Vale Ann Newmarch OAM
On behalf of Newmarch Gallery and PAAN we wish to express our deepest sympathy to Ann's family on her passing.
Ann is especially well-known for the hundreds of political screen-prints she produced in the 1970s and 1980s. In a practice spanning the 1960s to 2010s and a variety of mediums and styles from printmaking, painting, sculpture, and installation, her art was always underpinned by the belief that art is a form of activism.
Ann was a pivotal figure in the protest arts movement that emerged in Adelaide in the 1970s, a long-serving and inspirational lecturer at South Australian School of Arts (SASA) (1969 – 2000), the first artist in residence with local council at Prospect (1982 and 1983); and a recipient of an Order of Australia Medal for her contribution to art and the community in 1989. Newmarch was also the first living female artist to have had a retrospective exhibition at the Art Gallery of South Australia (AGSA) in 1997.
Emerging in the late 1960s in a climate of of social and political change, Ann was instrumental in a number of groups including the Women’s Art Movement (WAM) (1976 - ) and the Progressive Arts Movement (PAM) (1974 - 1977). She was a founding member of each, the latter emerging from Flinders University, through which Newmarch also became involved with the Workers’ Student Alliance.
From 1973 she embraced screen-print as an easily disseminated medium and a vehicle for her works addressing local issues as well as the big issues of the day: notably workers’ rights, attitudes towards women, community and the environment. Ann’s later cultural patterning works (2008 – 2009) layered digital images printed on canvas, combining them with painting. In these works she examined human frailty, pain, sense of place and the complexity of cultures.
Ann’s art was always political. Her distinctly feminist perspective was grounded in her personal experiences and community life in Adelaide, saying: ‘Art should be made out of personal experience and not out of art concerns. Personal experience is only a useful source of art when it is accompanied by an understanding of the social conditions in which it arises.’ (1981) A prominent second wave feminist Ann showed through her life and works often based on her home life and personal subjects that the personal is political and that private sphere is a political matter.
Ann was also a pioneer of the Community Arts Movement. In her home suburb of Prospect she initiated the practice of Stobie pole painting in 1983 and in 1978 the Prospect Mural Group and Community Association of Prospect (CAP) Poster Collective. For the latter, she instructed community members in the art of screen-print for the purpose of creating posters for local events and issues, many of which are now reproduced on the walls of the Prospect Library. The Prospect Mural Group worked as a collective, inviting artists professional and non-professional, interested locals and school groups, to work with them. They were active until 1983 and many of their works survive around Prospect.
Ann’s ground-breaking residency with Prospect Council (1982/3) spawned the Community Art Show, the popularity of which necessitated a permanent home for the event and garnered momentum for the establishment of the Prospect Gallery. Renamed Newmarch Gallery in her honour in 2019, acknowledging her deep connection to her community and achievements in focusing community engagement and making public art visible.
Moving forward in Ann’s memory, The Newmarch Gallery is part of her lasting legacy. We are very grateful for Ann’s support of the Prospect community where she was a long-time resident. It was in Prospect that she began her outreach program to get community involved in local arts. We value her belief in community and feel a deep pride in her many achievements locally and internationally in the arts. As artists and community members PAAN acknowledge how lucky we are as the beneficiaries of Ann’s immense energy and drive which laid the groundwork for artists to reach out.