Save the historic Ronald Bull Mural in F Division, Pentridge
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The former Pentridge Prison has many important historical aspects aside from its heritage-listed buildings. These include artwork completed by prisoners, in particular by the late Ronald Bull. Bull was an important indigenous artist who has been compared to the famous painter Albert Namatjira (Australian Dictionary of Biography) and is represented in the collection of the Koorie Heritage Trust.
A large mural, of a traditional tribal scene, was completed by Bull in 1960 during a period of imprisonment. Discussing the significance of this particular piece of work, art historian Sylvia Kleinert notes that:
Spanning over 2 x 3.5 metres, the mural is a truly remarkable achievement. Painted in dense tones of Venetian red, orange and burnt ochre...dominated by three archetypal desert warriors...around a central symbolic fire...each figure is mirrored by a single, sentinel-like tree while behind, an austere desert landscape recedes...to the distant blue of a mountain range. Clearly Bull has appropriated from well-known images of Aboriginal people popularised by Walkabout magazine which ...promoted tourism within Australia. These iconic images are seen to have played a significant role in defining Aboriginal people...as a romantic symbol of ‘a vanishing race’. However Bull’s mural offers an intriguing insight into the way in which these representations might also be actively co-opted by Aboriginal people...to use for their own strategic purposes (Art Monthly, 2011).
The mural remains, where it was painted, in F Division but in a poor and deteriorating condition. It is also inaccessible to the public. A 2008 legal covenant between Heritage Victoria and the owners of the building required that the mural be inspected at least every two years by a qualified conservator and that conservation would take place as per their recommendations.
- The first such inspection has only just been carried out, ten years after the covenant came into force.
- To-date no conservation work of the mural has occurred, although Heritage Victoria expects that this might happen depending on the outcomes of the recent inspection.
This petition calls upon Heritage Victoria and the State Government to ensure that :
- restoration of the mural is immediately and professionally undertaken.
- Ronald Bull's art, and that of other prisoners, is adequately preserved and protected for the future.
- his mural is made accessible to the public.
Your support is much appreciated.
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