An image of Ballarat, My Country

Marlene Gilson

(Australia 1944 – )

Ballarat, South-east region
Language group
Wathaurung, South-east region, Wadawurrung/ South-east region

Ballarat, My Country

19th c Australian art
Further information

Marlene Gilson is recognised for her naïve style paintings that question the colonial grasp on the past by reclaiming and recontextualising the representation of historical events. She typically explores Aboriginal stories relating to her Wathaurun lands, and stories from the Victorian goldfields. Gilson is descended from King Billy, a leader from Ballarat who lived during the Eureka Stokade. Bunjil, the eagle, and Waa, the crow are present in all of Gilson’s works.

GIlson began painting folllowing a period of illness, during which she painted small wooden figurines for her grandchildren to play with. Consisting of people and buildings, these figurines allowed the creation of little townships. Gilson employs the same approach in her elaborate paintings as a means of recording the oral histories that were passed down to her, about her Country and its people.

The historical detail in Gilson’s works are extensive. In this particular work she details elements that are specific to Ballarat, including the hotel that was burnt to the ground, John Ah Loo’s restaurant, the Cobb and Co’s coach business, Chinese migrants and their vegetable gardens as well as Aboriginal people, miners and police. Small details, such as the murnong daisys being harvested by an Aboriginal woman allude to farming histories that many have forgotten.

synthetic polymer paint on linen
120.0 x 150.0 cm
Mollie Gowing Acquisition fund for Contemporary Aboriginal art 2020
Accession number
© Marlene Gilson