australia in 1997. She was the only Australian artist included in WACK: art and the feminist revolution at MOCA, Los Angeles in 2007.

200 years Willy Willy by Ann Newmarch

The Work of Art

According to the Flinders University, 200 years: Willy Willy was created as part of a three-week residency at the Victorian Print Workshop in Melbourne for the National Gallery of Australia’s Bicentennial Arts program. To commemorate Australia’s bicentenary twenty-five artists were invited to partake in the project resulting in a limited edition folio of prints.

Newmarch’s contribution considers the impact of colonisation on the Australian landscape and First Nations communities reminding viewers of their ongoing destruction at the hands of white culture.

The work of art is a colour screenprint published in 1988 and included in the portfolio, The Land,  to mark the bicentennial anniversary of European arrival to Australia.