I work with the Williams River Valley Artists’ Project (WRVAP), a collective of environmentally-alarmed Australian contemporary artists. Juliet Fowler Smith formed WRVAP in 2009 to oppose an ill-conceived $400 million dam on the Williams River near Dungog, 200 km north of Sydney. The proposed dam at Tillegra would have flooded kilometres of river valley, delicate eco-systems and precious indigenous/settler histories, destroyed the livelihoods and social fabric of local communities and wiped ‘Manns Hill’ - the property farmed for five generations by Juliet’s family - from the map. After years of sustained grass-roots opposition and a rising tide of public dismay, plans for the Tillegra Dam were eventually shelved by the NSW government in late 2010.
In 2012 WRVAP artists turned their attention to another pressing regional, now decidedly global, environmental issue - the insidious, elephantine threat of Big Coal.
To date WRVAP has mounted six exhibitions (three at NSW regional galleries) and published two agit-prop newspaper/catalogues: The Stuttering Frog # 1 accompanied the exhibition Cry Me a River in October 2010; The Stuttering Frog # 2 complemented Leave It in the Ground in November 2013. Both are downloadable from williamsrivervalley.blogspot.com.au, which charts WRVAP’s regional residencies, research, exhibition and publishing activities in some detail.
WRVAP is Juliet Fowler Smith, Noelene Lucas, Margaret Roberts, Neil Berecry-Brown, Suzanne Bartos, Toni Warburton, Sue Callanan and David Watson. Others including Ruby Davies, Bridget Nicholson, Bonita Ely, Ian Milliss, Christine McMillan, Glenn Albrecht, Jo Holder, Sharyn Munro, Julia Mullins, Colin Imrie, Ann Finegan, Graham Cochrane, Chris Ward, Tony Fuery and Denise Corrigan have enriched WRVAP’s fabric along the way.
by David Watson
Ransom Note, 2013
Mining Rash [The Drip], 2013
Welcome Mat, 2012
Floor Waste, 2011
Shoo, Cockatoo!, 2012
Paddling the Grid, 2011
'Riparian Rites', Maitland Regional Gallery, 2011
No Dam|Mad On, 2011
Holding Breath, 2010
Ageing Photos Williams River, 2010
Five Walks I Couldn't Do (and may never be able to), 2010
River Mourn, 2009
Vanishing Point, 2009