Our say | Exhibition that celebrates city’s maturity

A NEW exhibition opening on Saturday night at the Bathurst Regional Art Gallery comes at an interesting time.

The Unflinching Gaze is an exhibition of photographic works curated by BRAG director Richard Perram that studies how the male form has been represented in art over more than a century.

What makes this exhibition different from most, though, is that as the curator, Mr Perram has unapologetically put himself front and centre of the display.

While curators usually take something of an objective approach to their work, the pieces chosen for The Unflinching Gaze have been brought together by an openly gay man who has drawn on his personal appreciation of the works.

The result is a world-class exhibition that would be quite at home on the walls of any inner-city London, New York or Sydney gallery, and the Bathurst public needs to realise just how privileged we are to be hosting it here.

The exhibition has been years in the planning and so the timing as Australians cast their votes in the same-sex marriage postal plebiscite is mere coincidence.

But art and politics are always closely aligned and so it is impossible to look at The Unflinching Gaze without thoughts also turning to the questions of discrimination and equality.

Mr Perram wants this exhibition to be a celebration of photography and of the male form but it should also be seen as a marker of the maturity of our community.

Just 10 years ago such an exhibition would have been unheard-of in a regional centre but upgrades to our gallery’s climate control systems and the presence of an experienced – and well connected – director in Richard Perram now makes it possible.

Just as important is the fact that Bathurst today is a confident, cosmopolitan city that should be proud of its record of inclusion.

The Unflinching Gaze will not be for everyone (indeed, warnings are in place to ensure people are made aware of the adult and perhaps contentious nature of the content) but we should all celebrate it being shown in our city.

While our politicians struggle with the concepts of equality and acceptance, the Bathurst community can be proud that it is living those ideals rather than pontificating about them. Because as much as we may all be different from one another, the reality is we are all really much more alike.