Emu Island – Modernism in Place

Celebrating 75 years of Modernist art and living

Once the home and studio of artists Margo and Gerald Lewers, the Gallery site was – and is today – a place of lively debate, artistic creation and exhibition.

Coming up against the Nepean River, early settlers thought the land on the mountainside was an island inhabited by Emus hence ‘Emu Island’. The Gallery site was an ‘island of modernism’ in the Australian suburbs. The Lewers’ home was founded on the principles of modernism.

Emu Island – Modernism in Place in the Main Gallery showcases the work of the Lewers and their immediate contemporaries over the four-decade period of their residence (1942-1978). In this place, artists and friends gathered and were inspired by the energy and experimentation of the Lewers home, and beyond, by a rapidly changing world. The exhibition features works by those at the heart of Sydney Modernism such as: Margo and Gerald Lewers, Frank and Margel Hinder, Judy Cassab, John Olsen, Tony Tuckson, Carl Plate and Robert Klippel among others.

Elsewhere on the site the legacy of Sydney modernism will be highlighted within the original historic home of Margo and Gerald Lewers, now known as the Lewers House Gallery. The work of eight young contemporary artists who continue to grapple with modernist ideals will be showcased in Young Moderns. These Artists include: Emma Beer, Terrence Combos, Sanne Koelemij, Mason Kimber, Nadia Odlum, Helen Shelley, Kael Stasce and Kate Tucker.

In Ancher House, now known as the Modernist Research Centre, the work of the Gallery’s 2017 artist in residence Ian Milliss will be exhibited in Shifting Dirt. The artist takes his place as the youngest member of the legendary 1960s artist venue, Central Street Gallery, which revolutionised abstract art practice in Sydney. Having access to the Gallery’s modernist art collection and archive, Millis has produced an extraordinary text based exhibition which reaches into a worker’s history of place based modernism.


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