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A Personal History – Lehan Ramsay

A Personal History – Excerpt Only


“What must be taken into account when reading accounts of history is that histories are the creations of writers, rather than re-creations of the past.”


“(experimental art)……privileges idea above image, discussion above rhetoric and is antagonistic to the investment art market and the commodification of art. “


My art practice began in Brisbane in a time of great expansion and experimentation, and much as I’ve struggled to separate myself from Brisbane, both physically and emotionally, I must acknowledge it’s influence on my life and art practice. When I speak of my art practice from 1985 until now, I feel that it is important to place it also into the context of my poiitical and infrastructural practices as well. While I do not consider my work to be of a radical nature, it’s earliest influences were of a radical nature, and this has influenced not only the work that I produce, but also the manner in which it is produced.


Contemporary Art in Brisbane in the early 80’s was an extremely marginalized practice in a politically conservative and isolated State. A National Party Government headed by a despotic and corrupt Premier ruling for 19 years with a heavy hand meant that there was plenty to resist, but few means with which to do so…..

By the time I graduated from Art College, in 1984, Artist Collectives and Artist-Run Spaces had begun to form, and to generate quite a lot of excitement amongst a small circle of young artists, performers and musicians. Artists such as Luke Roberts, Jeanelle Hurst, Gary Warner, Adam Boyd, Barbara Campbell, Brian Doherty, Michelle Andringa, Peter Anderson, to name a few, were involved in a variety of projects; artist run spaces, magazines, performances, exhibitions.

In 1985, a new Artist Run Space opened; That Space run by Paul Andrew, it differed from the earlier models in that it was more administrated, less chaotic. Paul’s stated goal for That Space was “to train artists in the business concerns of a professional art practice”4 and he worked to create a centre for artists to network, to gather information and help and stimulation.

Inspired by the dynamic activity that we could see, three women; Anna Zsoldos, Robyn Gray and myself, with the help of many people, in 1985 and opened our own space, The a gallery whose focus was photographic based contemporary art. The Observatory ran until the end of 1986, when the building was demolished, but by then others had sprung up, and the community had focused much of it’s energy on starting up the Queensland Artworker’s Alliance and Eyeline Magazine. The final exhibition at The Observatory, ” The Demolition Show”, was a group show highlighting the destruction of the Brisbane’s inner city area and the subsequent lack of spaces in which artists could affordably work.”

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