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Sunday, 22 June 2008

Ita Buttrose speaks for Advocates for Child Abuse, 22 June 2008Ita Buttrose came for Frances Keevil Gallery's auction fund-raiser to earn money for Advocates for Survivors of Child Abuse (ASCA), sponsored by the CorriLee Foundation.

Double Bay's Goldman Lane is a small mall leading from famed Knox Street toward the harbour. Frances Keevil Gallery is located on the corner of Knox Lane, a bendy traverse where the BMWs crawl silently behind the back doors of cafes and boutiques.

Chamber of commerce head Kate Dowling opened the auction and you could tell that the attendance pleased her. "It's great to see so many people in Double Bay on the weekend," she said. Talking later she mentioned future initiatives to increase patronage, including a market.

On a cold June day the diminutive strip of shops along New South Head Road are quiet. While the sun strikes the green rising suns on the classic deco facade of the Golden Sheaf Hotel, the hundred or so people standing in Goldman Lane were wrapping their jackets tight by the time Dowling carried the mic onto the podium.

Art hanging on Keevil's walls are all for sale. Unusually, it's a group show and includes pieces priced from about $250 to several thousand. Proceeds from sales today go to ASCA. Some artists, such as Simon Collins, are forgoing their cut entirely. Keevil is donating her cut on all sales to ASCA.

Fuelled by pint-sized but delicious pies, attendees soaked up the remains of the morning sun. As the shadows got longer toward the auction launch at 3.30pm, glasses of tasty white made a difference.

Buttrose followed Dowling onto the podium while Professor Freda Briggs, a child abuse specialist based at the University of Adelaide, stood nearby wrapped in a tan pea-souper. Born in England, Briggs has worked in the field for decades.

Like Buttrose, her motivation for being here - really it's a tiny crowd of eastern suburbs types, more often than not over 50 - is to help. As editor-in-chief of The Womens Weekly and founder of Cleo magazine, Buttrose is used to talking to crowds. A seasoned campaigner.

"There has been a lot more notice given to child abuse in the media in recent years." Not 'there is more child abuse now than ever before' or something similar. Which would be incorrect.

She mentioned the Austrian case of the Fritzl children. No mention of the outback.

The auction was led by Andrew Shapiro, who sold three prepared items.

A duo on violin and accordion kept up a festive atmosphere through the afternoon. Patrons still around at 4pm when stage events finished were still quaffing chardonnay half an hour later. Mikey Robins and his partner - patrons of ASCA - did not show.

Who could blame them? The bright sun of morning quickly fell off, allowing the chill in Sunday's 10-knot breeze, discernible since the morning, to take charge. Like Mosman, Double Bay parking metres do not take a fee on Sundays.

I spoke with Yong Kang Gao, a Chinese painter whose traditional still lifes were on sale. Arriving in Sydney in 1989 with the other survivors of post-Tiananmen hostilities, he took lessons in oil painting.

Although he had started to draw before leaving Shanghai, where he was born, he never used traditional Chinese techniques.

Two new Simon Collins paintings - both 40cm x 40cm and affordable - build on his earlier series of "metal" paintings - 'portraits' of Peugeots, trades vans and 4-cylinder Japanese 1990s 2-door sedans.

The new works are beautiful, like 'Mulga Road'. In this vibrant painting, the road's raw dark teal is set in motion by dark green foliage on trees along its length. Set in them are flashes of orange and a bright blue sky gains tone from diagonal brushstrokes rendering the fluffy depths.

Suburbia hasn't been done this well for a while. An exhibition starts on 25 July. Eat your heart out Howard Arkley! I really like the series but what drew me to Collins at first was his personal infatuation with auto bodies.

Keevil says she prompted the artist - who had a portrait of his son just out of the water at Bondi hung with other finalists of 2007's Moran prize - to "talk to the viewer" and reach out with a more narrative approach.

Collins has taken this advice on board. Another painting - 'Motor Fest' - shows his trademark automobiles under the influence of a walking figure and two daring double-yellow lines, the kind seen running down the middle of a thousand suburban roads.

But here they cut across the corner of the painting adding panache to an interesting tableau. Behind the cars - parked back to the curb - stands a strange, brown building that could be a town hall in an Australian country town.

Outside Frances Keevil Gallery, Double Bay
Outside Frances Keevil Gallery, Double Bay
Artist Yong Kang Gao at Frances Keevil Gallery, Double Bay
Outside Frances Keevil Gallery, Double Bay
Ita Buttrose and Prof Freda Briggs raise funds for survivors of child abuse
Auctioneer Andrew Shapiro raises funds for survivors of child abuse
Kate Dowling of Double Bay Chamber of Commerce and Frances Keevil draw for the door prize
Musicians at ASCA auction, Goldman Lane, Double Bay
Advocates for Survivors of Child Abuse auction, Double Bay
Frances Keevil at auction for Advocates for Survivors of Child Abuse
Goldman Lane, Double Bay

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