The curious story of Carol Taylor and her art collection

The curious story of Carol Taylor and her art collection

Jessica Anderson

Regional Arts Development Manager, Jessica Anderson and Regional Arts Development Coordinator, Doone McAlary visited Narrogin to attend the opening of  ‘Carol and Peter Taylor Collection: ‘Landscapes from a Locked Room’.

Doone and I had the pleasure of attending the opening of the Carol and Peter Taylor Collection: Landscapes from a Locked Room in Narrogin on Friday 29 April 2016. The wintery drive on a rainy afternoon was hectic in rush hour traffic and we got to Narrogin an hour late, but with 30 minutes to spare before the opening, we whipped through the shower, got our party gear on and headed down to the biggest event in town.

It was a huge privilege to attend the opening and to hear first-hand the curious story of Carol Taylor and her art collection.

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Deb Hughes Owen presenting Peter Taylor with the first life membership to ARtS Narrogin. Standing in front of works in the ‘Carol and Peter Taylor Collection: Landscapes from a Locked Room’; Storm Coming 1979 by Marie Bignell; The Bend in the River by Frances M Banks and Untitled by Bella Kelly. Photo by Jessica Anderson.

Peter Taylor spoke so endearingly of his wife and his love for her and all the brilliant things she brought to his life. It was genuinely quite moving to hear of their adventures as young lovers cavorting through Europe. But the real pleasure came in hearing him tell ‘the story’.

In the decade preceding Carol’s Alzheimer’s diagnosis, she would, unbeknownst to Peter, travel to Perth with her best friend and visit many a Perth gallery to buy landscapes. She knew of the Sir Claude Hotchin landscapes that had been gifted to Narrogin and several Shires around the state. She too loved pastoral landscapes, and perhaps thought why couldn’t she also have a collection?

When Peter was off playing cricket or country football, she would smuggle the landscapes into their home, and hide them away in her sewing room; the one room, in which Peter was not allowed, and only Carol had the key. It was only when Carol’s health began to deteriorate and Peter made the decision to move into town, that he found the key and was able to unlock the room. He was astounded to find 114 paintings hidden away and without quite knowing what to do, he threw them on the back of the ute and drove them to the new house where they sat in a back room.

Carol sadly passed away in 2012 and Peter was faced with the decision, to sell the paintings or give them away. He knew he couldn’t sell them, so decided to contact ARtS Narrogin who assisted him in making the donation to the Town of Narrogin. Peter couldn’t quite grasp all the fuss that was being made at his gift, and he repeatedly stated ‘all I did was just give them away!’.

The exhibition is a beautiful collection of serene landscapes with my favourites by Hal Missingham, Bella Kelly and several Hermannsberg artists. It is delight to share in the beauty of these works, knowing that for many years only Carol could enjoy their tranquillity.

The opening by Duncan Ord, Director General at the Department of Culture and the Arts, and Terry Waldron MLA, spoke of the importance of the arts in the regions and stressed the significance of such a gift to Narrogin. The crew at ARtS Narrogin, Deb Hughes-Owen, Caitlyn Stewart and Karen Keeley (to name a few), did an outstanding job in putting this exhibition together with curator Annette Davis. Their work in negotiating the gift, conservation, curating, installing and all the jobs that come with such an event was done with aplomb and a smile. Their many volunteers is also a testament to the strength of the arts community in this creative Wheatbelt town.

I encourage you when you’re in the area to deviate off Albany Highway and pop into NEXIS to catch this exhibition which runs until 12 June 2016 at 82 Federal Street, Narrogin. You won’t be disappointed by the tranquil paintings that were hidden away for so many years.

Post by Jessica Anderson, Regional Arts Development Manager.

Country Arts WA supports ARtS Narrogin through the Core Arts Fund and Scheme Four.

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