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Companion Planting

September 28, 2011 - October 10, 2011

Companion Planting is a mixed-media exhibition inspired by a 2009 Hill End residency in Murray’s Cottage, the former home of Donald Friend and Donald Murray. The complex relationship between the gregarious well-known artist, (Friend) and the reclusive, introverted gardener (Murray) is explored through watercolours, textiles and objects that are sourced directly from the cottage garden.

During my residency in Murray’s cottage I became absorbed by two things in particular – the diaries written by Donald Friend, and the cottage garden and orchard they established when they moved to Hill End in 1947. The Friend Diaries (written from when he was a boy until his death in 1989) chronicled his life, his loves, his adventures and his opinions on other artists, people, places and events.  His words are witty, succinct, bitchy and barbed in places.  I became intrigued with the development of his relationships with others over the years – decades even – in particular his relationship with Donald Murray.  Friend took particular interest in the garden that Murray established at the cottage, and his Diaries are filled with accounts of what they planted, the seasonal variations, and the joy that comes from growing and tending a garden.

The idea for Companion Planting came through the reading of the Diaries and looking after the cottage garden each day for the month that I was in residence. It became a way of entering into the lives of these two men and gaining insight into their respective personalities.  The textile pieces in the exhibition are all dyed with plants from Murray’s garden, and the organic materials used in the works on paper and small objects are also derived from there.

With this body of work, I have attempted to expand on the idea of ‘companion planting’ – where certain plants are grown together to enhance each others performance – to examine the dynamics of human relationships; the struggle for identity and recognition that can occur between couples; the compromises required when one’s desires and dreams do not come into fruition, and the bitterness that can fester under the surface as a result. This not only applies to the Murray/Friend relationship  (and those of other artists who worked in Hill End) but also encompasses the hopes, aspirations, and eventual disappointment of the hundreds of miners and their families who came to Hill End in the 1800’s in search of gold. I use the wishbone and rose thorns as symbols for these hopes and fears, to caution that we must be careful of what we wish for.

Julie Ryder

Image 1;
Title: Me, Here, and You, There,
Year: 2011
Medium: Wood, rose petals, thorns, hemp, silk threads dyed with plants from Murray’s cottage
Photo Credit: Rob Little

Image 2;
Title: All my days follow all your nights – all your yesterdays are all my tomorrows, (DETAIL)
Year: 2011
Medium: Textiles and threads dyed with plants from Murray’s Cottage
Photo Credit: Rob Little

Image 3 and 4
Title: Hill End Conversations 2  and also DETAIL
Year: 2010
Medium: Rose thorns on paper, archival glue
Photo Credit: Mark Kelly Images

Image 5
Title: Wishbone
Year: 2010
Medium: Watercolour on paper
Photo Credit: Mark Kelly Images


September 28, 2011
October 10, 2011


13 Gurner Street
Paddington, NSW 2021 Australia
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02 9358 4968