A Speculative Venture: Contemporary Art, History and Hill End
Writing in his diary on 2 January 1949, Australian artist, Donald Friend (1915- 1989), describes the events of the night before: Last night there was an impromptu dance - I should say a drunken Breughel peasant romp - at the hall to celebrate the New Year. It was improvised suddenly on the spot by those who had not been invited, and were furious at being left out, to a dance in Sofala, to which the lucky ones went in a bus. Later they went round the village gate-stealing .. .. (Friend 633) Friend writes from Hill End, an old gold-mining town about 300 kilometres west of Sydney and the dance took place in the 1890s Royal Hall. He first travelled there in August 1947 in the company of fellow artist, Russell Drysdale (1912- 1981). The remnants of the gold rush - architectural grandeur, a scarred landscape, abandoned machinery - a small rural community, and cheap property prices provided the perfect location for Friend and his wartime friend and erstwhile lover, Donald Murray, to realise a dream of establishing themselves in the country.
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