The son of an artist and free-thinking public servant from Sydney, George Gittoes has been going in his own creation direction his entire life.
Now 70 years old, Gittoes continues to document the conflicts of mankind at the hottest touchpoints. After several appearances in Newcastle this month, starting with the launch of a multimedia retrospective, George Gittoes: on being there, at Newcastle Art Gallery, this Saturday, February 8, he will be heading for Baghdad, Iraq, a city still in conflict decades after the US military invasion and fall of Suddam Hussein.
His Newcastle show, which was curated by Dr Rod Pattenden, of the Adamstown Uniting Church, features a collection of significant artworks, photos and films ranging from 1970, when Gittoes was instrumental in creating the Yellow House art collective in Kings Cross, to the current period, which features artworks made during and after the filming of his documentary, White Light, which addresses the causes and affects of gun violence in the south side of Chicago.
The documentary, White Light, also features Gittoes' partner, Hellen Rose, as musical director. She was responsible for the film's fascinating soundtrack of music made by south side Chicago performers and recorded in south Chicago music studios.
The couple and their film crew rented two apartments on the corner of East 67th and Rhodes streets in Englewood, in the heart of south Chicago, where they lived and recorded the film over 12 months in 2018. There were about 560 homicides in Chicago in 2018.
"I am a history artist and a filmmaker," Gittoes says during a phone interview on Monday. "My art is what's going on in the world."
Hellen Rose, who will perform on Saturday at 2pm at the art show opening event, Tales from the Yellow House Jalalabad, says, "We are using this film as a platform for change. We are hoping this film will be a way toward conciliation and truce.
As Rose says, "This is what George does very well, he connects with people."
Further proof comes from his Yellow House in Jalalabad project, which he created in 2011 as a outlet for teaching locals artistic craft in Jalalabad in eastern Afghanistan. He and Rose have been instrumental in the development of a local Afghani film industry.
Gittoes quest to put the big questions of life in front of an audience has taken him to conflict zones including Cambodia, Rwanda, western Sahara, Iraq, Palestine and South Africa.
His select works in Newcastle came from his Heavy Industries series. He was artist-in-residence at BHP's Whyalla, Port Kembla and Newcastle steelworks, Broken Hill mines and Bass Strait oil rigs during 1988 to 1990.
Newcastle Art Gallery has six of Gittoes works from Heavy Industry Series, three of which will be on exhibit in this show.
"On being there is a unique opportunity to view and understand the artistic career and motivation of Gittoes to produce art that not only matters, but also provides the antithesis to the effects of extreme conflict - hope," Newcastle Art Gallery director Lauretta Morton says.
The show includes several contemporary works by Gittoes, plus works from the early 1970s, drawings, photos and the films White Light and Love City Jalalabad.
Other Gittoes events include
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