Makeshift and the Australian Patina


Our Christmas tree was an open umbrella stripped of its covering, the structural wires wrapped in cotton wool and bound with tinsel had hand crafted decorations and there were ornaments of gold and ‘silver frost’1 painted pine cones decorated with tartan ribbons and holly. It was a makeshift solution in a time of poverty. Likewise ‘depression furniture’ made during the 1930s from packing crates, sugar sacks and other cast-offs, deftly made with considerable skill and inventiveness but, importantly, without professional expertise, is considered ‘collectors’ items today.

The ‘Annandale Imitation Realists’ drew critical attention in the 1960’s, to their work compiled of found objects and collage. The group’s haphazard ‘boundary busting’ assemblages consisted of scrounged materials, ‘makeshift’. Robert Hughes suggested the exuberant work owes more to ‘folk-art incrustation’2 than high art.

Suddenly we are faced with global warming, climate change and finite resources. There is talk once more of recycling, energy efficiency and living ‘lightly’ on the planet. These were concepts that people from our grandparents’ generation understood fully. This research investigates the spirit of ‘making do’ or ‘makeshift’ that lives on today in Australian art. In so doing it addresses social and cultural issues and a contemporary art approach dispersed, undocumented and on the edge of the Western art movements of our times and until now unconnected to Australian indigenous art culture.

1Silver Frost was a type of hard wearing enamel paint used to brighten the appearance of taps and pipes but was also used for all sorts of things including painting pot plants and tin boxes to give things a fresh appearance. 2 Hughes, Robert, The Art of Australia, Penguin Books, Australia, First Published 1966, Revised Edition 1970, Reprinted; 1981, 1984, 1986. Page 9.

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Terri Brooks is a current studio based PhD candidate at the University of Ballarat. She completed a Bachelor of Art RMIT (Distinction) 1987, Graduate Diploma RMIT (Distinction) 1988, Master of Art, Ballarat University, 2006. From 1989-2003 she taught at Northern Melbourne TAFE. She has held numerous solo exhibitions at Flinders Lane Gallery (Melbourne) and Harris Courtin Gallery (Sydney) and has been selected as a finalist in several national awards including: The Kedumba Drawing Award (2007); Hatched 06 National Graduate Show (PICA); Tatterstalls Club Art Prize (2005); Fleurieu Art Prize (1998, 2002); The Alice Prize (1999) and was an Australia Council Project grant recipient (1991).


Associate Professor Allan Mann was born in Scotland and undertook his undergraduate studies at Glasgow School of Art later emigrating in the mid-1970’s to Australia where he has held academic appointments at Queensland, NSW and Victorian tertiary institutions.

Having exhibited widely as a printmaker, his work is held in public, private and corporate collections in Australia and internationally. Allan has also authored numerous conference papers and journal articles. He is Deputy Head of the Arts Academy at the University of Ballarat where he is the co-ordinator of Honours and Graduate studies in the Creative Arts.


Associate Professor James Sillitoe graduated with a PhD in Science from the University of Melbourne in 1969, and has subsequently worked as a lecturer in Applied Chemistry, Education and Student Support in the Higher Education system in Australia. Since 1998, he has been mainly involved in research education for Doctoral candidates and Masters candidates by research across all Faculties of the Higher Education system. Associate Professor Sillitoe acts as supervisor and research advisor for higher degree students and supervisors. In this role he liaises with the Research and Graduate Studies Office, the Arts Academy and VIOSH Australia at the University of Ballarat.