c. 1978

Large, landscape, acrylic painting by Reggie Moolarvie. Painting shows a yellow sunset scene with silhouettes of dark trees and shrubs in the foreground and midground. The painting is signed in the bottom right corner in white paint, 'REggiE MOOLARVIE'. On the reverse of the painting are two stickers, one from The Picture Framers at 360 Hay St, Subiaco WA, 6008, and the other a yellow sticker from Bob Gregson's Auctioneers. The numbers '744' and '39575' are written in black texter in the top right hand corner on the back.

Historical information

Part of nine other artworks and a book from the Tim Kluwen collection, obtained in 2007.



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Contextual Information

Art has been a part of the prison experience since the convict era. Artworks in the Fremantle Prison Collection testify to a continued practice of arts and crafts at the Prison, despite the lack of structured art education until the 1970s.

In 1978 Steve Culley began teaching art classes at Fremantle Prison, soon accompanied by David Wroth and Lindsey Pow. The popularity of their art program can be gauged by the number of prisoners who enrolled; more than 2,000 students within the first five years. Initially these art classes were for Aboriginal prisoners only, but as their popularity grew the classes were opened up to other prisoners, and were moved into a larger space in the Assessment Centre. The Assessment Centre was considered secure enough that prisoners could come and go freely. When the Prison took back this space two years later, the art classes were moved into the Main Cell Block, behind the Catholic Chapel.

Steve Culley painted alongside his students, and his specialty was landscapes. Culley focused on the skills of the individual students within his class, and in effect got the prisoners to teach each other. This strategy was particularly effective with the non-Aboriginal students. Although only Aboriginal prisoners were the initial students, one day Culley returned to class after a lunch break to find a white prisoner named Johnny Chester standing with the Aboriginal prisoners, waiting to join the class. Chester appeared to have been beaten up, but Culley didn’t say anything, and let him into the classroom with the others. It transpired that Chester had had to physically fight his way through prisoner resistance in the yards to join the class, as it was viewed by others as something only Aboriginals did.

This collection of artwork is known as the Tim Kluwen collection, and comprises of 10 framed landscape paintings, which were purchased from Tim Kluwen in 2007. They were accompanied by a first edition copy of the 1979 publication 'North of the 26th', edited by Helen Weller, in which reproductions of these paintings appear. Kluwen had in turn purchased this collection of paintings at an auction by Bob Gregson’s Auctions, held in Belmont Western Australia, on Wednesday 15 and Thursday 16 July 1998.   The auction catalogue entry for each of these artworks states that they were painted by Aboriginal artists in Fremantle Prison, under the tutelage of Steve Culley. Steve Culley is mentioned in the acknowledgements of the catalogue, ‘”for his help in procuring paintings by Aboriginal artists.”

Steve Culley began teaching art classes at Fremantle Prison in 1978, and it seems likely that the artworks in the Tim Kluwen collection would have been undertaken at around that time, given that the book North of the 26th, in which these paintings first appear, was published in 1979. The artists featured in the Tim Kluwen collection include Neville Gable, Reggie Moolarvie, Ken Curly, Victor Frazer, Donald Fraser, and Jackie McArthur. The movement of these artworks from their initial creation at Fremantle Prison, through to the publication of North of the 26th, and finally the auction in 1998, is unclear. However, the presence of other works by Moolarvie and McArthur in the Fremantle Prison Collection, and the association with Steve Culley, provide the Tim Kluwen collection with a strong connection to Fremantle Prison.

c. 1978
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Fremantle Prison

Fremantle Prison

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