Glenn is a supremely talented painter – traditionally accomplished, but devoid of any commercial reality. He’s been in hiding for not months, but years (more than 20 of them as an artist, at least). Inconsistent flashes of brilliance in his art have been hidden from mass view, only fuelling the isolation.
Glenn spent 12 or so years preserving the local heritage of Port Macquarie – a hard fought and obsessive battle. His later works have been a reflection of that time. But, the desire to pick up a brush on a more regular basis was always overshadowed. His art is sublime, when, and if, you can get him to paint. Those close to him have bribed him over the years. Purchased him blank canvasses and offers from the local winery to send him cartons of wine … but no such luck.
Glenn is a true artist in the sense that only a truly motivated artist can paint great work.
As I write this, Glenn has finally decided to evoke an inner passion into a new collection. We catch up for a chat.
> Glenn, you have a long, proud history in Port Macquarie. Can you give us a bit of background for our readers?
My father, Edwin (Mickey, as he was known to the locals of the period) was the eldest of 11 children, born to Charles and Mary Dick, of Waugh Street. His uncle Tom (the photographer and self-taught anthropologist and oyster farmer) taught Dad as a youngster a lot about the natural world and how to observe it. I realise that’s where my interest came from regarding local history and the environs.
Mum and Dad purchased their first home on Windmill Hill when I was about 5 years old (1957), which enabled me to explore the surrounding coastal bushland, beaches, headlands, creeks etc. as I grew up. Port was, in those days, a fascinating place with many of the old type homesteads, old farms, fishing and oystermen sheds, laneways etc. still dotting the landscape, along with an interesting, lively waterfront full of fishing trawlers.
Horton Street and other adjacent streets had a good smattering of wonderful early period shop fronts, theatres, halls and cafés, which had a real character and charm about them.
It has always dismayed me to think that we have lost so much of this to re-development and the ugly 2 to 3 storey red brick, square box. So began my interest in painting and drawing as a kid.
Recently Maureen Cook told me she has an original catalogue of an exhibition in Horton Street that I was in, dated 1967. My first sales came in approximately 1968 when Una Robertson had opened the town’s first art gallery at the southern end of Horton Street. One of the works titled ‘Watonga Rocks’ (Lighthouse Beach) was purchased by Joy Moore, who was a very avid patron of the visual arts. Joy owned and operated the ‘Woolshed’ for many years in the ‘70s and early ‘80s in Ackroyd Street, selling superb crafts, pottery, small paintings etc. Once again Port lacks these types of venues for artisans to show and sell their works these days.
In 1968 I started my 4 year apprenticeship with Joe Carr Signs, and after completion in 1971, I left for Sydney. I was away from the town for the next 8 years, only returning on the odd occasion, having travelled for 2 years in the mid ‘70s in Africa, Europe, then the Middle East and Asia, all overland.
1987 saw the formation of the Mid North Coast Maritime Museum, a project I had an intense involvement in over 5 years, preserving 3 separate historic locations from re-development. In planning and working tenaciously over a period of 5 years on the project, I suffered ‘burn out’. Two years later TAFE had acquired the last remaining remnant of the original Douglas Vale property, and their plan was to demolish the early Colonial homestead and build an administration block.
I spent another 5 years as a volunteer in the eventual preservation and start-up restoration program, so that once again Port could relish and prosper with showcasing its early history to tourists and the like. I received life membership from both organisations for my work. All this took it’s toll on me financially and mentally, and of course I was also running my own sign business and helping Susan to rear our 3 children. SO, MY ART SUFFERED!
> You have an upcoming exhibition of a selection of your works at the Armidale Gallery. How did the exhibition come about?
Recently Susan and I with our son Jesse, who attends U.N.E., walked into a very nice gallery in Main Street, Armidale, run by volunteers (The New England Art Society Inc). I left my card with them, and subsequently 3 weeks ago received an invitation to exhibit my work in one of the rooms of the gallery.
> What kinds of works will you be showing at the exhibition?
What I have chosen for this show is a selection of works which reflects the past 6 to 7 years – mainly paintings with historical content which have been seen down here on the coast. I have just completed a large scale work entitled ‘THE ELOPERS’, a somewhat sensitive piece about 2 young people who fled from Port Macquarie to the Camden Haven in the 1860s only to be discovered by a trooper and returned.
> We hear you are working on a series of ‘all new’ works. Tell us a bit about the new collection.
During my schooling at Port Macquarie High, I studied art for 4 years and still recall our teacher, Miss Bowman desperately trying to teach me about the important art movements throughout history – especially the German expressionists, Fauvists, Dadaists, and also the Impressionists, sculptors and great architects as well.
As I move along now, I feel that I am returning to those ‘magicians’ of the past who invented and futured the concepts of modern art. Yes, it’s all been done before. Perhaps we are only now mere imitators, who knows? My ‘head space’ tells me to cut loose and free up: got to get somewhere between the old trad sign man, legally graffiti-ing the streetscape these past 40 years and what’s going round in the temple or citadel on top, observing the washing machine world we inhabit now.
One painting which will come kicking and screaming into the world is titled ‘UNIVERSE OWNED BY US.COM’, a satirical invention of the ‘Mind this space, eh what!’, or is it ‘Mine this space’? Another is ‘DEPARTMENT OF MADNESS, eh what!’
> Where does your passion for art come from?
As I stated up front, being an observer and transporting those thoughts and ideas onto and into the work, recording, documenting with passion and desire something which others may relate and subscribe to, even enjoy … who knows!
Creating visual impressions that stimulate debate, emotions, even antagonise should be the realm of the painter as it is for the poet, playwright, author, or whomever. In the past I have been somewhat of a story teller of old. Now comes the time to paint the present and the future.
> If you had one piece of advice to give to the budding artist, what would it be?
Seek and you’ll find; don’t procrastinate about what it is you want to achieve. Work with others who have done their time. You can build on a solid foundation: Picasso was a superb technician and draughtsman long before he commenced his journey into new horizons.
> How can locals see your art?
My studio Red Hill Gallery is open to the public on Friday, Saturday and Sunday 10am to 4pm. Tel: 6585 0010. Check out the Website www.glenndick.com or visit the Armidale Gallery, Beardy Street, Armidale on or after August 1st for one month only Tel: 6772 9993.
> Thank you Glenn.