Stories of triumph: Robbie House’s personal collection of artworks curated in part during the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse will go on show at the Art Gallery of Ballarat in May. Photos: ALISTAIR FINLAY

Creative light on darkness

February 21, 2021 BY

Upcoming exhibition a celebration of victory over extreme challenges.

AS the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse was taking place, Robbie House developed an idea.

A survivor of abuse while an orphan in a Sydney children’s home, he had skin in the game.

Now that idea and his experience has become Out of the darkness: A survivor’s journey, an exhibition of works collected, commissioned and curated by Mr House that will make its debut at the Art Gallery of Ballarat in May.

“What I wanted to do was document the journey in real time, as well as that process over the last 10 years, and look to the future,” he said. “I think the collection is something that will be added to over time as well.

“I was commissioning works prior to the Royal Commission, through it, and then afterwards we did a major collaborative commissioned work with Peter Daverington, an Australian artist who lives in New York.

Works like Peter Daverington’s The raft of the clan will be featured in the exhibition. Image: SUPPLIED

“That piece is about a four-and-a-half-metre painting which was launched at Parliament House with the national apology in 2018.”

For Mr House, putting together Out of the darkness is less about catharsis, or a coping mechanism, or a distraction.

Rather for him the collection is a celebration, and hopefully an inspiration to others.

“It’s about telling a story of victory against almost impossible odds, against very powerful establishments that wanted things to remain a secret and be buried with us,” he said.

“By creating a body of artwork, people can reflect on what’s happened in two or three hundred years, or even longer. They can see determination, belief in change, and empower themselves to stand up for human rights and what’s unjust in our community.”

Artists who have contributed to Out of the darkness include Adam Cullen, Peter Daverington, John Forrest, Elizabeth Moore Golding, Doug Heslop, Rhys Poulton, Kaff-eine, Jeremy Kibel, Julius Killerby, Scott Marsh, Joseph Marzi, James Money, Michael Peck, Glen Pierce, Deborah Walker and Marcus Wills.

With such a wide range of creatives, Mr House said types and mediums of work are many and varied.

“There’s sculptural work. There are challenging pieces. There’s really masterful 16th century style works. There are placards that were on protests. We have an Archibald winner in Marcus Wills,” he said.

“It’s a bit like an orchestra and hopefully they come together to create something unique.

“We want to take the audience somewhere. With this topic it will take them on many different journeys. The one goal I want to achieve out of this is to empower people.

“We challenged the status quo, the government, law enforcement, and the judicial system. Hopefully the audience will pick up on that and be taken on a journey.”

While Out of the darkness is making its debut in Ballarat, the exhibition is set to travel to other locations across the globe.

Mr House said it was fitting that the collection has its first complete showing at the Art Gallery of Ballarat.

“I think this city is one of the worthiest places for it to start,” he said. “This is one of the great horror houses and the history is well documented.

“We’ll definitely take the collection around Australia and take it internationally as well.

“Over the next 10 to 15 years I want it to become one of the major 21st century collections of Australian art and I think the topic is worthy of that.”

By going on show at the Art Gallery of Ballarat, Out of the darkness isn’t a regular scheduled exhibition for the city’s cultural heart.

Director Louise Tegart said the collection will form the centrepiece of the Gallery’s Art and Wellness programming strategy, a plan that’s been actioned for the last 18 months.

“Art and wellness has become a real theme in galleries internationally,” she said.

“There’s a recognition that art can both assist with understanding around social issues of health and wellness, but also assist in helping address some of those issues.

“This exhibition firmly sits within that realm of empathy, understanding and compassion about a really serious societal issue.”

If you or anyone you know is dealing with issues resulting from sexual abuse help is available from CASA on 1800 806 292, Lifeline on 13 11 14, or 1800 Respect on 1800 737 732.