Beating About The Bush

Art Gallery of Ballarat Anne Zahalka The immigrantsBringing together the Gallery’s outstanding collection of paintings by Australian Impressionist artists with works by leading contemporary Australian female photographers, the Art Gallery of Ballarat presents Beating About The Bush.

Since white settlement, ‘the bush’ has been portrayed in art and literature as largely a male domain. More recently, this has been challenged by contemporary women photographers who have applied a female gaze to our shared historical narrative, challenging ideas of what it means to be Australian as well as notions of gender, migration, class and the environment.

By bringing these contrasting perspectives together, the exhibition challenges our understanding of the Australian landscape and the perceptions behind the myths that have shaped our nation.

The exhibition includes paintings by Tom Roberts, Charles Conder, Frederick McCubbin, Arthur Streeton, Jane Sutherland and Clara Southern and photographs by photographers including Anne Zahalka, Leah King-Smith, Fiona Foley, Nici Cumpston, Polixeni Papapetrou, Jane Burton, Jacqui Stockdale, Siri Hayes, Nicole Welch, Tamara Dean, Peta Clancy, Jill Orr, Robyn Stacey, Janet Laurence, Hayley Millar-Baker and Maree Clarke.

The Gallery holds one of the most significant collection of artworks created by the Australian Impressionist (Heidelberg School) artists and other Australian artists of that era.

This exhibition celebrates that holding and brings it into contemporary context by contrasting these older works with new work by leading contemporary female photographers that engage with the Australian landscape.

Beating About The Bush brings together historical and contemporary perspectives to challenge and extend our understanding of the Australian landscape and the perceptions behind the myths that shaped our nation, said Art Gallery of Ballarat Director Louise Tegart, who has curated the exhibition.

“The Australian Impressionists were criticised by artist and writer Ian Burn in his essay Beating About the Bush for creating romanticised images of the bush and its people, viewing them from the leisurely gaze of upper-middle class men whose imaginations did not really address the role of women, the precarious existence in the face of poverty, bushfire and drought, and the place of Aboriginal people in the bush.”

“As well as giving due recognition to the work of women artists of the Australian Impressionist era, this exhibition explores what has been left out of the Australian Impressionist paintings, allowing contemporary female photographers to put these elements back in the picture.”

“These artists don’t beat about the bush – they tell a more comprehensive story, addressing issues pertaining to immigration, First Nations people, gender and social status.”

“The exhibition not only explores the Gallery’s significant Collection and long history, it also highlights the Gallery’s practice of looking for thematic connections between old and new works in the Collection, allowing audiences to examine them from a fresh perspective, or in this case, with a new lens,” said Tegart.

Beating About The Bush
Art Gallery of Ballarat, 40 Lydiard Street, Ballarat
Exhibition: 5 November 2022 – 19 February 2023
Free entry

For more information, visit: for details.

Image: Anne Zahalka, The immigrants, 1983, Collage, Collection of the artist © Anne Zahalka