Rural Utopias

Table of Contents

First of all, I wish to say a big thank you to the community of Kalgoorlie-Boulder for hosting and generously supporting me as an artist-in-residence.

The works you encounter in this exhibition have been created over two years of research and two artist residencies I undertook here at the Goldfields Art Centre in 2021 and 2022.

I was initially brought to Kalgoorlie-Boulder through a residency program facilitated by SPACED. I had never been to Kalgoorlie-Boulder before my first residency here. In fact, I knew very little about the region. In this foreign new place, with no friends (yet) and no creative plan, my brief was to engage with the community and create artworks that respond to the theme ‘rural utopias’.

  • Two people mid-conversation at a convinience store. They are lit by a bright flash. A small, yellow, rounded rectangle containing the words 'The Gold Bar' is placed atop the bottom of the image.
    Georgie Mattingley, Gold Bar, 2022. Courtesy Gold Bar and Margaret Ellen Burns.
  • Artist Georgie Mattingley painting a large scale backdrop with a reference image on hand. They are half turned towards the camera, smiling.
    Georgie Mattingley, Painting the Goatcher Curtain, 2022. Photo by Owen Hinton.

Kalgoorlie-Boulder immediately struck me as an eccentric and charismatic city. It’s full of culture, employment opportu­nity, wealth, family values, a rowdy nightlife and, of course, gold. It felt natural to view Kalgoorlie-Boulder through a utopian lens.

The Boulder Town Hall, with lavish pastel-coloured archi­tecture and the iconic Goatcher Curtain, is where I first found utopia. The Goatcher Curtain is a rare and world-class artefact, the epitome of ‘high art’ in its classical form that was made possible through a booming industry: the Gold Rush.

View of an exhibition at Goldfields Art Centre. Placed in the middle of the room is a work-site fence panel with a large photo print attached to it. Flanking the panel are two walls of the room holding more photographic work
Georgie Mattingley, Golden Utopia (installation view), 2023. Goldfields Art Centre, Kalgoorlie. Photo by Leith Alexander.

I can also see utopia in the Super Pit Mine. It feels scary to peer into a human-made hole so enormous. However, the locals here have taught me to see the dramatic beauty in this epic land­scape, particularly at sunset, when the pinks and purples set in. Reflecting off the sky, glowing colours are splashed across the mine.

  • Georgie Mattingley, Golden Utopia (detail), 2022. The Art Gallery of Western Australia, 2023. Photo by Dan McCabe (@artdoc_au).
  • Framed colour photograph of a mining pit showing the levels dug in to the earth. The frame is transluent and made of resin and resembles an antique ornate frame
    Georgie Mattingley, Golden Utopia, 2022, Hand-tinted silver gelatin photograph. Resin frame with semi-precious gemstones from Kalgoorlie-Boulder and 24 karat gold. Photo by Leith Alexander.

The Super Pit Curtain was born from combining these utopias. One is a space for work, the other a space for leisure. One is a space of grit, the other a space of glamour. However, they are more con­nected than they are separate.

It is worth noting that the Goatcher Curtain would not exist without the Super Pit. Threaded throughout the works is this idea of unifying the different spaces and different people in Kalgoorlie-Boulder. The Super Pit Curtain travelled across the city, from Hammond Park to Boulder Camp. From Diggers and Dealers to the Main Reef Tavern and the Quarry in Brown Hill. The locals, workers and visitors at each location were invited to pose for their portrait with the curtain. We see workers, young families, skimpies and Aboriginal commu­nities posing for portraits. All from a different walk of life, all with equally interesting stories of their lives in Kalgoorlie-Boulder.

Rural Utopias, installation view featuring works by Georgie Mattingley. The Art Gallery of Western Australia, 2023. Photo by Dan McCabe (@artdoc_au).

What do you see:
If we ceased to see each social group as separate?
If we viewed them all as equal?
If we ceased to see alternative value systems as a threat to another?
If we, for a moment, viewed all aspects of daily life in Kalgoorlie-Boulder through rose-tinted glasses?

I see a Golden Utopia.

Golden Utopia, 2022, digital video, no sound, 25 min 50 sec.

Thank you again for having me Kalgoorlie-Boulder. I hope that my observations may provide a fresh perspective on some of the dynamic social and cultural structures of the city. I hope I have created a picture of Kalgoorlie-Boulder as the utopia it is. A utopia that is built by economy, labour and social class.

I have so much respect and appreciation.

Georgie Mattingley, your visiting artist.

Artist: Georgie Mattingley

Georgie Mattingley works predominantly with photogra­phy, video and painting. Her practice uses colour and beauty to make society’s hidden spaces more visible. By visually transforming these spaces, her work unravels the value systems that repress them and proposes a more holistic acceptance of realities that Western society encourages us to avoid. Her exhibitions have occupied unique public spaces, including TOPIAS III installed at the Warrnambool Base Hospital (2017), KCAT2018 held within a decommissioned foundry in Kyneton (2018) and WE♥ABATTOIR that proliferated across outdoor and advertising spaces around Melbourne as part for the Next Wave Festival (2014). Mattingley has also exhibited in notable galleries throughout Australia, including Centre for Contemporary Photography (2018), the Shepparton Art Museum (2016) and Fremantle Arts Centre (2017). She has been the recipient of the National Gallery of Victoria Women’s Association Award (2014) and the Bayside Local Art Prize (2018).

Community Host Partner: Goldfields Arts Centre

The Goldfields Arts Centre is the only multi-functional arts venue in the Goldfields region. It boasts a 700-seat auditorium, multiple gallery spaces including a dedicated A-Class gallery, an ensemble room, function room, lecture rooms and dance studio. Owned by the Perth Theatre Trust and proudly operated by the City of Kalgoorlie-Boulder the Goldfields Arts Centre offers spaces for hire and presents an annual program that seeks to provide unique cultural experiences and opportunities for the community.