Aunty Marlene Gilson is a proud Wadawaurrung traditional owner and Elder. Her multi-figure paintings work to overturn colonial narratives by re-contextualising the representation of historical events. Learning Wathaurung history from her grandmother, Marlene began painting in 2008 as a form of therapy, while recovering from an illness. She has received considerable accolades and most recently exhibited a series of works in the Sydney Biennale (2018).
The artist’s meticulously rendered works display a narrative richness and theatrical quality akin to the traditional genre of history painting. Marlene has developed an extensive body of work which relates to her ancestral lands which covers Ballarat, Werribee, Geelong, Skipton and the Otway Ranges in Victoria.
Marlene was invited to create a new work for the Darebin Art Collection that either related to the City of Darebin or her traditional lands. She chose the subject of Bundoora Homestead for this new commission and has included First Nations people alongside colonial settlers and members of the Smith Family enabling an opportunity to reflect on the incredible history of Bundoora Homestead and its surrounds. This painting brings Aboriginal people and Colonialists into the one space living harmoniously and in doing so reminds us that reconciliation may be a possibility.
"We visited Bundoora Homestead and farm, what an amazing place. In my research I found that Mr Smith built a stone hut for the Aboriginal people to stay when they visited. They bred cattle and horses, Wallace being the greatest sire in Australia and is buried on the property. They had three gardeners and four children, which I have painted in the garden with Mr and Mrs Smith seated watching the children play.
Thank you for allowing me to look into the history of John and Helen Smith. I hope I have captured their life and amazing Homestead and surrounds. 31.8.18"