Bathurst Regional Art Gallery Tapestry Commission

NSW artist Luke Sciberras has cut from the loom the recently completed tapestry, Bridle Track, Hill End. The event took place on Tuesday 8 October, 10 am at the Australian Tapestry Workshop in South Melbourne; celebrating 50 years of fundraising by the Bathurst Regional Art Gallery Society (BRAGS). Designed by Sciberras, the commissioned tapestry was handwoven by Chris Cochius, Sue Batten, Amy Cornall, Pamela Joyce and Karlie Hawking; made from wool and cotton, and stretches 1.6 x 1.6m.

Bridle Track, Hill End – tapestry being prepared to be cut from the loom. Photograph: Jeremy Weihrauch

Sciberras resides in Hill End, New South Wales, a region he considers a significant site in Australian modern art. The historic former gold-mining village has a long association with many noted Australian artists since the 1940s and boasts the Hill End Artists in Residence Program overseen by Bathurst Regional Art Gallery (BRAG). Sciberras began visiting the region in the 1990s and locating there permanently in 2000.

Described as a bon vivant, networker, curator and painter¹s painter, Sciberras graduated from Sydney¹s National Art School in 1997. He was a studio assistant for several prominent Australian artists who became his mentors. Artists include Martin Sharp, Elizabeth Cummings, John Olsen, John Firth-Smith and Gary Shead.

Bridle Track, Hill End – tapestry, designed by Luke Sciberras and handwoven by Chris Cochius, Sue Batten, Amy Cornall, Pamela Joyce and Karlie Hawking, 1.6 x 1.6m, wool, cotton. Photograph: Jeremy Weihrauch

BRAG’s exhibition ‘Threads Through Art: Australian Tapestries’, on show from 18 October to 1 December 2019, will feature Bridle Track, Hill End, as well as a number of tapestries woven by the ATW including tapestries from public and private collections across Australia.

Highlights include: Ginger Riley Munduwalawala’s Ngak Ngak (1994); John Wolseley’s Fire and water – moths, swamps and lava flows of the Hamilton Region (2011); John Olsen’s Light playing with evolution (1989); Janet Laurence’s Listen, to the Sound of Plants (2017); Nell’s Let Me Put My Love Into You (2006); David Noonan’s Untitled (2012); Arlene Textaqueen’s Jack of hearts (2003); Richard Larter’s Pretty as (1981-82); and Gareth Sansom’s Family Trust (1990).

Luke Sciberras with his original artwork and tapestry, Bridle Track, Hill End. Photograph: Jeremy Weihrauch

‘For more than twenty years I have travelled up and down the famous and precarious Bridle Track from Hill End.

It is a vast and wild landscape stretching between Hill End and Bathurst which can only be traversed by four-wheel drive as the very old hand-built road has many twists and ruts, but that is part of its appeal.

In this enormous no-mans-land of common, crown lands and abandoned farms the Macquarie and Turon rivers meet, and the road rises and falls from the crossings and causeways as dramatically as a roller coaster. And so, over the years it has been a painter’s playground, another magical and various district which mercifully remains uninhabited and therefore seems wonderfully mysterious.

Being on the doorstep of my home at Hill End I have perennially used it as the source of many paintings and have hosted many memorable expeditions along its often-hair-raising trail with fellow artists such as Elisabeth Cummings, John Olsen, Anne Zahalka, Tamara Dean, Ben Quilty and Guy Maestri just to name a handful.

My studio at Hill End is the former Methodist Church built in 1870, and right next door is the community nurse. For a number of years this nurse was the estimable Jim Schumacher and as neighbours and on occasions as his patient we became rather friendly, indeed Jim was most helpful when I developed myocarditis some years back a subject on which Jill Margo wrote a well-known article in the Australian financial review… year in and year out Jim and I would chat over the fence, and increasingly I noticed Jim’s interest in my work grew more and more keen, indeed we developed a mutual respect for each other’s work.

On the sad occasion that Jim announced his moving on the village felt the loss most sorely and many gestures of farewell were made on his departure. Mine was to gift him a work on paper that I had done on one of my adventures along the bridle track. I guessed that it was the most locally relevant and personal thing to present him with and I’m pleased that he’s enjoyed looking at it ever since. It’s a modest work that has come to symbolise a friendship and a sense of place.’ – Luke Sciberras, 2019