GEORGE GITTOES: ON BEING THERE

Hopper Gallery
24 April - 27 June 2021 
Exhibition launch: 24 April 2021, 4-6pm

Casula Powerhouse Arts Centre is proud to present George Gittoes: on being there, a masterfully curated exhibition by Dr Rod Pattenden which explores the expansive, and still evolving career of one of this country’s most fearless artists: George Gittoes.

George Gittoes AM is a major Australian artist, photographer and filmmaker. For over four decades he has documented some of the world’s most notorious conflicts. From the killing fields of Cambodia to the brutal massacres of Rwanda, Gittoes has responded to the best and worst of the human condition.He has been recognised for his humanitarian and peace making efforts and has been awarded an Order of Australia (AM) as well as the prestigious Sydney Peace Prize. Alongside his work as a painter and printmaker, Gittoes is an award winning documentary film maker and has worked in places like Iraq, Pakistan, Afghanistan and more recently the dangerous urban suburbs of Chicago. He is the recipient of a number of major art awards and his work is included in many public collections in Australia and overseas.

‘I feel privileged to have been able to spend much of my life creating beauty in the face of the destruction of war,’ says George Gittoes. ‘I have been waging a personal war against war with art.’

Through his work as an artist and film maker George Gittoes invites us to understand what it is like to be there, even daring to create, in some of the most dangerous places in the world. Gittoes wants the viewer to experience the conditions, situations and ethical dilemmas that he himself encounters in being there. Through drawings, paintings, photography and film, Gittoes takes us on a journey that begins in 1970 with the Yellow House, a famous artists’ community in Sydney’s Kings Cross. From there his work takes on a more international scope as he travels to places like Cambodia, Rwanda, and the Middle East as an unofficial war artist. His journeys in the 1990s takes him to Iraq and Pakistan, and then to the founding of a second Yellow House in the city of Jalalabad in Afghanistan working with local artists and actors. This journey finds its most recent expression through his sojourn in 2018 in the suburbs of South Chicago, one of the worst centres for gun violence in the USA.

George Gittoes: on being there, is a stunning and unique journey of an artist willing to create in the face of chaos and potential destruction. Gittoes invites us to examine our own cultural fears of what it is like to be over there, in places that only appear in our evening news in the context of global terrorism or violence. This exhibition will give privileged access to his process through his personal visual diaries, field drawings, photography and film. Through these forms we experience an amazing human journey that holds out the hopeful power of creativity in the face of prejudice and fear. This is a magnificent visual record of how Gittoes not only survives but creates in the face of forces that would seek to repress the human imagination.


Image Credit: George Gittoes, ‘Two worlds in Harmony (Sufi)’, 2018. Oil on canvas. Courtesy the artist.

special events

George Gittoes, south side Chicago, photograph 2018.

Private Tour - George Gittoes: on being there

Led by George Gittoes and Rod Pattenden

Date: Saturday, 24 May 2021
Time: 3:30 - 3:55pm
Duration: 25 minutes 
Tickets: FREE
Age suitability: All ages

Join artist George Gittoes and curator Rod Pattenden on a private tour through the new exhibition George Gittoes: on being there. Audiences will hear directly from the artist and curator as they share stories and experiences behind the artworks and artefacts featured in this exhibition.

George Gittoes: on being there, is a stunning and unique journey of an artist willing to create in the face of chaos and potential destruction. Gittoes invites us to examine our own cultural fears of what it is like to be over there, in places that only appear in our evening news in the context of global terrorism or violence. This exhibition will give privileged access to his process through his personal visual diaries, field drawings, photography and film. Through these forms, we experience an amazing human journey that holds out the hopeful power of creativity in the face of prejudice and fear. This is a magnificent visual record of how Gittoes not only survives but creates in the face of forces that would seek to repress the human imagination.


Film Screening: Love City Jalalabad (2013) 

Date: Friday, 14 May 2021
Time: 7:30pm
Duration: 1 hr 38 min 
Tickets: FREE

In association with the new exhibition George Gittoes: on being there, Casula Powerhouse Arts Centre will be screening ‘Love City Jalalabad’ (2013) and ‘White Light’ (2019), two fundamental films to the career of George Gittoes.

SYNOPSIS

Internationally renowned filmmaker and artist George Gittoes has learned that documenting frontline action is not enough; he wants to use art to bring about change.

George forms an artists’ collective in the western Afghan city of Jalalabad – a province long controlled by the Taliban. Someone only as brave and creative as George would then dare to make movies in Jalalabad, recruiting female actors from Pakistan (there are no Pashtun-speaking Afghan women actors) to join Australian performance artist Hellen Rose, and local action star Amir Shah in their quest to bring love back to Afghanistan.

This fearless documentary will show how the progressive youth of Afghanistan are rejecting the use of armed force and see film as an alternative means of bringing peace and social change to their war-torn and occupied country.

AWARDS/NOMINATIONS

2015 Winter Film Awards Indie Film Festival, New York: WINNER, Best Documentary.

2015 Winter Film Awards Indie Film Festival, New York: WINNER, Most Socially Relevant.

2013 Sydney Film Festival: FINALIST, Foxtel Australian Documentary Prize.

George Gittoes: In Conversation

Date: Friday, 28 May 2021
Time: 11am - 12pm
Tickets:
Schools: $13
Adults: $15
Ages: Suitable for Stages 4-6 (High School Years 7-12)

Australian artist and filmmaker George Gittoes has been travelling the world for 40 years visiting extreme situations – war zones, natural disasters and places where violence and fanaticism feature as part of everyday life. For this in-conversation, Gittoes meets with a local high school teacher to discuss his attraction to dangerous places and how he tells stories of trauma and healing through his creative practice.

The in-conversation will take place along the exhibition on being there, a retrospective of Gittoes work throughout his life. This collection of works provides an extraordinary insight into the life of the artist, beginning with founding the Yellow House, during the 70’s Vietnam War protests, through to his work in some of the world’s most notorious battle zones – Afghanistan, Cambodia, Palestine, Rwanda, South Africa and most recently, South Chicago USA where Gun crime is at an all-time highest level.

This discussion offers an insight into what motivates this artist and how emotionally charged contexts can become sites for bravery, resilience and hope and creativity.  By discussing the spiritual and moral implications of art-making amongst despairing situations, Gittoes and his questions and whether this is inimical to human survival and preservation of history.

Local high school students studying George Gittoes as part of the Visual Arts Higher School Certificate are encouraged to attend and view the exhibition on being there as part of the event.


Image credit: ‘Yellow House Jalalabad’, photograph, 29.7 x 42 cm, photographer Waqar Alam, used with permission

Film Screening: White Light

Date: Saturday, 29 May 2021
Time: 7:30pm
Duration: 1 hr 38 min 
Tickets: FREE
Age suitability: 18+

In association with the new exhibition George Gittoes: on being there, Casula Powerhouse Arts Centre will be screening ‘Love City Jalalabad’ (2013) and ‘White Light’ (2019), two fundamental films to the career of George Gittoes.

SYNOPSIS

After a career spent documenting war zones, George Gittoes (Soundtrack to War 2005, Snow Monkey 2015) travels to the south side of Chicago, a neighbourhood under siege from gun violence.

In Englewood, statistics on gun violence are higher than any active armed conflict, leading locals to dub the area ‘Chi-Raq’. In this urban war zone, young people are the frequent targets, decimating families and fracturing the community. Installing himself within a local gang, Gittoes traces how racial segregation, high unemployment and ready access to firearms combine to contribute to a cycle of gun crime. Rather than surrender to violence, however, shooting survivors and community leaders hope to turn the tide through music and local collective action.